We at Teachout Security Solutions would like to take this moment to wish you and yours a joyous and safe holiday season. One of the favorite things that our friends and family like to do this time of year are go to a local church that is famous for its choir and listen to a Christmas Carol concert. You probably have a similar holiday celebration at your house of worship. We like to feel that there is a spirit of peace and brotherhood during this holiday season.
The places we gather for worship and fellowship should be sanctuaries, but recent events have shown us this isn’t a sure thing anymore. Yes, everybody should be vigilant whenever we are gathered in a large group of people; however, there are some things that the leaders in our houses of worship can do to reduce their attractiveness as targets.
Number one on the list is to create an actual security plan. This starts with a professional security and risk analysis. When we provide this service to the leadership and support staff of the facility, we don’t come in with a pre-packaged solution. During the initial meeting with our clients, we determine their specific needs by asking the “what if” questions. This allows them to come up with sound responses and actions before they are needed. We then do a walk-through and assess the client’s security vulnerabilities. Finally, we develop a plan that we feel is suitable and that both ourselves and our client can agree upon.
Part of that security plan is the establishment or development of a designated security team. Most congregations will have a few off-duty law enforcement personnel or former military veterans who have been trained to recognize and respond to a potential threat. They can quickly mitigate the threat should the “what if” occur. They can also aid anyone needing help until the first responders arrive.
The first line of defense is the simplest but is often overlooked. Every entrance to the building should be illuminated at night and every window and door not being used for entrance and egress should be locked. The doors that are being used should be manned by a greeter or usher who has been trained in some simple but effective risk assessment techniques.
Another simple but effective security measure is a good perimeter fence, especially around the parking lot. A well-lit parking lot is also a deterrent to someone looking to break into or vandalize vehicles. This deterrence increases exponentially if security cameras are covering the facility’s parking lot and perimeter.
Some houses of worship retain professional security services to have a visible presence on the property, direct traffic, or patrol the parking area. Members of the congregation might have special stickers on their car or a card hanging on their rear-view mirror to identify them. This allows security personnel monitoring the parking lot to immediately identify those who do not normally attend the facility. They can quickly assess those people and determine if they appear to represent any threat.
A good security plan will also establish some protocols every house of worship should have in place. This will include:
- procedures for dropping off and picking up children
- procedures to be followed in case of a lock-down
- the location of areas to report and check-in after an event
- a protocol for the handling and accounting of money if there is an offering taken
- a communications plan to inform the congregation of the new security measures.
By taking the time to do some planning, we can all enjoy the Christmas concert or light the Menorah with joy in our hearts and a spirit of peace and goodwill toward all.