Places of worship throughout Atlanta, Georgia, were recently reminded they may no longer be providing a space where their worshipers can find sanctuary and feel safe. The mosque shooting in New Zealand on March 15, which ended the lives of 50 innocent Muslims, gave churches and other faith-based organizations additional notice of the need for a security plan.
Shootings in the United States have occurred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine worshipers were killed, and at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which killed 26 people and injured 20. These are just two incidents that point to the vulnerability of churches when someone with bad intentions wants to cause mass casualties, draw media attention and inflict psychological damage.
Because there are those who do not respect places of worship as sacred and won’t hesitate to abuse the open welcome that churches have traditionally offered, administrators must now pay close attention to their security policies and procedures.
Here are some ideas to consider:
Form a safety committee
From the committee, create security teams that will be active during services. Provide security training for all church leaders to ensure each of them knows their role in keeping their church safe.
Perform a security assessment
Hire a professional security consultant to assess your place of worship before developing a specific security action plan.
Develop a security plan
Security plans are the framework of the overall security policy for the church. They guide the leaders and the congregation during an emergency. Plans should address a variety of possible issues the church might face; fires, fights, aggressive behavior and violence, such as shooting, to name a few. Proper planning can limit the harm done to people and the damage to property.
Make use of security technology
Security technologies include CCTV camera systems for surveillance, access control to prevent intrusions, and communications and notification systems.
Write up a plan to cooperate with local law enforcement
Talk with local law enforcement officials and request they join the church in an Incident Response Plan (IRP) to help you with serious confrontations. Also, request they attend large-scale gatherings to help prevent problems and provide instant enforcement.
Consider a written agreement with the local police to have a full-time deputy sheriff or police officer in uniform with an assigned vehicle during services. Another consideration is to hire an off-duty officer to be present at all services.
Your congregation’s safety and security are essential
Contact the experts at BOS Security at 404-793-6965 to get more information about creating a security plan to protect the people and property at your house of worship. We can assess your security position and objectives, and design and implement a comprehensive plan to mitigate the risks.