Every active shooter event or crime that occurs at a house of worship increases our desire to improve our protection at our facility. This may be starting a church security team or building upon your existing plan. How can we do this with limited funds and a need for expediency, while maintaining a balance between security and ministry?
I’d like to explore a few areas that may help you.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Seek Support from Church Leadership
If you feel a need for a team ask your Elders, Deacons, Pastor, etc. for support. Meet with them and discuss why you feel a team is needed and include them in your plans.
Form a Committee
Get two or three people together who have a legal or law enforcement background. If no one can be found in your congregation with this experience, reach out to local law enforcement and request an assessment of your facility and any current plans in place.
Reach out to your insurance agent and attorney. Ask your agent for a visit to do an inspection. There are a small group of insurance companies that insure most of the churches in America.
If you are using a local agent, he/she may have your coverage through one of these companies. They have tremendous resources that they provide at no cost. These may include training products, as well as site visits and webinars.
Keep your agent informed when you implement safety or security plans. Reducing risks at your church may reduce your annual premiums. Also, always keep your attorney in the loop.
Once your team in in place, train, train, train.
The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) and the NRA have excellent instructors that teach firearms safety and use in a tactical situation. The USCCA has recently done a “Proving Ground” training video on active shooters in churches. It’s available on YouTube and is a must see for church security members.
Illuminate exterior doors and places of possible illegal entry into your building.
Keep a few night lights burning in your interior hallways. Install motion light switches in classrooms and install commercial grade locks with the ability to lock classrooms from the inside.
I’m a proponent of radios for the security team. Instant communication is a must in an emergency.
In a smaller church “family channel” radios may work, but the channels are not regulated and ease dropping as well as interference by outside users happens often.
Licensed commercial radios work best and are regulated by the FCC. A commercial radio retailer will provide radios and file for an FCC license. The license costs $500 and covers a period of ten years. The channels are highly regulated, and you will have exclusive use of the channels assigned.
Security cameras act as a deterrent as well as identification of a criminal during the commission of a crime.
Cameras have proven as a valuable tool in criminal, as well as civil cases on church property. If you have no cameras, start off small and build incrementally. Install internet protocol (IP) cameras that record onto a server with backup.
You will want to have storage space equal to at least twenty days. I recently saw a complete twelve camera system for about $500 at a discount retailer. Installation can be done by a certified electrician in your congregation.
You’ll also want to have someone with IT knowledge involved to set up the software side of the system.
Drones are becoming popular in law enforcement and private security. Their ability to fly without detection while carrying a camera is a tool worth looking into.
This might be something to consider watching over your parking lots as well as people during a large outdoor event.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently updated their rules about drones. Drones fall within the Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations, Part 107. You must be totally aware of these regulations before you fly your drone. Not obeying these regulations can result in severe civil and criminal penalties.
Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)
The UASI program is a US government grant initiative to help non-profits prevent, protect, and prepare for serious threats and attacks of terrorism.
The program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security working in conjunction with each State’s homeland security office. Each year funds are designated for regional areas across the country, mostly targeting large metropolitan cities, however additional funds may be allocated for smaller cities. The funds can be used for security equipment, such as cameras, locks and lighting.
Contact your State’s homeland security office to learn if your area qualifies, how to obtain an application, and when to apply.
Always remember that while you improve your security plan and initiatives, you must balance your efforts and those of the ministries of the church.
Push back may come from other departments but it’s your responsibility to communicate how security provides a safe place for staff, members and visitors to attend worship and programs at your church.