Why Should You Invest In Church Security Training?
Attacks on churches or other houses of worship are not common, but they do happen, and it’s disturbing and heartbreaking when it does. Worshippers tend to have their guard down because they believe they are in a safe space. Some attendees, such as children or the elderly, are defenseless.
Houses of worship are vulnerable to attack for several reasons. An assailant knows the time and duration of services, making it easier to plan an attack. Churches are open to the public, so they can visit the target ahead of time to scope out the layout, exits, and places of concealment. “Sunday best” is an expression for a reason. Some churchgoers will not only be dressed in their best but also wear expensive jewelry and have cash at the ready to donate.
Types Of Security Threats
No faith is immune to religious or political violence from extremists. There have been attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues, increasing the need for increased security. A comprehensive church safety plan is necessary to protect congregants from dangers they may face.
Consider These Potential Church Security Issues:
- Health Emergencies
- Mental Health Issues
- Family Violence Or Child Custody Issues
- Elder Abuse
- Property Crimes
- Extreme Weather Or Natural Disasters
- Hate Crimes Or Terrorist Attacks
When people leave the world behind to spend time in prayer and fellowship, they deserve to feel safe. It’s up to church leadership to prevent incidents from arising where they can and swiftly address what they cannot prevent.
Why Church Security Matters
Churches need a security plan because few are at their best when an emergency arises. The wisest decisions are not adrenaline-charged. Planning and practicing are the best ways to offset the tendency to panic. Church leaders must analyze potential dangers, decide what to do about them, and gather the people and tools they need to follow through. The plan should outline what church leadership, a designated security team, and church members should do during an emergency. It may not be easy.
Protecting A House Of Worship Is Complicated
- People tend to come and go without being identified or questioned. “All are welcome” is a foundational element of many religions.
- Churches can have valuable items such as electronics, musical instruments, and cash. Religious objects and decorations are often made from expensive materials.
- Parking lots are full of automobiles that may be unlocked. Thieves know exactly how long they have to work and get away without detection.
- Buildings can be decades, if not centuries, old and not built with today’s security threats in mind.
- Congregants who believe they leave worldly dangers behind when they enter the church doors may not be receptive to preparing for danger.
- Families can be separated during services. Evacuation plans must address parents’ tendency to rush to their children rather than following the designated route.
- Threats don’t always come from strangers. Domestic violence, contentious custody issues and mental health issues can require sensitive handling.
Any church safety plan must be mindful of the beliefs and mindset of the people being protected.
Developing a Church Security Plan
When creating a church safety plan, begin with a risk assessment to understand where your vulnerabilities lie. This may require input from a variety of sources. Maintenance staff can help with the details of the layout of the building and all means of egress. Administrators can share records of any previous threats or issues. Law enforcement can share local crime statistics. Conduct follow-up assessments at least yearly to consider new threats and evaluate the past year’s performance.
Coordinate With First Responders
Partnering with local police and fire departments is a valuable part of a church safety plan. They can perform an initial assessment, make recommendations, and meet regularly to address any new issues that arise. They can help you develop your church security plan or vet the one you came up with on your own. Be sure congregants know you are working with first responders so they are not alarmed by their presence. It’s helpful if church members who are part of these organizations are the ones participating in protecting the church.
Consult With A Professional Security Company
Also, consider that you don’t have to go it alone. Professional security companies can be a valuable part of your strategy Security companies are trained and experienced in recognizing and addressing threats you may not have considered. Because they are specialists, they have seen firsthand the kind of threats places of worship face and what works and what doesn’t to mitigate them.
Assemble Your Safety Team
As your church security plan takes shape, consider the roles required for a complete safety team and who may best fill those roles. Depending on the size of the church, the building location, and likely threat, just a few people may be required, or you may need a comprehensive team to ensure safety no matter what arises.
Vet Your Security Team
Team members’ skills, experience, and background may vary, but they should be trustworthy, even-tempered, and calm under pressure. Ideally, all team members should undergo a criminal background check. Unfortunately, you don’t always know friends and associates as well as you think. Vetting is essential because what better way is there for someone with ill intent to breach the church’s defenses than embedding with the team making the security decisions?
