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Eight tips for making churches safer

An expert offers advice for improving congregational security.

1. Develop an emergency response plan.

An emergency response plan should include:

• Inclement weather

• Active shooter

• Bomb threat

• Fire safety and evacuation procedures

• Security team and command center

• Marked safety shelters

2. Develop a security team and hire armed security officers.

A security team should include a committee and chairperson, member(s) of the local law enforcement community, security manager and church volunteers.Armed security officer(s) or police should be considered to protect against:• Active shooters• Violent acts against church staff/members/guests

• Protection of church property against theft and vandalism

• Building lock-down

• Response to burglary and fire alarms

• Assistance with medical emergencies

3. Establish safety zones.

Establish safety zones limiting access to church administration and ministry offices. This can be accomplished with access control systems and/or tracking of church building/room keys.

4. Establish guidelines for dealing with registered sex offenders.  

Develop guidelines for dealing with registered sex offenders. Mostly by limiting access to children and youths including classes, mission trips and other church-sponsored events.

5. Establish a criminal background screening program.

Background screening should be conducted on all employees in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Also, background screening should include volunteers that:

• Supervise or teach children or youths

• Are in a pastoral or counseling role

• Tasked with financial stewardship responsibilities

• Small group leaders and those who conduct in-home events

Background screening should be conducted by a licensed professional investigation company.

6. Establish an ID system for children and youth programs.

Develop an ID system for the check-in and check-out of children and youth attending classes and events. Teachers and church staff should be required to submit to training and education in family conflicts and recognizing child abuse. Consider establishing “two-adult rule” for children classes, mother’s day out, etc.

7. Consider a surveillance system to monitor church buildings/premises.

Install video surveillance system to monitor entrance and exits of church buildings, parking lots and points of interest. Video surveillance should be monitored by authorized security officers or members of security team.

8. Provide adequate lighting and a safe environment.

Brent Sandlin serves as president and CEO of First Security Systems in Hurst

Brent Sandlin serves as president and CEO of First Security Systems in Hurst

Churches are expected to provide a safe environment for people to work, attend and assemble. Failure to provide adequate lighting is the most common liability risk churches assume. Enhanced lighting reduces the risk of slip and falls, criminal activity and theft of property. (Inmates interviewed in jail state that poorly lit areas are their first choice for criminal activity.)

Churches strive to provide an open and inviting venue for people to study God’s word and seek his kingdom. The task of providing a safe environment and securing church campuses is difficult. The tips and consideration provided above are intended to provide church organizations with guidelines and practices for church leadership, and does not include all aspects of church security and risk management.

Brent Sandlin serves as president and CEO of First Security Systems in Hurst, Texas. The licensed security company and investigation agency has served churches and nonprofit organizations since 1999. Sandlin can be reached at [email protected].

Filed under: Opinion Views

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