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Defensive Gear

Detection and Defense

Surveillance Camera

Gearing Up for Safety

In the Bible

We have devices for detection and defense which were unavailable in Bible times, but they did have means of knowing about threats and defending against them.

Detection and Information

In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai (Esther 2:21-22).

And Jonathan said, "Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you? " (1 Samuel 20:9).

Weapons for Defense

And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords. " And he said to them, "It is enough" (Luke 22:38).

From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail (Nehemiah 4:16).

In the News

Caught in the Act by Cameras

Kansas City, Missouri, February through April 2019 - A man who used a pry bar to open a door and burglarize a church was identified from surveillance video footage and arrested. This was shared with other churches and places of business using the same surveillance systems in a network set up by the producer of the cameras. The same man has been identified in other church break-ins in the Kansas City area going back to February [1].

Akron, Ohio, April 14, 2019 - Akron police have released surveillance videos of a church break-in, hoping to identify the thief [2].

Pepper Spray and Taser Used in Removing Disrupter

Edmond, Oklahoma, June 27, 2012 - During a Wednesday evening service in a church, one woman began playing the tambourine loudly. She continued even during the sermon, making it impossible for members to hear what was being said. A deputy was called to remove her. She resisted and had to be subdued with pepper spray and a Taser. Prescription pain medications were found in her purse [3].

Intruder Held at Gunpoint

Boiling Springs, South Carolina, March 25, 2012 - A man who had come into a church before the Sunday morning service, then left, returned during the service. A member who was watching from another building saw him get a shotgun from his truck. He went into the main building and locked all the doors. The man with the shotgun kicked in a side door, came in, and pointed the weapon at the pastor, who was in the pulpit. The member who saw him was waiting beside the door with his concealed-carry handgun. He held the intruder at gunpoint while the pastor took the shotgun. When deputies came they arrested the would-be assailant. They also arrested his sister in the truck, who had provided the shotgun [4].

Detection Devices and Systems

The first step in self-defense is awareness. Likewise, the first line of defensive gear is items which aid our awareness: detection equipment. These range from very simple to extremely sophisticated. There are literally hundreds of detection devices of many types, but not all are feasible for most churches.


Surveillance cameras have come a long way from film cameras operated by trip wires or door mechanisms. Now they can be extremely small and practically invisible, operating continuously or in response to motion detectors. With long-life batteries, even charged by solar cells, they relay images to remote recorders. They can even communicate with mobile phones in the hands of homeowners, managers, and security personnel.

Far less expensive and more reliable and versatile than they were 40 years ago, surveillance cameras are an affordable option for church safety ministries seeking to guard the church all through the week. In the news stories above, camera images are used to identify suspects. However, in other cases they have alerted church staff and/or safety directors that an attempted break-in was in progress, and authorities were alerted.

Cameras can be used in real-time to extend the view of Safety Team members on duty during classes, services, and events. They can monitor the parking lot and other entrances, hallways, meeting rooms, etc. Team members can monitor the cameras and receive alerts on their mobile phones via Bluetooth or local restricted WiFi from the surveillance base station.

Sound Detectors

When the church building is not in use, sound detectors can trigger alerts that someone (or something) is in the place. A sound alert system can be programmed to ignore routine sounds, such as the HVAC system, a phone ringing, and street traffic.


Discrete mirrors can let Safety Team members see around corners. Many business and institutions have these mirrors in place to avoid corridor collisions when pushing carts. A Safety Team member can also monitor activity around the corner.

Contact Devices

Contact devices are put on doors and windows. When the window or door is opened, the contact is broken, interrupting a circuit. This sends an alert to a monitor or triggers an alarm. Many times, a would-be intruder leaves when an alarm sounds to avoid being caught in the act. The alarm could be sent to a security service, which would investigate and/or notify local law enforcement. A Safety Director or team member could receive an alert on a mobile phone when not at the church.

