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Ministry Teamwork, SPaM Style

August 6, 2021 jill Blog
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By Terry Berringer

Let’s talk SPaM teams. What are SPaM teams, you may ask?

SPaM stands for Security, Parking, and Medical ministry teams. Note that I said ministry, not just service…not just teams, but a ministry.

Some organizations refer to these teams combined as a safety team. I see the security, parking, and medical response team at church a ministry first and foremost and as three different teams working holistically to serve the congregation.

Why three different teams? Well, some are not equipped to chase down someone who has just committed a crime, some don’t like the sight of blood, and some have the gift of Tetris with automobiles.

With many churches reopening and meeting in person again, SPaM teams are not only becoming the norm, they are now being depended on more than ever to ensure a safe and orderly service that is compliant with all national, state, and local requests.

I have had the honor of instructing how to start, recruit, and train SPaM teams at churches, schools, and other organizations. I want to expand just a bit into the aspects of the SPaM teams and even set up a scenario that shows how they can all work together to achieve the best outcome during a time of crisis.

If the teams run in coordinated response, the incident can go from a huge issue to barely noted. The key here is for the teams to train together and communicate as parts of the body.

Let’s take the situation that I believe has or will happen at every single organization out there. The “boy vs. wall” call that every church’s children’s ministry will see. By the way…wall always wins!

The call comes over the radio: “Medical team to the nursery.” Upon receiving the call, you respond to the call over the radio that you are en route. You get there and assess the situation. You call in on the radio that you have arrived on scene and find a child unconscious. Yes, you are correct in thinking that most kids do not lose consciousness upon hitting a wall…that’s why God made them so durable! But for the sake of this story, the child did.

As you establish the airway patency and start your assessment for cardiac function, you stop and have someone call 911 and get the ambulance on the way. After establishing that the kid will most likely be sent out, we would have the children’s ministry staff get the parents there.

As we finish up our assessment and start packaging the patient up for transport, we take information from the parents as to history and contact information to provide to the EMS provider.

In the time awaiting arrival for EMS, this is a great time to get all the pertinent information that the EMS team will need, such as the reason they are being called, what led up to the need for the ambulance, history of the patient, allergies, contact information, and even insurance details.

Gaining this information has two great advantages: 1) it allows the EMS personnel to focus on the patient, leading to an expedited departure from your facility and 2) in the case of them being a minor, this allows the parents to be occupied while you are assessing and treating the patient.

As you’re doing your due diligence to make sure the kid is well taken care of, the security team is hard at work. They are keeping the scene safe and controlling pedestrian traffic in the area limiting the people with access to the area to as few as possible to allow the medical team to work, as well as to keep the privacy of the family involved.

They are also running back and forth to retrieve any needed supplies for the medical team. This is also where they would be controlling evidence in a case where there was a possible crime involved.

Immobilization is something that you may or may not deem part of your training, but at minimum, you want to make sure the kid is not moved if you suspect a possible spinal cord injury at all. If the child is placed on a spinal long board, this is not the time to find out if a stretcher with a long board will fit on your elevators.

Take it from experience, we found out the hard way that a stretcher with a long board does not fit on many smaller elevators! This is why we promote training with the local EMS providers to see what works and what doesn’t before it is needed.

That said, it is vital that security keep the scene safe and also for the parking team to have the property entrance and parking lots cleared for the incoming EMS unit. Be advised that in some communities, an ambulance is also dispatched with police and possibly even fire department equipment.

So, parking teams are vital in the placement of equipment. The parking team guides the ambulance into the correct door. The security team establishes a safe and protected route for entry and egress of EMS. The medical team provides report to the paramedics…and off the stretcher goes, escorted by family.

A job well done by all, only because the teams have practiced and trained together to make it as seamless as possible. The old adage “If you fail to train, you train to fail” comes in here very predominantly.

Afterwards, do some sort of after-action review or debriefing with all those involved. It can be as formal or as casual as your team determines, but make sure all those involved are thanked for their ministry, as well as asked what went well and what could have been done better.

Give each servant heart a voice!

So that’s the security, parking, and medical teams serving in a nutshell. It’s a great example of a holistic approach to ministry serving the congregants of your organization.

Terry Berringer is the owner operator of Church Emergency Consulting in Pittsburgh, He is a CRRN with one of the largest healthcare systems in the Northeast United States, and he served as the SPaM director of one of the largest churches in the tristate area.