Church Safety Team Basics
In our last post, we introduced why every church needs a Church Safety Team. Here are the basics of safety teams, their mission and important considerations that must be developed.
Background Checks and Appropriate Training
There must be a method for vetting all members of the Church Safety Team. This should include an application, reference check and background check including fingerprints and criminal history. Some churches include a credit check. As protectors of the congregation, team members must be moral and ethical in their practices at all times. Congregants must feel comfortable with those selected to protect them.
We look to 1 Timothy 3:2 for guidance on forming teams. Members must be “above reproach, faithful to his [or her] spouse], temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, [and] able to teach.”
Two Teams, One Ministry
There are two parts of your Church Safety Team. There is the safety team. We recommend seeking volunteers with a background in law enforcement, military service and security for these roles.
There is also the medical team which should include people like doctors, EMTs and nurses. These groups may work in tandem so it’s vital that they understand each other’s roles and protocols. The best way to accomplish this is to cross train the teams.
Ethics and Conduct
One of the basics of any position of trust, but especially when in charge of the safety of others, is having ethics and behaving appropriately at all times. We recommend that the following are part of your Ethics and Code of Conduct for members of all ministries.
- Honor Others Above Yourself. Be courteous, conscientious, professional and respectful. Educate people with humility rather than scolding them.
- Perform all Duties Completely, Correctly and on Time. Team members must understand that their actions are an important ministry. Their actions reflect their training (or lack thereof). Team members should never cut corners or be late with reports and communications.
- Be an Example for Others. Safety team members model what being safe looks like through their actions on and off duty.
- Be Faithful. Team members should understand that they have committed to doing something on behalf of the Church and God. They must honor this commitment by working scheduled shifts and attending trainings.
- Be Wise. Keep information confidential. Answering a question about the closest fire exit is one thing. Sharing the safest and least safest areas in the building is not. Team members should always ask themselves why someone is asking about the safety plan and answer with care.
- Be Discreet. Team members will likely learn private information about congregants. Knowledge of this information can help and is never for gossip.
All members of the safety team must understand their priorities.
- Attend Church Services. Safety Team participants must be an example to the rest of the congregation and a big part of this is maintaining their relationships with Christ. Working too many shifts can interfere with this. Schedule team members equitably.
- Spend Time with Their Families. Every obligation comes with sacrifice. Any time a member reports for training, meetings or duty they are losing time with their families. Make sure volunteer schedules don't affect their home lives.
- Attend all Safety Training. One of the most important priorities of safety team members is being fully present for training. That means showing up on time, engaging and familiarizing with protocols so that they are ready to respond in an emergency.
- Serve at Sunday Services. Safety Team members must understand this commitment and expect to serve during Sunday services. These are the busiest times in the Church and may include children's church and Sunday school.
- Serve at Large Events. A lot of churches thrive by hosting programs and events. Each member does not need to work at every event. Large events will require some members working extra shifts. This is also a time when the general public will be in the Church.
Learn more about this topic and several others with our Certified Safety Member Course. It is available as an online video-based training that can be taken anytime and from anywhere using your own computer. Each section ends with a short test to demonstrate an understanding of the material. Once you've completed all 7 sections, you will be certified for 2-years with Sheepdog Church Security.
Policies & Procedures
Recommended basics for safety team policies and procedures include:
- Identifying Apparel. Team members serving on the safety team should be given polo shirts with the church logo and the words "Church Safety Team."" Team members serving as members of the medical team should have similar shirts in a different color with the logo and "Church Medical Team." Additionally, ID cards should be made and worn by team members with their name, picture and specific team identified. Use clip-on holders rather than lanyards to keep members safest.
- Staffing. For services, basic staffing should include one safety team member on each floor and one person at the children's entrance. A third member should be on standby and monitor the radio. This person can walk throughout all areas of the church. Station a fourth member in the sanctuary during service.
