Church Security Guide

Lay the groundwork for your safety preparedness plan by conducting a Church Security Assessment (CSA). This chapter will help you assess the current security of your church, identify vulnerabilities and create an airtight safety plan.

Interior view of a church.

Learn how to assess:

  • external grounds;
  • building perimeters;
  • alarm systems;
  • internal building;
  • key management;
  • property inventory;
  • youth and financial security;
  • safety ministry;
  • emergency drills; and, much more!
The CSA is a crucial program that will help build a framework for every other area of your safety preparedness planning.

Church Security Assessment

The CSA is an important first step to protect churches and the people in them. Security assessments should include identifying threats, developing goals and objectives, developing courses of action, planning, implementation, and review (United States Department of Homeland Security et al. [DHS], 2013, p. 4).

Threats

Depending on their location, churches are vulnerable to different types of natural disasters and severe weather. Churches are also targeted by criminals.

Crime

American Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI, 2012) explained that “crime is the result of the desire or wish to commit the crime, the ability or knowledge how to commit the crime and the opportunity to commit the crime” (p. 7). Churches are as likely to be criminally victimized as other locations but may be more vulnerable due to ministering to high-risk populations, misperceptions that criminals will not attack a sacred space, and being high-profile sites for hate crimes (ACPI, 2012, pp. 513-514).

Churches can be victims of all types of crimes:

  • theft (including burglary, robbery, and embezzlement);
  • vandalism and arson;
  • abuse of children and vulnerable adults; and,
  • violence (ACPI, 2012, pp. 513-514).

Eckstrom (2008) explained that megachurches can have 20,000 worshippers each weekend and make $115,000 a week in income, both of which make them attractive to criminals looking to inflict maximum damage or motivated by greed (p. 17). OneNewsNow surveyed 4,000 churches in 2008 and found that 75 percent did not have security or emergency plans (Hawkins, 2012; Sullivan, 2009).

Emergency Planning

United States Department of Homeland Security et al. (DHS) (2013) outlined six steps for emergency operations plans:

  • form a collaborative planning team;
  • understand the situation;
  • determine goals and objectives;
  • plan development;
  • plan preparation, review and approval; and,
  • plan implementation and maintenance (DHS, 2013, p. 4).

DHS recommended that churches first create a planning committee which should consult community partners including emergency management and first responders (DHS, 2013, p. 4). The planning team should conduct a risk assessment that identifies the following:

  • likelihood threat can occur;
  • frequency threat might recur (e.g. lightning storms can happen several times a year);
  • expected damage of threat;
  • time available to warn occupants;
  • how long threat will last; and,
  • follow-on effects (DHS, 2013, p. 7).

After the likelihood of each threat as well as the possible effects of that threat are understood, the team should prioritize its planning for each type (DHS, 2013, pp. 6-7). When the team has decided which threats are priority, they next determine goals and objectives. A goal is a general statement about the desired outcome (e.g. prevent fires in the church) (DHS, 2013, p. 8). An objective is a step taken to achieve a goal (e.g. provide fire prevention training to all people who cook in the church) (DHS, 2013, p. 8).

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