From the Bible
- Baruch is warned that he and Jeremiah are in danger:
- The duty of a watchman was to look out for danger and warn the people when he saw it:
- We are already in the perilous times Paul warned about:
- Know the risks within the flock:
- Discretion is advised:
Some of the saddest things that have been said are:
- "We never saw it coming."
- "I should have known …"
- "If only he had foreseen this."
- "They were totally unprepared."
What led to statements like these? In most cases, certain risks were not recognized and evaluated. The result was that these people or organizations were left unprepared for what came. In a few cases, there was no way to foresee the risk or the probability that it would happen, but most of the time a risk can be determined and measures taken to avoid it or to mitigate the effects should it occur.
In the News
Wheaton, Illinois, May 22, 2017 - In a Mission Nexus article, Anna Hampton discusses the risks faced by missionaries, relief workers, and local church leaders in several mission fields, especially those with war zones, insurgencies, high crime rates, and persecution. She and her husband have served - and raised their family - in these areas for many years.
Christians in these places must evaluate the risks and, with Holy Spirit guidance, determine whether they should stay or retreat. She says, "Not risking in certain situations does not automatically mean disobedience to God. The same Bible figures often cited as examples of moving into risk almost always had times when they righteously avoided risk or retreated from danger." In this context, she cites what Jesus said: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).
Merrill, Wisconsin, 2011 - In Recognizing Your Liability Risks, the president of Church Mutual Insurance Company discusses the various risks of liability a church should consider. There are twelve major types with several sub-types. Several cases are given. A few of the incidents resulting in liability are injuries, sexual misconduct, building conditions, and property disputes.
Aspencrest, Wasatch County, Utah, September 2, 2019 - What would happen if youth who attended the camp became ill and the parents sued?
A local paper revealed that the drinking water at a church camp in the mountains near Salt Lake City was contaminated with bacteria. This had been so for a long time, even though state and local officials knew about it, assuming the church would eventually correct the problem.
Denver Colorado, 2009 - A booklet by Tina Lewis Rowe, which has been copied by several organizations and agencies across the nation, guides churches and other places of worship in assessing safety and security risks.
Renton, Washington, February 20, 2020 - A business insurance agency advises businesses to consider various cyber risks. They should take reasonable measures to prevent them, protect their data in case a cyber incident happens, and to insure the business for losses and costs of system restoration.
New York City, New York, February 24, 2021 - Sexual abuse is now a widely-recognized risk in various institutions and organizations, including religious ones.
"The Takeaway" host, Tanzina Vega, conversed with Washington Post investigative reporter Emma Brown about the sexual abuse of boys and young men in large social and religious institutions. These cases have led to civil and criminal liability for both the perpetrators and the institutions.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,1998 - Structural damage and/or deterioration pose a risk of structural failure, which may result in injuries and/or deaths.
In a foreward to Sacred Places At Risk, Dr. William J. Bennett and (now former) U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman said, "Many sacred places [built before 1940] are in fragile physical and financial condition." About a fifth have structural damage. They cited the high costs of repairs.
Monroe, Washington, November 10, 2021 - Structural failure is not the only risk in older buildings.
The jury in the second lawsuit brought by parents, students, and teachers of a school in Monroe awarded the plaintiffs $62 million in damages. This was for PCB exposure following leakage from ballasts in old light fixtures. Combined with the decision in the first suit, awards have so far totaled $247 million. A third trial has yet to be decided.
Reports and Forms Bundle
Accurate records help us not only to run things smoothly and efficiently, but also to "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (Romans 12:17b). The Reports and Forms Bundle has five items in it, three report forms and two logs:
- Incident Report
- Follow-Up Report
- Suspected Child Maltreatment Report
- Patrol Log
- Safe Access Log
The first four have this notice: "Release of Information on Juveniles is Restricted." You can click *HERE* to get it. It is also a free resource that comes with Security Team Fundamentals.