Roles On The Team
The leader of the security team is not the same as the leader of the church. While you will need approval from the pastor, church elders, or the board – whoever comprises the decision-making body of the church – it’s essential to appoint a security director who will take responsibility for the safety of the property, employees, and employees. They will also hold primary responsibility for hiring staff or soliciting volunteers for the team.
Church Security Team
One of the decisions the church leadership team must make is designating a budget for security. Depending on funds available, your team may be comprised of paid staff, professionals from a security company or volunteers. Select members carefully, depending on your safety needs For the most part, the team’s duties will involve helping with the safety plan, being alert to danger and implementing the agreed-upon strategy. It’s typically not a role requiring Navy Seal level fitness, but participants should be mentally and physically sharp. You want people who remain calm and instill confidence in an emergency, not cowboys or hot heads.
Engage The Entire Congregation
No matter what security plan you develop for your church, it can’t succeed without the cooperation of church members. Don’t alarm worshippers unnecessarily but be sure they know what to do in various types of emergencies. They must understand how to respond in the event of lockdowns, evacuations, and medical emergencies. Ask them to use their observation skills to notice when something seems wrong and bring it to the attention of a security team member. Churchgoers can help most by remaining calm in all emergencies. Regularly include safety protocols in announcements. Point out where emergency exits, AEDs (automated external defibrillators) and fire extinguishers are located. Offer classes in First Aid, CPR or other safety topics.
Train Team Members
Security team members should be trained on properly using all emergency and security equipment such as access control systems, communication devices, fire extinguishers and AEDs. They need to know how to respond to emergencies such as fire, natural disasters, bomb threats, active shooters, medical emergencies and missing children. Conduct regular drills until procedures become second nature.
Invest In Church Safety Technology
There is a wide variety of equipment that can provide or enhance security. The security director should confer with leadership, the church security team and any security professionals or consultants that are part of your security team. Here are a few of the most possible and useful security technologies to choose from.
You’ll find plenty of options in security cameras for your church. Visible or concealed, infrared so you can see in the darkness. Optimize the use of cameras with remote security monitoring.
Most people have personal mobile phones for communication, but radios work even without cell service or Wi-Fi. It’s a quick and easy way to stay in touch with team members throughout the church property.
Chances are the church will already have an alarm system in place, but one of the first duties of the security team should be to evaluate the present system to determine if it needs to be upgraded.
Not all aspects of the church are open to the public. Access control can be used to track who enters rooms with restricted access, such as offices, IT or utility rooms or storage areas. In the event of theft or other issues, security can tell who was present at the time of the incident.
Should You Consider Church Firearms Training?
If you allow people to carry firearms on church property, providing proper training can keep worshippers safer. If you are providing weapons to members of your security team, training and qualifying is a smart choice and may even be required by your insurance carrier. Firearms training should include expectations regarding conduct, attendance and time commitment and what training must be completed before they can assume duties. Check state and local regulations to learn what parameters your training must meet.
Does Your Church Need Firearms Training?
If you need firearms training for your church security team, BOS Security can help. The TI Training Firearms Simulator System is a safe, cost-effective alternative to live arms training. You can assess marksmanship and general fitness for duty before ever putting a live weapon in a team member’s hands. The system is mobile – we can take it to our officers on-site rather than taking the time to assemble them all in a central location.
Other Important Considerations For Church Security Training
Consider Adding Security Officers
Professional security officers can relieve some of the protection burdens from the church while offering a higher level of expertise in what to look for. They can be plain clothes if you prefer them to blend in with the congregation or uniformed if you want to make their presence known. They can be armed or unarmed, depending on your needs and preferences.
An effective church safety plan must include the following:
- Clear chain of command and communication methods.
- Written plan that can be accessed by all members of the team.
- Desired outcome for each type of incident or emergency.
- Steps required to reach that outcome.
- How incidents are to be tracked and reported.
- Best practices for security team members to protect themselves.
Partner With Experts in Church Security and Training
BOS Security in Georgia can help you develop a church security plan, a church safety training plan, and can provide trained and vetted security guards to protect your congregation when groups are gathered.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can protect your church or house of worship from safety and security threats, work with BOS Security. You may contact our experts online or call 404-793-6965.