21 Nov 2018
November 21, 2018

3 Steps to Worship Security

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Violent acts being perpetuated in places of worship has become more and more frequent. These acts of cowardice continue to plague our nation. Something these attacks HAS spurred is that many are now realizing violence can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere.

When you embark on the journey to take a serious look at your security posture at your place of worship it can seem a bit daunting at first. Find comfort in the fact that the steps to secure a large multiplex church will be the same as the steps you take to secure a church with a congregation of 50. These steps may take more time, and be more simple or comprehensive, based on size but the steps do not change.

Every plan starts by completing a security survey and Risk/Vulnerability assessment which will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your security posture through evaluating the human factor as well as the facility and surrounding area. These findings will identify if there is a need of things such as video surveillance, access control, intercoms, notification systems and other technology based tools.

Next is creating a solid foundation of polices, procedures and administrative processes.   On many occasions a place of worship will jump directly to either forming a security team or look to have a team trained in various facets of security. While this is well intentioned it is imperative that a review of your establishments policies, procedures and administrative processes support the security measures you wish to implement or enhance. For instance, if you look to have your worship security team trained in physical tactics, firearms etc. you need to have an administrative strategy in place first. A place of worship will need to establish use of force policy/parameters, address legal issues, perhaps inquire to the establishments insurance companies to assess whether current policy covers injuries incurred during training, waivers may need to be created or revised.

This administrative portion should also include reviewing and or revising any existing emergency crisis plans and contacting local law enforcement and fire departments to identify any changes that should be made.

If a worship security team is something you wish to establish there are a few considerations to explore. Creating a new worship security team is no small undertaking. Once you establish how many people you will need you have to establish protocol for that team. Here are just a few of the questions you will want to consider:

  • What equipment is the establishment going to provide?

  • What is the budget for this team?

  • Is this going to be a paid position or strictly volunteer?

  • What, if any, requirements will they have to meet to qualify for the position?

  • What standards will they need to sustain on a quarterly, yearly basis?

  • Is this team going to be covered under the establishments policy or do they need to maintain their own?

  • Is this team going to be armed or unarmed?

  • What, if any, standards will apply for this team?

  • Who will be conducting the training?

  • Will this training offer certification?

These are just a few of the questions you will need to address before starting or enhancing your security team. Most worship security teams will be comprised of either active or off duty law enforcement or sometimes military trained personnel. This does not mean they HAVE to be, but most feel more comfortable with personnel who have had experience like this in the past. Something to look out for when establishing or enhancing your team is to ensure they are all trained to the same standard, level and experience. What do I mean by this? To clarify, it is not desirable to have 3 people of your team training in one specialized form of physical tactics or firearms while 6 others are training another way and yet another 4 are training different way than everyone else. This is not going to be conducive for a team’s cohesiveness or ability to work together in a high stress incident. This may also lead to indefensible lawsuits as this will clearly show no standard of training for each individual and, most likely, no training records to refute it. By having a standard of training you are also ensuring team members are operating in a safe and responsible manner and within the bounds of your policies and procedures.

How often the team trains and how the team trains are issues I will write about in a later post. For now, I will say that it should at least include:

  • Situational Awareness

  • Behavioral Recognition

  • Physical Tactics

  • Reality Based Training

  • Table Top exercises.

Team members must have the knowledge and expertise needed to complete the task at hand, and as such should receive regularly schedule training (quarterly, bi-annually, annually) on policies, procedures, mock scenarios, and more.

So there you have it.

  1. Complete a Security Survey and Risk/Vulnerability Assessment

  2. Create a solid foundation of policies, procedures and administrative processes.

  3. Form or enhance a worship security team

Obviously this article only scratches the surface of the who, what, when, how and why of worship security planning but should provide a peek through the window.

I highly recommend doing some extensive research before hiring consultants and or instructors for your establishment or your team. The substantial increase in worship violence has many people claiming expert experience who may not have the necessary experience to help you, Good luck!