On Saturday preparing for Special Gathering in Vero, I turned my back to set up our sound equipment.  As I reached for the wires, I saw Stan coming through the chapel doors, creeping slowly.  He is 81 and maneuvers with a walker.  I heard but did not see the fall.  A support staff was attending.  She quickly jumped up to help Stan who was now lying on the floor.  Because Stan hit his head, I called 911.  When the EMT’s arrived, they asked me how the fall had happened.  I explained that I didn’t see the fall.  The intense young emergency attendant gasped, “What do you mean, you had your back turned?  You didn’t see what happened?”

The next morning I arrived early as usual to the Special Gathering program.  After we set up our chapel area, I herded the four people I had brought with me into the kitchen because we were providing refreshments for the entire church that hosts our program.  I knew I had plenty of time to set up and get back to the gym after the food was ready.  Unfortunately, I was in the kitchen, four people were dropped off an hour and 15 minutes early and their driver didn’t notify me.  They, of course, headed for the gym, our normal place to gather.  When no one was there, they sat and waited.  These are lower functioning folks, extremely well-behaved.  And they understand waiting. 

While neither incident constituted a lack of supervision on the part of Special Gathering, it did set my mind to thinking about how much safety is enough.  About 15 years ago, when our growth forced us to move from self-contained, small buildings to more fluid, open church facilities, we established a system in which we do visual checks each time we move. 

Our independent people who live in their own apartments have two checks–when they come and when they leave.  The people who are not in an independent living situation but whose parents or other professions ask for “low supervision” during our Retreat Agape and other outings, have three checks–when they arrive, during our Bible study time and when they leave.  Everyone else will receive four checks–when they arrive, when worship begins, when we move to Bible study classes and when they leave.  Occasionally, when a person has proven to be a wanderer or a person who is very physically involved, we will assign a “loose” one-on-one person.  However, we still do the checks on both people.

In addition, we require that a staff or experienced volunteer be in every room where our members congregate.  We believe there is greater safety in groups.  Our supervision method attempts to insure people are safe while attempting to keep their dignity in tack.

I know.  Accidents happen.  Schedules change.  Support staff gets confused about times.  True, you cannot anticipate every contingency.  However, how much supervision is enough?  How much is due diligence?  While I believe Special Gathering has thought through the safety issues attempting to anticipate as many problems as possible, the impossible seems to pop around the corner occasionally.  Each time it happens, I believe it is good to sit and ask ourselves, “What can we do better?  Do we need to make changes? How much supervision is enough?”

Perhaps you have a different arrangment.  What can you add to the discussion?

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