Security Team Fundamentals
This module is the first one in the Complete Training System by Sheepdog Church Security. No wonder! As with any job, including sports, the first thing learned is the fundamentals. Once you have learned those, you can go on with the finer points.
Students who take all the modules in the training program and pass all the tests will receive Safety Member Certification. It is available for Team training (classes) and individual training (online).
This is the first module in the 2022 Spring Semester of the Sheepdog Church Security online academy with live Zoom classes, beginning February 6, 2022. Here's the schedule:
- Feb. 6 Safety Team Fundamentals
- Feb. 20 Active Shooter Response
- Mar. 6 Deescalating Disruptive Persons
- Mar. 20 Protecting Children from Abuse
- Apr. 3 Basic Use of Force Laws
- Apr. 25 Arson and Fire Safety
- May. 15 Storms and Disasters
Among the free downloads that come with the program is one that relates to this course, the DIY Security Assessment.
What Is Risk Assessment?
It is easy to confuse terms that sound similar, especially when they are in the same broad context. That is the case with three assessments used in a Church Safety Ministry: Risk Assessment, Security Assessment, and Threat Assessment.
Threat Assessment is a function of an already established Church Safety Ministry. This is a continuing process of recognizing, evaluating, and deciding how to respond to specific threats. Since it identifies people at risk, it is done confidentially. There are three reasons for this:
First, we do not want to needlessly embarrass people, especially if what first caused concern is safely resolved.
style="text-decoration: underline;"Second, these are persons in need of help, someone to come alongside as they deal with stressful situations in their lives. That is a ministerial priority.
Third, if this does turn out to be a real threat, we do not want to compromise any plans we make to handle it.
The DIY Security Assessment is 27 pages of questions and should be conducted annually. It is a thorough inspection of the church building, grounds, vehicles, personnel, operations, and policies & procedures. An evaluation of the results should show how ready the church is to prevent certain incidents and respond to others. This gives them a chance to add, fix, or correct as needed.
A Risk Assessment is usually conducted while planning for the Church Safety Ministry. It may have to be reviewed periodically, especially in light of change in the community. This is an assessment of the risks the church faces or may face. Many of these are shared by the entire community, and some are particular to the church itself. Not all are exactly risks, but still need consideration since they may affect the safety of the church in some way:
- Climate. "You can't change the weather, but you can fix your roof." This is just one version of an old saying which is still as true as ever. Weather has its ups and its downs, including its hazards, which are generally regional. For instance, the middle part of this country can experience extreme cold in Winter and extreme heat in Summer, so churches in this region need to be ready for both. Some weather hazards are more likely in some regions than in others: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (including airborne ash), Nor'easters, dust storms, wildfires, and Arctic blasts.
- Terrain. Certain risks are related to the terrain. Some of these are landslides, flooding, sinkholes, mine cave-ins, and avalanches. One or more of these could directly impact the church, depending on location, but could cut off access, stranding those in and near the church.
- Industrial Hazards. The degree of hazard depends on factors such as distance, size of the facility, intervening terrain, streams, and prevailing winds. Industrial hazards include explosions, fire, emissions, and spills. It may include soil contamination from past activity. In some areas, industrial activity has led to earthquakes. The risks can be short-term emergencies or long-term exposure.
- Transportation Hazards. How close is the church to a railroad used for transporting hazardous materials? How close is the church to a roadway used by heavy trucks? Would a truck's spill, fire, or explosion endanger the church and those in it? A commercial airport may be of concern if the church is under the approach and take-off paths.
- Institutional Hazards. Of particular concern are prisons and military facilities, and the hazards are usually rather infrequent. However, frequent prisoner escapes or military accidents would be cause for concern.
- Crime. This has usually been a concern for inner cities, but churches farther out are now being targeted. What are the statistics and trends for your area. This is one risk category which may change quickly.
- Emergency Services. What emergency services, including hospitals and urgent care centers, are in your area. What are the response times for emergency responders?
