Keeping Your House Secure
The community of people are the focus
- By Stephanie Douglas
- Jul 11, 2018
Conversations about what
can be done to keep violent
weapons and dangerous
falling into the wrong
hands continue to dominate the political
discussion, leaving communities wondering
about what they can do to prevent the
next school or church attack. Houses of
worship find themselves in a particularly
vulnerable position, opening doors to
hundreds of people, while not necessarily
having the resources to adequately protect
themselves from violence, or even a natural
Worship sites vary in size and type, from
individual homes to large venues and entire
buildings. So where do you start in approaching
a thoughtful security plan and
effectively communicating it to your faith
community? Here are some important suggestions
for making your local worship place
safer for everyone.
Your people are your focus. Ensuring the
physical safety of a congregation is a responsibility
few church leaders considered
in a serious way, prior to recent tragedies.
However, this is now very much a part of any
organization’s responsibility. Having wellthought-
out plans in place and making sure
that leadership, volunteers and the congregation
know what to do in the event of an
emergency is critical.
Build relationships. Houses of worship,
regardless of their size or type, can benefit
from utilizing publicly available information
and relationships in the community. One of
the most significant relationships any entity
can have is with their local law enforcement
agency, such as the precinct, or a government
public safety office.
Meeting with your local police officers
and asking questions about preparing for or
handling a potentially dangerous situation
will go far in creating a long-term preparedness
plan in case of an emergency. In addition,
meeting with your local fire department
officers can help you take steps to protect
yourself and others while help is on the way,
after a crisis event occurs.
Create a plan. Those responsible for your
facility and the care of your members and
visitors should be familiar with what to do in
case of an emergency. Having a documented
security plan, which identifies likely threats/
risks and denotes appropriate responses, is a
vital tool to maximize preparedness.
Your security plan should include phone
numbers for staff and police and fire departments,
a designated place where the congregation
will meet in the event of a fire or
earthquake, and even a security checklist for
church events. Knowing that leadership has
taken the time to think about security and
has a safety plan in place will reassure people
that public safety is not something your
house of worship takes lightly.
A security plan can be basic or very complex
depending on the environment. In either
case, here are some initial questions to talk
about with your colleagues and neighbors, as
well as suggested areas for plan development.
- Where are the most logical and most accessible
- Where do I go in the event we need to
evacuate our space?
- Where is the closest fire alarm and extinguisher?
- How do you respond to a fire versus an
earthquake or a flood?
- How should I respond in the event someone
comes into our service with a weapon?
- How do I notify our congregation and/
or law enforcement if I see a crime or a
person I am concerned about?
Communication is key. The potential for
a security event is a difficult topic to discuss
in many of our faith communities. Most
people go to worship houses for encouragement.
However, as you begin to discuss security
within your faith communities, you will
quickly find that many people have already
thought about this issue.
While there is no perfect solution, passing
on a thoughtful message about your security
plan to your local faith community
and working with faith leadership, law enforcement
and emergency officials is both
responsible and reassuring. No one wants to
think or talk about these things, but we can
no longer pretend public safety at houses of
worship is not under threat. We will all be
better off expecting the best but preparing
for the worst.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Security Today.
Stephanie Douglas is a senior managing director in the San Francisco office of Guidepost Solutions.