- Scheduling. Team members should know how to access the schedule and keep their own copy. They should report for all scheduled shifts.
- Supporting Ministry. The Church Safety Team is a part of the larger group of ministries serving the church and God. Team members should be encouraged to introduce themselves to other ministry leaders at least the first three times they are on duty and get to know them. This is the team they will call during a crisis so they should feel comfortable doing so. Additionally, safety team members should assist other ministries while patrolling. For example salting an icy walkway or helping check visitors into the childre's area.
The duties of safety team members vary by shift or even within shifts. Members should not be assigned repeatedly to the same duties. All team members should be assigned equally throughout.
Shifts should start by arriving a few minutes early wearing the appropriate attire including the ID card. It's a good idea to start by reviewing the patrol log so that members can see what needs to be done (issues noted by people on duty earlier) and see if anything unusual has happened of which they should be aware. After greeting other staff and volunteers so that they are aware of who is around to help, team members should collect their equipment (radio, flashlight) and go to their assigned area.
Depending on the number of people in the facility and volunteers working team members can be assigned to high needs areas like the children's area, nursery, classrooms, welcome area or parking lot. Some team members can patrol the entire campus.
This is an important duty but we have found, in our work with Churches, that often times people need more direction than simply "patrol." It can be easy to simply walk around, which can often lead to falling into conversation. Provide team members with a list of duties to do while patrolling to keep your team efficient and your campus safe:
- Make regular circuits of the entire campus but do not repeat the route. Are there places where people are congregating that could bottleneck? Note any areas that could be better set up at the next similar event.
- Check empty rooms, utility closets, hallways and stairwells. These dark places are often the spot where teenagers and visitors may cause trouble.
- Patrol the parking lot. Being in the parking lot discourages vandalism of and theft from cars.
- Patrol the perimeter of buildings. While doing so keep an eye out for the following:
- Check the condition of the playground equipment. Does it look safe?
- Are all exterior lights working?
- Any signs of vandalism?
- Are there potential burglary tools (such as cinderblocks)
- How are the trash cans? Do any need to be emptied?
- Ending Shift Routines. Team members should end every shift by clearing and securing the building. Once everyone is gone, members should turn in their completed reports and make sure they've entered anything of note on the patrol log. Finally, they should turn in their equipment before leaving.
Communications Basics for Safety Teams
Team members should be trained in and required to use common language when speaking over the radio. In an emergency every moment counts.
Radios are regulated and can be heard throughout the campus and beyond. Prohibit casual conversation, profanity, inappropriate remarks and music. Here are some other helpful tips for training members in the use of radios:
- Transmissions should be short.
- When a specific person is needed, protocol is to say: "Adam, this is Beth." Beth's response should be, "Go ahead, Adam."
- Pay attention to whether a conversation is already in progress before starting a transmission.
- Users should sign off when done communicating so that others know the radio can be used. Users should state their name and out. "Adam, out."
- Use plain English.
In the next section we share what we believe are the only codes that should be used. Plain English is usually the best choice.
Codes for Safety Team Members
Here are the basic codes your safety team members should know and how to use them over the radio.
- Go ahead → Send your message
- Copy → The message was understood
- Say again → The message was not understood. Repeat using the same word.
- Affirmative → Yes
- Negative → No
- Do you copy? → Do you understand?
- Unreadable → The message was not understood because of a tech issue
- Disregard → Disregard the last message
In addition to these codes, there are color codes safety team members should use. These are universal and also keep people from becoming panicked if they overhear.
- Code Red → fire emergency
- Blue → medical emergency
- Orange → actively disruptive or combative person
- Yellow → suspicious person
- Pink → missing or lost child
- Green → cash or offerings escort is needed
Adding 911 to these codes signals that a response is needed quickly and that local law enforcement should be called. For example, "911 Code Orange 911."
If you would like more information on setting up a Church Safety Team beyond these basics, contact us or check out our book.