- Economic Conditions. Economic conditions affect the financial health of the church. Attendance and membership may decline as people leave the area to find work elsewhere, meaning that offerings decline. The Safety Ministry is not in charge of the congregation's budget, but if a risk assessment foresees economic decline in the area, church leaders should be informed so they could plan accordingly.
- Political Considerations. The First Amendment protects religious freedom, but political decisions can affect the church. This has made news during the pandemic as governmental restrictions at the state and local levels limited how and where church members could meet to worship, pray, study, and fellowship. Other political considerations are zoning, building, fire, and land use codes. Also consider laws concerning the use of vehicles, such as inspections, whether bus and passenger van drivers are required to have Commercial Drivers Licenses, and what the insurance requirements are.
- Technological Incidents. In this age of advanced technology, there are not only benefits, but risks.
- These include utility failures, such as power and telephone outages and gas leaks (even elsewhere in the neighborhood).
- Equipment failure in the church is another risk: heating/cooling systems, electronic security systems, lighting, etc. Factors in this are the age of equipment, how it has been maintained, and problems with certain brands, lines, or models of equipment.
- A current technological risk is cybercrime. This includes denial of service attacks, data theft, malicious hacking with the intent of disabling church systems, and ransomware. Take a look at the church's plans to prevent cybercrime and to recover from it.
An old saying is, "Forewarned is forearmed." If you know what may be ahead, you can plan accordingly. That is the purpose of a Risk Assessment.
There Is More
There are three other articles this month: "To Keep the Flock Safe and Secure" (What Is Church Safety and Security?), "Building on a Foundation" (The Basics of a Church Safety Team), and "The 2009 First Baptist Church of Maryville Shooting" (Lesson Learned).
- Kris Moloney, "Complete Training Program v4," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/].
- Anna Hampton, "Risk From a Field Perspective," Mission Nexus, May 22, 2017 [https://missionexus.org/risk-from-a-field-perspective/].
- Richard V. Poirier (President and CEO), "Recognizing Your Liability Risks," Church Mutual Insurance Company, © 2011 [https://www.churchmutual.com/media/safetyResources/files/LiabilityRisks.pdf].
- Emma Penrod, "The Mormon Church supplied tainted water to its members for years: Utah regulators turned a blind eye to faulty water systems at a girls' summer camp, trusting the LDS Church would eventually fix the problem," High Country News, September 2, 2019 [https://www.hcn.org/issues/51.15/corruption-the-mormon-church-supplied-tainted-water-to-its-members-for-years].
- Tina Lewis Rowe, "How to Assess the Safety and Security of Your Place of Worship," The River Conference, © 2009 [http://storage.cloversites.com/theriverconference/documents/How%20To%20Assess%20Church%20Safety%20and%20Security.pdf].
- Bob Davenport et al, "Commonly Overlooked Business Risks," Humble & Davenport Insurance, February 20, 2020 [https://humbledavenport.com/blog/commonly-overlooked-business-risks/].
- Tanzina Vega with Emma Brown, "The Overlooked and Pervasive Sexual Abuse of Boys and Young Men," New York Public Radio (WNYC), February 24, 2021 [https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/overlooked-and-pervasive-sexual-abuse-boys-and-young-men].
- Diane Cohen and A. Robert Jaeger with a foreward by Dr. William J. Bennett and U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, "Sacred Places At Risk: New Evidence On How Endangered Older Churches And Synagogues Serve Communities," Partners for Sacred Places, © 1998 [https://sacredplaces.org/uploads/files/395429189155295863-spar.pdf].
- Lulu Ramadan, "Juries award students, parents, teachers $247 million for toxic exposure at Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe," The Seattle Times, November 12, 2021 [https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/2nd-multi-million-dollar-verdict-against-monroe-school-for-toxic-exposures/].
- Kris Moloney, "Reports and Forms Bundle," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2015 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/31e9dcb23b].
- Kris Moloney, "Complete Training System and Safety Member Team Certification," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020: Team Training [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/bundles/complete-church-security-training-system]; Individual Training [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/bundles/safety-team-complete-training-course].