Improve Place of Worship Security on a Budget
Increase Church Safety With Budget-Friendly Options
Many places of worship have a strict budget, and sometimes safety and security upgrades don’t make the top of the list for improvements that need to be made. We understand that substantial upgrades to security can be costly, but today we want to share with you ways that you can upgrade security without breaking your budget. The biggest misconception that prevents church leaders from implementing effective security is the thought that security is all about guns, guards, cameras, and metal detectors. Jeffery A, Hawkins explains church security as this, “a properly designed security program is like an iceberg, people should only see about 10 percent of what you really have in place; the other 90 percent is in place in case it is needed.” Effective and efficient church security does not limit the open environment that you have created for your congregation, instead it allows visitors and members to mingle freely, while having a back-up plan in case an emergency occurs.
It can be hard to determine which areas to update and which areas to put on the back burner until more resources can be allocated, but by performing a risk assessment, you can get a better grasp on hazards that have more precedents than other areas of concern. Risk assessments can be done by a third party, or by a facilities manager. It identifies hazards and vulnerabilities based on a walk-through checklist and proposes actions that you can take to diminish the risk associated with each hazard.
Remember back in the 1990’s when walkie-talkies were all the rage? Well, two-way radios are still one of the most reliable forms of communication. You may be thinking, “Well, everyone has a cell phone, we’ll just use those.” Unfortunately, cell phones rely on other outside variables to work properly. Consider this, if power goes out, your cell phone may not have signal to make a call, your battery may die, or maybe you don’t have updated contact information for the people that you need to connect with. With two-way radios, all you need is a fresh set of batteries and you can talk with those who have the receiving end. Ensure that new batteries are available and within close reach if they do die.
Have you ever gone to pick your child up from school and had to be buzzed in to the front office and then sign-in and go through a background check of your driver’s license before being able to sign them out for a doctor’s appointment? Most places have a complex system that restricts access until the person’s intentions are verified. Churches however strive to keep the environment open and inviting, and they typically do this by keeping all the doors unlocked which has led to serious crimes in the past. During service times, keep only the front, main entry doors unlocked for guests and have ushers or greeters to talk with visitors as they enter. When the church is open with only daily staff, lock all outside doors and use a buzzer system to notify when someone outside needs assistance. When no one is utilizing the church grounds, lock all doors and consider setting an alarm/security system for emergencies that may happen after hours. Securing access points and locking doors is one of the easiest ways to keep those on church grounds safe from harm.
Timely training has always been and always will be one of the most effective ways to preventemergencies from happening and responding to them properly. Train your safety team members and greeters/ushers on how to identify and address suspicious behavior. Many times we tell our front line, those who greet visitors, to alert a designated person of suspicious activity, but what exactly makes a person’s behavior suspicious? It is important to remember that one single behavior alone is no suspicious, when there are multiple behaviors evident, that is when you have cause to believe it is suspicious.
- Do they appear to be hiding something under clothing/Walking stiff?
- Suspicious packages/Mail- has an unusual odor, excessive postage, not expected, excessively secured, cut and paste lettering, no return address, unusual sound
- Someone asking questions beyond curiosity- questions about security procedures, when people start arriving/leaving, how many children are in care, etc.
Most of us understand that schools and hospitals have to prepare for emergency situations, but so do churches. Places of worship are an increasing target for criminal activity such as theft, vandalism, and terrorist attacks. Understanding the complex challenges that places of worship face will help to become adequately prepared for the emergency situations that have the potential for happening at your place of worship.