Motion Detector

Motion detectors are now very common. For instance, the lights in many public restrooms come on when someone enters, and they let store staff know when a customer comes in or leaves.

Motion detectors are also used for security, alerting guards that someone is in a supposedly vacant area. During an active killer incident an assailant going through corridors may be located using motion detectors. The safety team could then know which camera to monitor.

Photo Beam

Light beams have been used for security for many decades, being fairly common as far back as the 1960s. A beam of light across an opening to a photo sensor is broken when someone enters. A common use is a safety feature of elevator doors. Using invisible (ultraviolet of infrared) light hides the presence of the beam, making it difficult for intruders to find and circumvent it.

Passive Infrared

Even if someone hiding in a room is still enough to not trigger a motion detector, they still emit infrared radiation from body heat. Some large business buildings use passive infrared detectors to detect intruders. They are also used during evacuations to find incapacitated persons who could not make it out on their own. This is the one use which may justify the expense of passive infrared detectors for a large church.


A defensive weapon is any object used in defending oneself or others. It can be anything at hand or something specifically designed for defense. Not all weapons are the same. Not all are essentially lethal. Some were designed to be lethal, but others were designed to be non-lethal alternatives.

Less than Lethal

This class of weapons was originally classified as non-lethal. Even though non-lethality was the intent of these defensive weapons, untrained, careless, or excessively forceful use has resulted in some cases in serious injury and death. Re-labeling these as "less-than-lethal" is to remind us of both the intent and the danger.

Pepper Spray

Think "red pepper," The active ingredient is oleoresin capsicum (OC), the "heat" of hot peppers. For this reason, pepper spray is often referred to as "OC spray." OC is an irritant of eyes and mucus membranes. Undiluted OC is also a skin irritant. Sprayed on the face of an attacker, the subject will be temporarily blinded, have a burning sensation in the nose, and have oral pain if his/her mouth was open. Since OC stimulates tear glands, pepper spray is also classified as a tear gas (see below). And you thought habaneros were hot!!

If too much OC is sprayed directly into the eyes, serious damage could result. If the defense was against a deadly attack - defend or die - that is the consequence of attacking with intent to kill. Regulations of pepper spray vary by state and locality, so check your state and local laws before getting and using it.

The one less-than-lethal weapon in the Sheepdog Church Security Store on Amazon [5] is the Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray [6].

Tear Gas

An old pun says, "Peeling onions educates your vision by making your eyes smart." Onion juice induces tears, and may be an ingredient in some tear gas sprays.

Tear gas is any liquid or gas used to cause the eyes to produce tears. There are several liquids which can be used to bring people to tears, some natural, many chemical. When deployed, the liquid is dispersed as either a mist or a spray. Some of these liquids are volatile, quickly evaporating. Mace was originally just tear gas, but now is a major brand of OC spray.

Electric Discharge Devices

A teacher in a rough school district was asked if he was getting an "E-D-D" (Ed.D). He smiled, said, "I already have one," and pulled out a Taser.

An electric discharge device (EDD) operates by delivering an electric shock to a subject. The two most common EDDs are stun guns and Tasers. EDDs are also known as electroshock weapons and conducted electrical weapons.

The stun gun was so named because the shock was just enough to momentarily stun most people, giving the user time to either get away (as used for personal defense) or gain control (as used by law enforcement). A stun gun has two electrodes protruding. When these are pressed against a subject, the body completes an electic circuit.

Related to the stun gun is the stun baton (or stun prod), a device similar to a cattle prod. Shaped like a baton, it has two protruding electrodes at one end with the handle and switch at the other.

Taser is the brand name of projectile EDDs. The name "Taser" was coined by Jack Cover, its inventor. It fires two electrode darts connected to the hand-held gun by thin wires. The darts penetrate clothing to make contact with the suspect's skin. The user of a Taser used to have to change the cartridge after each shot. Now Taser International has the X3 with three cartridges in one, so the user has three shots before reloading.

