Keeping Our Houses of Worship Safe
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, just completing our first round of Houses of Worship related security reviews, has been very favorably impressed and pleased by the high levels of enthusiasm and interest in security by so many local church leaders. Acting on invitations from area houses of worship, our security and crime prevention experts conducted approximately 15 separate church related security assessments over the past three months. In completing these security assessments, we were able to create a workable list of simple actions and best practices which, if implemented correctly, should significantly increase safety and security for our local Worship Centers.
We encourage those congregations which have not yet had an assessment to reach out to our Homeland Security Personnel and request one. In the meantime, we offer the above list of suggested actions and best practices for your consideration.
- Designate a security coordinator or create a security committee. Security is a very specialized task and it is important to have someone who is focused on that function. Ideally, this person/group will have some law enforcement, military, or private security experience.
- Have a plan which includes planning for various threat or disaster scenarios. If there is an attack, people should know what they are supposed to do, even if that it just to shelter in place or to evacuate. Those who are charged with meeting/stopping a threat need to understand their roles and limitations.
- Ensure that security personnel are trained and equipped to deal with a situation until law enforcement arrives.
- Limit entry into the Sanctuary during services – ensure that a security person, looking for suspicious activity, scans everyone entering the site. Consider securing doors once service has commenced.
- For churches with extensive campuses, consider mass notification capabilities.
- Ensure that first aid gear is posted where it can be easily identified and accessed.
- Ensure that bank deposits are not made on the same day/same time. Ensure that bank drops are not done by a single person. Suggest taking alternate routes to bank and having a second person follow in a separate vehicle.
- Ensure that adequate exterior lighting is in place, especially if you are hosting nighttime services or events.
- Make sure that the doors are solid and that locks are tamper resistant.
- Trim shrubs or bushes around the buildings to ensure that potential threat actors are not able to hide before an attack or break-in.
- Consider using cameras and alarm systems.