Church Safety and Security

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Yard Dart, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    I am often approached by pastors, deacons, and other church members in positions of authority with questions about church security. The interest is usually in forming some sort of “security team” of volunteers and is focused on the legal concerns inherent in doing so. I believe that these well-intentioned inquiries are often born of misconceptions about what security really means. I feel it is important to truly understand what the goals of church security ought to be and what can be done even on a small budget without raising any legal concerns. The goals of church security are the same as personal security inside the home, a mall, or basically any building: deterrence, detection, and response. Below I will discuss ways to accomplish these goals regardless of budgetary constraints.

    To potentially deter violent actors, you don’t have to have a big budget. It is very inexpensive to hire an off-duty police officer or an armed security guard to come stand outside the main entrance to the church. An overt security presence might cause a would-be violent actor to think twice before following through with their plan. However, a determined attacker could simply find a way around overt security measures. We have examples such as the Columbine school massacre, where the murderers simply waited for the resource officer to leave his post before beginning their attack. Overt security measures in the form of uniformed officers may provide the psychological “warm and fuzzy” that some people seek when they talk about security, but aside from the possibility of deterrence, there is nothing magical about having one uniformed officer (or ten) on site.

    Overt security measures such as off-duty law enforcement officers or armed security guards can help to potentially deter or respond to a violent actor. But they should not be relied upon exclusively, as they can be circumvented. Photo: author

    In understanding this reality, church leaders should consider the visible presence of armed personnel as only a piece of the security puzzle. It would be foolish to do what I have seen some larger churches do by posting armed security guards and simultaneously preventing legal concealed carry. Turning your church into a “gun-free zone” when it is not designated as such by state law is tantamount to inviting would-be violent actors in. Making the naïve assumption that overt security measures will be at the right place at the right time if and when something goes down is very shortsighted, in my opinion, unless you plan to turn your church into a fortress complete with metal detectors, pat-downs, etc. This is obviously not the type of atmosphere most parishioners would be comfortable with and, even if it were, fortresses such as courthouses and airports are often defeated by determined attackers. Do not view overt security measures as more than what they are, and definitely don’t rely on them to the extent that you take away the congregation’s ability to carry their own personal defensive tools.
    As mentioned above, usually the individuals who approach me are interested in getting volunteers from within the congregation trained and licensed as security officers in order to form a legal church “security team.” Companies will come in and provide the training to help churches get set up with the proper credentials and insurance to make this happen. I would approach this option with extreme caution. Becoming a skilled personal-protection officer is not something you can do as a part-time gig just because you are on the board of deacons. Asking for volunteers will likely invite overzealous individuals, well-meaning though they may be, to bite off more than they can chew.

    You don’t want to create a team of poorly trained amateurs and put them in official positions of authority when it comes to security. I have seen several churches do this and have yet to meet an amateur security team that I have confidence in. In my opinion, it is best to leave those services to actual professionals. If you happen to have some of those professionals in your congregation, you have more options, but I would avoid any sort of security team composed of amateurs, even if they are “licensed” amateurs. If you understand the real value of this type of team as discussed in the previous paragraph about overt security in general, you will understand that regardless of whether or not you choose this option, it is not the end-all, be-all.

    With or without overt security, there are several methods we can use to detect potential violence inside a structure. The most efficient method is to control access. Obviously, in a church setting, all are welcome, which means we aren’t likely to have access badges or anything like that for the main service. People can literally come in off the street. That being the case, the best way to control access to the church service is by limiting entry options to monitored access points once the service has begun. If church services begin at a certain time, all side doors that are not monitored should be closed and locked after that time, so people cannot get into the service without someone seeing them.

    Controlling access to areas where children are kept, such as nurseries, can aid in detecting unauthorized individuals and preventing them from entering. Options include a locked door and sign-in/out sheet, or electronic devices such as buzzers and access cards. Photo: author

    Any nursery areas or places where children congregate outside the main service should also have controlled access. Here, we do have the options of requiring ID badges or employing door buzzers to help restrict access only to parents and workers. You can go about as high tech as you want to accomplish this goal. But something as simple as an attendant sitting in front of a locked door with a sign-in/out sheet is a good start. With controlled access in place, we can see who is coming and going and limit the options for someone to slip in without being seen and/or engaged by someone.
    If we make it such that someone is likely to be seen and/or engaged by an usher or someone else when they come through the doors, we have the opportunity to “size them up.” Whoever is handing out bulletins or standing by the door greeting people ought to be looking for obvious cues that an individual could become a problem. While it is true that a crafty individual bent on bringing violence into a house of worship could blend in until they make their move, obvious signs can often be observed simply through basic human interaction. If something about the way a person looks or acts raises a red flag, they can either be denied access or watched more closely once allowed to enter. You have to trust your instincts on this if you perceive something unnerving.

