Vacation Bible School Safety Planning
Many houses of worship choose to hold Vacation Bible School Programs (VBS) during the summer months to keep children engaged when school is not in session. VBS is a great way to get children involved in your ministry and can also serve as an outreach to others in your community. This is a win-win for all; however, safety should be kept in mind.
Staffing and Supervision
The first step to planning a successful VBS program is to ensure your staff and supervisors are carefully selected and trained.
All staff and volunteers should be subject to an onboarding process. A formal application and interview should be scheduled with all applicants. Background and reference checks should be conducted prior to adding anyone to your organization.
It is recommended that all VBS programs have a minimum of two staff members per classroom or activity at all times. This may include two adults or one adult paired with one trained teenager.
For larger groups, additional staff should be added to maintain a ratio of at least 1 adult for every 20 children. For younger children, or children with special needs, this ratio should be increased.
As part of the onboarding process, staff members should be trained on the following (but not limited to):
- Check-in and check-out procedures
- Youth abuse prevention policies
- Activity specific guidelines
- Emergency response and first aid
Food and Snacks:
Many VBS curriculums incorporate food or snacks in their daily activity agenda. It is imperative to be conscientious of the food you are serving and how you serve it.
Identify food allergies: With more than 6 million American children having a food allergy, it is important to have an easy way to identify those children who need to watch what they eat. Be sure to consider common allergens such as peanuts, milk, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Church Mutual customers can “Join the Band” and take advantage of our allergy band program at no additional cost.
Help is available: If you are ever in doubt about your food’s safety or have questions about handling procedures, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854 or send an email to: email@example.com.
There are many activities that take place at VBS which can occur both onsite and offsite. No matter the location, safety considerations need to be addressed.
Building and Grounds: It is recommended that you routinely inspect your VBS facility for safety concerns. Church Mutual’s self-inspection safety checklists can help identify hazards.
Water Safety: Before participating in water activities, make sure you have a swimmer safety program in place. This will help identify weak swimmers and potential hazards. Church Mutual’s Swimmer Safety program is available to our customers at no-cost.
Sometimes activities require you to transport your students from one location to another. Before every trip, it is critical to verify the road worthiness of vehicles and validate the experience of your drivers
Pre-trip Vehicle Inspections: Prior to any trip, it is recommended that a pre-trip vehicle inspection is completed. The use of Church Mutual’s driver safety checklist can be used to help guide you through your inspection.
15-Passenger van safety: When loaded with more than 10 passengers, 15-passenger vans are three times more likely to roll over in a crash. There are a few precautions that can help minimize the chances of a highway tragedy.
Driver Screening: A motor vehicle report should be run on every driver. If drivers will operate their own vehicles, ensure they carry personal auto insurance. Consider incorporating defensive drivers training into onboarding procedures and set ground rules to prevent distracted driving.