EDDs are subject to regulation and required training in several states. Although they have greatly lowered rates of injuries for both law enforcement officers and suspects, individuals with certain conditions (especially heart problems) have suffered serious injury, sometimes death. Also, some suspects have lost their balance and been injured in falls.

Tripping Devices

Common tripping devices are objects of opportunity, such as canes, broom handles, electric cords, loose rope, etc. A law enforcement officer or licensed security guard with a baton, especially a telescoping one, can use it to trip a suspect. However, batons are not usually recommended for church safety teams. For one thing, the appearance of a baton hanging from a team member's belt can be disconcerting to many churchgoers. For another thing, because of the lethal potential of a baton if used carelessly or with excessive force, its use is restricted in several states and localities.

Entanglement Devices

Entanglement devices are nothing new. In fact, the concept is ancient. A South American entanglement device, the bola, dates back thousands of years. It is two or three cords tied together at one end with weights on the loose ends. Used for rounding up individual livestock (much as the lariat is used in North America) or in hunting, it is thrown at the legs of an animal. The weights swing around in opposite directions, wrapping the cords around the legs.

A new entanglement device designed for law enforcement is the BolaWrap [7], a remote restraint device. The BolaWrap is a thin line with a weight at each end. The weights are launched Taser-like from a cartridge in a hand-held gun. They pull the line behind them. When the line hits the suspect, the weights swing around bola-style, wrapping the subject. This was designed to capture a suspect with no injury and little-to-no pain. It is still in the process of developing distribution channels. For now, the target market is law enforcement, so it is not yet available for church security.


These are weapons designed to be lethal, developed from instruments of war.


Firearms use an explosion to propel a projectile over a distance. They are called "firearms" because originally the explosion was initiated with a spark of fire. Modern firearms trigger the explosion with a sharp impact. They are collectively called guns. The firearms most used by armed church safety teams are handguns (pistols). They can be small, easy to conceal (such as a .22 or a .38 snub), but can also be bulky (such as a .45).

Whether a Church Safety Team is armed or not is first a matter of law in that state and local jurisdiction. If armed volunteer security/safety personnel are legal, then it is a matter of church bylaws and policy.

Edged weapons

Edged weapons are among the oldest kinds. We are not likely to be carrying swords in church, but we may have a knife (such as the Schrade [7]) on us for other purposes. Whatever the purpose of the knife, it can be used for self-defense.

Legal Issues

Most legal issues around detection devices concern privacy, meaning that surveillance camera images are to be kept confidential except when needed for investigations.

There are more legal issues concerning the possession, carrying, and use of weapons, whether lethal or less-than-lethal. The use of weapons may also lead to civil liability with lawsuits over injury and death. Federal, state, and local laws may restrict how and where weapons are used, and may require permits, registration, background checks, and/or training.

There Is More

Other articles in this series cover manuals & clothing, tools, communication & evacuation, and training & qualification/certification.


  1. Zac Summers, "KC police investigating string of church burglaries; suspect in at least one taken into custody,", April 29, 2019, Posted 10:32 pm [].
  2. Jen Steer, "Akron police work to ID church break-in suspect," Fox8Cleveland, April 23, 2019, Posted 4:21 pm, Updated at 10:37PM, April 24, 2019 [].
  3. Lance West, "Tambourine player tased during church service," KFOR (Oklahoma's News 4), June 29, 2012, Posted 2:11 pm, Updated at 05:49 pm [].
  4. Jenny Arnold, "Sheriff: Man kicks in church side door, points shotgun,", Mar 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm, [].
  5. Sheepdog Church Security Store [].
  6. Sabre Advanced Compact Pepper Spray with Clip, Sheepdog Church Security Store on Amazon [].
  7. Tammy Waitt, "FWPD Safely Takes Down Man with Shotgun Using BolaWrap (See Video)," American Security Today, April 14, 2019 [].
  8. Schrade SCHA3BS 7.3in. Assisted Opening Folding Knife, Sheepdog Church Security Store on Amazon [].