Mass assemblies and vulnerability to disasters: the case of selected churches in Nairobi
This research was set to study mass assemblies and disaster preparedness in churches in Nairobi. In the study, the awareness, knowledge and abilities of the church leaders and members with regard to disaster management was studied. The study was conducted in six churches within Nairobi which were purposively selected and these represented all churches as they are a forum of mass assemblies. The general objective of the study was to establish the extent to which disaster management had been incorporated in places of mass assemblies. Specifically, the study sought to find out if the church leaders and members were aware of the threats that provided a fertile ground for panic and hysteria which surrounded their mass assembly and how they were likely to behave should these hazards be triggered. The study also sought to establish the knowledge that the church leaders and members had of the likely hazards in a mass assembly and how they were likely to respond. An assessment of the contingency measures which the churches had put in place in response preparedness to the likely hazards was also done. Non probability sampling was used to obtain the sample for the study. Purposive sampling method was used to select the 6 churches under study and the 6leaders interviewed were obtained from these churches. The Quota sampling method was used in selecting a sample of 145 church members from the 6 churches under study. These participants were interviewed using an interview schedule. Observation of the selected churches was also done. The responses obtained were analyzed and discussed in line with the common themes of the study. The data collected is presented in frequency distribution tables. The data collected revealed that a large percentage of the church of the members were unaware of hazards that surrounded their churches. Where there was awareness, the researcher established that some response actions had been taken to respond to some of the hazards. The researcher further established that the leaders and members had some knowledge on likely hazards in a mass assembly. The likely hazards studied were Stampede, Fire, Fainting, Armed Intruder, Terrorist scare and Terrorist Attack. The need for awareness creation and education on the church community on likely hazards and the recommended response was established. An assessment of the contingency measures in place in the churches revealed some gaps which are important in responding to disasters. The churches lacked some basic measures like conducting emergency drills, contracts with and contacts of service providers like the fire fighters, ambulance services and first aid services. However, all the churches under study had engaged security firms in order to ensure that security screening was conducted at the entry of the churches. On observation, the churches were found to be lacking in providing adequate entry and exit avenues. The structural designs of the churches enhanced the vulnerability of the assemblies in these churches to likely hazards like congestion and stampedes. None of the churches under study had taken into consideration physically challenged people in their structural designs and this limited the number of people with disabilities who were able to access the churches. The researcher recommends training of church leaders on disaster management, awareness creation and regular educative sessions for the church members on the subject of disaster management. The findings of this study will be shared with the church leaders and members who participated in the study and will be extended to other churches.