Church is supposed to be a safe place, a refuge—a place where everybody from the local community can leave their troubles at the door to join together in fellowship. However, churches have been subject to shootings and violent crime with increasing frequency, and the fear that this inspires can sometimes prevent churches from fulfilling their mission.
In the wake of tragedies like the shooting in Charleston, the threat that violent crime poses to churches is unprecedented. However, there are many other types of security concerns that are both more likely, and more preventable that also need to be taken into consideration. Topping the list of these threats are physical/sexual abuse, kidnapping, theft of property/information, and vandalism.
Today we will walk through nine practical steps you can take to ensure the safety of everybody who walks through your doors, from young to old, and preserve the church’s place as a refuge from the outside world.
Implement An Effective Communication System
One of the best and easiest things you can do to manage potential threats to your church is to develop an effective and reliable system for communication. A good place to start might be purchasing two-way radios for your staff. And while we’re on the subject of staff…
Perform Thorough Background Checks For All Church Staff & Volunteers
By some estimates, less than 40% of churches conduct complete background checks on prospective staff members. This is a major security gap, as these staff members will be responsible for the safety of your entire congregation, including the children. It’s extremely important that you know exactly who you are hiring, so be sure that you choose an experienced firm to perform your background checks for you.
Create An Air-Tight Check-In System For Children
The children are the most vulnerable members of your congregation, and losing track of one of them is a disaster! How do you identify a child’s custodial parent or guardian? You need to develop an air-tight system to keep track of the exact location of each child at any given time. It’s a good idea to consider investing in special security software to help you with this task.
Install Security Cameras
Installing security cameras is one of the most basic things you can do to manage the security of your church’s campus; they come with a wide array of benefits. Your security cameras should be plainly visible; this will serve as deterrence, and help reassure your congregation that they are in a safe place. Security cameras also enable your security staff to monitor your campus more efficiently.
Have Easily-Visible Security Personnel On-Campus During Services
This is especially important in large “mega-churches” that draw large crowds every week. Whether you hire private security staff, or off-duty police officers from your congregation, it is very important that they be in plain sight, and easily distinguishable. Perhaps you could ask the off-duty officers to wear their uniforms. This will serve a great deterrent. Having your security staff in “plain clothes” is not recommended because it lacks the deterrence factor.
Control Access To Your Church’s Campus
An “open door policy” is important in a church, but don’t take that expression too literally! The locks on your doors are tools that should be used strategically to manage the flow of traffic in and out of your building. Ideally, you should only open as many doors as is absolutely necessary, and those doors should be monitored by actual human beings—not just cameras.
Put Together Volunteer Triage Teams
You might consider assembling a team of medical professionals (doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc.) from you congregation to act as first responders in case of a medical emergency or violent crime. They should be prepared to provide medical care until the paramedics arrive at the scene. Remember that your church might be liable if any harm comes to members of your congregation while they are on campus.
Have Emergency Kits Readily Available
On that subject, it’s a good idea to prepare emergency kits in case of an incident. These kits should be placed in strategic locations, and should include all the equipment you might need in the event of an emergency. To start with, you should throw in additional radio equipment, maps of the building, and reflective vests. You might even consider including supplies to keep children calm during an emergency, like blankets and snacks.
Devise A Solid Emergency Action Plan, And Train Your Staff Accordingly
Last, but certainly not least, you must develop an emergency action plan for every possible scenario that could put your congregation in harm’s way. These plans should be written clearly, and be readily available to your staff at any point. These emergency action plans should also be the subject of intense training for all of your church’s staff.
Take The First Step Towards Keeping Your Congregation Safe
Schedule your free security risk assessment with Herring Technology today! We are here to help!