    Everyone fixates on the idea of an active shooter coming in and laying waste to the congregation. However, it is far more likely that other less horrifically violent situations could transpire: domestic situations have a tendency to erupt in churches, mentally unstable or inebriated individuals come into services and cause problems, etc. The list of more plausible scenarios goes on and on before you get to the worst-case scenario of a mass murder. Good articles about recognizing pre-attack cues that any vigilant individual can and should read and practice are here on the PDN site. Recognizing the potential for a bad situation before it occurs gives you more options to deal with things before they get out of hand.

    When deterrence doesn’t work and the detection strategy either raises significant concerns about an individual or is circumvented, you must be ready to respond. Response can come in several forms. If an individual is found to be a potential problem during the detection process, the response could be asking them to leave and calling the police if they refuse. If an elderly person starts to have a stroke, the response could be rendering aid and calling for an ambulance. That’s one we don’t think about often enough! You are far more likely to encounter a medical emergency than any type of violence inside a church. Do you have a quality aid bag somewhere in the sanctuary? Is there a quick defibrillator in the building and someone on staff trained to use it? Having the ability to respond appropriately to a medical emergency is far more important than the ability to respond to the threat of violence.

    Legal concealed carry should be allowed if not encouraged in order to give each individual the ability to defend him or herself in the event that deterrence and detection are not effective. Overt security is only a piece of the response puzzle and should not be viewed as sufficient by itself. The right to carry in a church should not be restricted if it is otherwise legal. Photo: author

    If violence occurs, the response might mean fighting with and possibly shooting the bad guy, whether it is a domestic situation, an inebriated person who becomes violent, or the worst-case scenario of an active shooter. If you have uniformed officers or a church security team on site, they are a piece of the response puzzle to be sure. But they may not always be in the right place at the right time to stop the threat. Allowing and/or encouraging armed citizens to carry their defensive tools in church gives each individual the ability to take responsibility for their own security. That is really the crux of the misconception I have seen when churches approach security.
    There is no way a church can guarantee the security of the congregation with or without a special team, just as there is no way a police force can guarantee the security of the public. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to defend him or herself when the chips are down. You can have all the overt security presence you want, but if they aren’t in the right position to take action immediately, the individual will live or die based on their own personal preparedness for the attack.

    If churches allow concealed carry, churches can and should offer access to training programs for their members. There are tons of extra-curricular activities that are offered to congregations on a weekly basis. Why not make personal defense training one of them? Churches will likely be able to find trainers who are willing to offer their services at discounted rates or even pro-bono if the church wants to host a class. Doing this would be an easy win-win for the individual armed citizen and the congregation as a whole.

    Church Security Conclusion
    Churches have numerous affordable options to take advantage of when it comes to security, with the goals of deterrence, detection, and response in mind. Overt measures such as armed security guards and resource officers are inexpensive and can provide a potential deterrent effect as well as a response option. Controlled access and behavioral recognition techniques can help detect potential violence and stop it before it starts. Response can come in many forms, from asking someone to leave, to calling the police, having overt security in the right position to respond, and allowing armed citizens the ability to defend themselves.

    In addition, churches can and should encourage armed citizens to train by offering classes from reputable trainers. Approaching security in this manner will be effective regardless of your budget. While volunteer security teams are a possibility, they should be approached with extreme caution from legal, financial liability, and professionalism standpoints. As always, make sure you understand the laws in your state before implementing any of the strategies presented here.

    Church Safety and Security | Personal Defense Network

    There has been a lot of general discussion here on the Monkey, with this weekends church shooting. I would like to keep this thread focused towards church/membership preparedness, including communications, first aid, training, firearms, procedures and such..... in the means of discussing and providing a safe worship environment. Maybe some of this information will enable you to better prepare your house of worship.....that is the goal always.

    As a simple background, I am a member of a security team for a 1,200 member church with two services on Sunday, as well as other meetings/functions in the church daily. Our two Sunday services are attended with about 300-400 members per service. We bravely put on a Youth Group night every Wednesday, with about 200 sugar infused kids/teens. Most of these events and services are staffed with a security team of 3 to 4 members (mostly armed), with Motorola radios and basic kit. On the Sunday services, we also have a designated first-aid member (most are either nurses or other medical personnel that rotate on a volunteer basis), with a large first aid bag. We also have a designated first aid station with a defibrillator, collapsible litter and another first aid kit.

    Let's discuss what you do and how things can be improved to provide a safer environment.
  2. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
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  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    First things first, and do NOT skip this step. Rassle up the church's insurance agent for a heart to heart. Then check with the church's legal counsel. It is one thing for unorganized people that happen to carry casually, entirely yet another if some sort of organized operation is contemplated.
  4. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Looked at the linked document.

    Much of it looked like street-level crime that just happened to take place in a Church parking lot.

    This is been going on for a long time, I spent more than one night 'meeting' with other other male church members in a facility parking lot to not guard the vehicles but to ensure our wives/daughters inside were safel. Time - mid-1970s, but this was North Las Vegas, a place where you might not find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. It has only gotten worse over time.

