Houses of worship regardless of denomination are intended to be places of peace, reflection, and refuge. Many clergy open these places of faith to provide counseling services, food pantries, and work with the homeless. But in doing so they may open their doors to people with anger management issues, addictions, and other mental illnesses. Of equal concern are the risks from vandalism, arson, theft, physical assaults on the ministry team and directed acts of violence such as active shooters, workplace violence, and terrorism.
“In dealing with the current threats to houses of worship many feel security itself is a matter of faith. But that has to change, security is essential if the clergy are going to minister to their congregations and to those they help in the community”.
Mr. Parker, CEO ISA
Security staff must be properly trained to protect both the facility and the staff within.
After overseeing the initial completion of all the available Federal and State training programs for your ministry and security team, we can conduct periodic refresher training or initial training for new members of your ministry and security team.
Security Managers: If you are responsible for the safety and security of a house of faith there are a few things to remember when preparing your program and training staff,
Physical Security: Security managers should select a team member to be trained on conducting physical security assessments and how to work with local law enforcement and other first responders to prepare an emergency action plan in the event of a fire or other physical damage to the facility. Staff should receive training on recognizing explosive or flammable materials and understand the proper procedures to order an evacuation and to alert first responders
Technical Training: CCTV in key locations may serve to deter acts of vandalism; theft or violence, but video systems that are unmonitored do your security program no good.
Worse still, untrained operators who don’t know how to use the full capabilities of the systems or how to maintain the cameras cost users thousands of dollars every year, and they lose video footage that may be quite helpful later.
Note: Be sure it’s well posted that CCTV is on the premises and in use.
Access Control: All buildings must have access control and other security measures in place during office hours and during non-worship times, such as interior and exterior locks, entry and exit intercoms, security staff and alarm systems preferable tied into local law enforcement. Security staff should be trained on how to use all the systems and have access to all keys, passwords, and codes.
Legal Training: Your church or religious institution is normally private property and owned by a diocese or by the church itself. You have the legal right to exclude, remove or evict persons from the property. Educate your security team on their legal rights and responsibilities. Other topics should include the use of force, the search of bags and persons, the prohibiting of weapons, trespass.
Liability: Remember that failing to take action may result in the institution being held liable in the event of violence that was “reasonably foreseeable” and results in actual harm. Consider using ushers and spotters in the crowd trained as additional “eyes and ears” to identify persons or situations before they get out of hand.
Locate ushers next to open doors, have them work in pairs and be equipped with radio communication. if during their observation of attendees it appears that a threatening or otherwise potentially dangerous person is present on the grounds execute your threat isolation plan and call the police.
This means ushers and your security team need to be trained on body language and threat indicators, you need to know what you’re looking for. If anyone needs to be escorted out, try to do so without touching them or causing any disturbance. De-escalation training is critical and should be done concurrently with escalation of force techniques and procedures.
Violence: In extreme cases of potential physical harm, verbal assaults, and/or other combative behavior, it may be appropriate to seek a restraining order through court action. A member of the security staff should be trained on the process as well as serve as a liaison to law enforcement.
Social Media: Train a staff member to conduct open source monitoring of social media for mentions of your house of faith and ministry team. Additional training on behavioral analysis to identify possible threats is recommended.
Armed Security: If your faith-based organization decides to use armed security weapons training must be to the highest standards and all staff need to qualify well within required timelines. Non-lethal force using the expanding baton or ASP and pepper spray, for instance, should be trained on at least as often as live weapons training.
** The ISA House of Worship Security Program is partnered with a “501c3 nonprofit” that provides our services at no cost to faith-based organizations that qualify** Contact us for more information.