Reducing Vulnerabilities in Your Place of Worship
Simple Changes that can Make a Big Difference
Vulnerable is an understatement for nearly every facility and organization in our society. Places of worship however have found themselves highly vulnerable to outside threats and attacks for various reasons. Reducing vulnerabilities can be a struggle, but putting forth the effort and allocating resources before an incident is critical to continued safety and security for your buildings, staff, volunteers, and congregation.
First, start by informing your congregation of your safety and security efforts especially if this is a new development for your place of worship. Whether it be building a safety team, implementing new safety plans, or patrolling the parking lot for increased safety, they should be aware of changes.
Second, outfit your church safety team with common apparel that people will notice and may even choose to have safety shirts or jackets made for them. Congregation members and visitors should be able to identify who holds a safety position. Having a visible, or semi-visible safety presence may help deter crime at your place of worship. For instance, in parking areas they may wear reflective vests and while greeting or attending service they may wear a name tag that says “safety team member.” It is said that security visibility is directly related to reduced crime.
Video surveillance is a mostly cost effective way to reducing vulnerabilities at your church. Surveillance should be implemented throughout your place of worship, not just the exterior. Areas like nurseries, offices and access points are all highly vulnerable and should have video surveillance recording. Your place of worship surveillance does not need to be watched 24/7, but it should be checked often. Put up signs and stickers around access points to let people know they are on camera to further deter violence or vandalism.
Most places of worship keep their doors open during normal hours to welcome and help those in need, but with only a handful of staff around, this leaves not only the building, but the people highly vulnerable. To shrink this vulnerability, consider adding a panic button/alarm for vulnerable staff to use in case of emergency and keep all office doors locked. If there is a situation, staff can close their door and reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
The most important thing to remember when considering new safety and security methods is that you’re investing in protection, mitigation and prevention. If these are done right, you probably will not need to invest in cleanup efforts after a crisis. Vulnerabilities lurk around every corner for every organization, but the stakes become higher at a place of worship because of differing views and their open door policies. Reducing vulnerabilities and risk doesn’t have to cause a headache though. By simply acknowledging the primary vulnerabilities and working to mitigate them, you are increasing your preparedness. Keep these tips in mind and work with local responders to get more ideas on how to reduce vulnerabilities at your specific place of worship.