Violence is a reality of life in our modern world, and sadly, religious institutions are no exception. Although places of community and peace, they are often vulnerable targets, and their nature creates a unique puzzle when it comes to effective security systems. This piece will provide you with some basic tips for the prevention of violence and crime in religious organizations, as well as tools for crisis management in the worst-case scenario.
Creating a safety plan does not have to be complicated. In fact, there is a wealth of resources available to religious institutions from security companies like ITAC, local law enforcement and state-of-the-art technology. If it seems overwhelming, we’ve gathered a few basic tips to get you started:
- Build a Prepared Team. Hiring security guards that have been specially trained is a great first step, but shouldn’t be where you stop. The entire staff should be aware of their role in the safety of their community. This means training greeters to be on the lookout for suspicious items or activities, making sure all staff is aware of who the security team is and where they can locate them, and ensuring they all have a good understanding of the location they work in and where exits are located.
- Collaborate With Local Police. Your local police force will most likely be willing to share tips with you for securing your location, and may even offer their own officers for patrols of the building. Working with law enforcement can ensure you are prepared to seamlessly share information and aid each other in the event of an emergency.
- Create an Evacuation/Shelter Plan. Make sure that any plans you create are understood by the entire staff so that in the event of a crisis staff can lead civilians to a secure shelter or out the nearest exit as quickly as possible. Clearly labeling exits and practicing this plan can help make sure you’re prepared for anything.
- Inform The Congregation. Including the religious community in security, plans can help ensure that they can take care of themselves should they need to in an emergency. Take a moment before services to remind the congregation where the exits are, where places to the shelter are, and place signs asking that suspicious activity be reported to the security desk.
- Install a Security System. The importance of cameras and alarm systems can’t be overstated. These can allow law enforcement to be contacted if a call cannot be placed, and can help them identify perpetrators in the aftermath of a crisis. Depending on the size of your organization, you may even consider installing metal detectors, or a security checkpoint where purses and bags can be inspected before community members enter the premises.
Taking advantage of the resources available to you can help prevent casualties in the event of an emergency. While it may feel overwhelming to remind community members about the threat of violence to their religious organization, the extra level of preparedness is worth it in the end. Denying the possibility of an emergency will not save any lives, but a plan to prevent and manage a crisis will always pay off.
Learn more about preventing crime and violence in religious organizations by reading our case study of the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting here.