    I do agree that lately all Churches have been the focus of crime as the moral fiber of our Nation unravels at an accelerating pace.
  5. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    I absolutely agree, as a church sanctioned security team, all legal boxes need to be checked by that church, including the insurance carrier providing appropriate coverage for that activity. One of the things we did to ensure everybody was fully trained in legal matters, was to bring in legal counsel to advise/teach on subjects such as lawful detainment, reasonable force and justified actions up to weapons use in defense of yourself & the church body.
  6. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Question: How many members in your church know or have at a quick reach, the churches physical address.
    Many times, while the security team and staff are dealing with an issue, they may ask another person to call 911. It greatly improves the response time of police, if you have the physical address available instead of just saying the churches name. ;)
    One method is to have church business cards readily available for folks to grab....
    Another method we do, is to have the churches address on every flier handed out, as they walk into the service.
  7. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    @Yard Dart

    What do you see as differences between a large Church and a local Mall - in terms of security team exposure?
  8. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Square footage!!!
  9. sec_monkey

    sec_monkey SM Security Administrator

    both are soft targets

    got too many soft targets cant protect em all
  10. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    If you hire one security guard it will be like the navy yard shooting several years back where the perp walked up to the security guy and shot him, took his gun and ammo and went on killing several more people.
    One security guard to me is a few thing.
    That's your first victim.
    A gun and ammo resupply for the perp.
    False security.
    False hope.

    If it's known that your church's congregation packs heat the bad guys will find a more accommodating venue. Such as any other gun free zone with no security where a large number of people are packed together.

    In the armed church the perp wont know if it's 2 people or 20, even it its just 3 or 4 then they are out gunned and they know it. Then is it granny in the wheel chair might have a sawed off, the pastor, the cop/veteran looking dudes could be packing 1911s or it could be the whole church choir is really one big firing squad.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  11. sec_monkey

    sec_monkey SM Security Administrator

    yep back in 2013 remember that well

    the security officer was the 9th person killed

    plus a 2nd security officer almost got killed
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  12. snake6264

    snake6264 Combat flip flop douchebag

    Well one more reason to skip organized religion. If I had to choose a place to die in, the house of the lord is not to far off the top either you believe or you don't. What's next ??? It's a crazy world we live in
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  13. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Last night when I drove by the local church I noticed a lot of trucks. This church is medium size and has about 200+ members per service. I have a suspicion all those trucks in the parking lot last night was a meeting of the church males discussing what are they doing to protect the parishioners.

    @sec_monkey is correct that churches are soft-targets. First thing you get is people all gathered with their back to the door which is a huge advantage to anyone with evil intent. IMO sit to the side or in the children's area.
  14. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Lets keep the thread on track discussing security/safety methods & procedures. If folks want to discuss other topics about church, please start a separate thread. :)
  15. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    Primary in Church security are an outside patrol of two or more with radios.

    Ladies should be warned to not leave purses visible in vehicles.

    These two items are the start of a security system.

    Did this many years ago in Houston and it stopped all crime during the services and secured the building and ground in a very clear manner.
  16. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Thanks Y.D. for this thread, my church is in the midst of exactly this discussion, I'm printing off o.p. to share amongst my fellow followers. We are looking at all these details and more, and it will be interesting to see what we come up with. I have spoken with our Sheriff ( who is also a member, and two deputies) and they are considering additional options going forward!
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  17. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Have been involved with church security and our major problem was mental illness and who do you help, who do you tolerate, and who do you ban as disruptive and possibly dangerous if off their medications. Not an easy task with members or their children in this day and age and even more difficult with strangers. In the end I guess it gets down to the 23 rd Psalm and doing your best to both trust the Lord and protect yourself. In my limited experience, the ones we know with problems, or the mentally ill members of their families or ex spouses etc are much more dangerous than random individuals coming in off the streets. I guess my first line of defense would be a close knit church family with hopefully a heads up about potential dangers. Sad to say but in this day and age the best advice I can give is to follow the lead of the Canadian geese and always have an individual on watch, who does nothing but watch and maintain situational awareness. I would hope that he would be armed in this day and age.

    In re reading this, I guess it is necessary for the security person to have some knowledge of who is a danger and that communications exist between the church leadership and the guards about who is not welcome into the church areas. In a small congregation that might not be much of a problem as we all know each other, but in a larger group, it might be better to greet the members as they enter rather than as they leave and have a defacto screening process with people who know who isn't welcome and may well be disruptive or dangerous..
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
  18. sec_monkey

    sec_monkey SM Security Administrator

    Jersey barriers are too ugly

    put yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge concrete flower pots around the entire perimeter or install HESCO bastions n hide em behind decorative features

    guard the perimeter
  19. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    Our church is an Old School combo typical of pre 1900s design, being a Church, School, grange hall combo. As such, its hard to secure from outside, and it's elevated above the ground 4 feet at the front and 8 feet at the rear. Parking is at the far end of the property, with a circular drive up to the front door! We have a lot of significant issues with security and especially building security that were going to have to address. There has been a lot of discussions about building a new chapel and moving every thing into it while using the old building for holiday services and Sunday school needs!
  20. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu RIP 4/19/2018

    Last edited: Nov 6, 2017
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