Two important elements of securing the people and property of your church are video surveillance and access control.
Martin Sinderman · November 12, 2017
All of Willow Creek’s facilities are covered by video surveillance systems, according to McAuliffe. There are close to 500 cameras alone covering the main building, he reports, all of them made by Axis Communications, a network video solutions provider.
This camera array runs on a network powered by software from IPConfigure Inc. (www.ipconfigure. com/products/esm), a video surveillance research and development software company. Having one of the largest congregations in the country, Willow Creek spent “a couple hundred thousand” on their system, according to McAuliffe.
This included the development of a parallel network for handling data generated by the video cameras, “so as not to crash the existing network used by [Willow Creek] staff,” he notes. McAuliffe describes the areas covered by Willow Creek’s video surveillance system as being in line with those monitored in most church facilities.
In addition to having all entryways/exits covered, any rooms used for youth activities have, depending on their size, anywhere from one to several cameras, according to McAuliffe, because from a safety/security standpoint, “If something happens, chances are good it is going to happen around the youth ministry.”
Safety and security also dictate the use of video surveillance in hallways, lobbies and other common areas. Next come bookstore and food-service facilities, secure rooms where offerings are counted, “and anywhere else you have money coming and going,” McAuliffe says. Willow Creek also has a pair of cameras mounted in its parking lot. McAuliffe notes that available outdoor video surveillance systems include those that simply help a church keep track of what’s happening in the lot, while others are more specialized license-plate readers that enable the church to document who is coming and going.
Active monitoring of feeds from nearly 500 cameras is an impossible task, McAuliffe notes. On weekends, though, “We do have four monitors with someone watching video from about 30 of the cameras in areas we are most concerned about,” he says.
The Willow Creek system also allows monitoring from remote computers or cell phones. Video surveillance data is archived for possible future use. “We save all the video footage for 30 days, and then save the footage that had motion detected for another 30 days,” says McAuliffe.
The system also allows users to save any particular video footage they desire and store it in a library. About four years ago, with prices of both hardware and software coming down, Willow Creek roughly doubled the number of video cameras it had in place – and did the planning and installation work largely on its own. “Our IT [information technology] guys did all the cameras and the servers,” McAuliffe says, with an outside contractor taking care of the wiring.