Security and worship can be successfully blended for those who worship in your facility. No house of worship (HOW), whether a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue is exempt from crime, whether committed by an internal member, a stranger, or as a random act of terrorism. We must consider threats and be ready to respond in a quick, efficient, and effective manner.
The security of HOWs encompass many components, such as the safety of the congregation or any individual who attends a service or a program, preservation of religious artifacts, protection of fiscal assets and cyber informa- tion, medical emergencies, natural disasters and/or acts of terror. HOWs are also serving as places of refuge for per- sons fleeing religious persecution from locations around the world.
Each congregation is tasked with the challenge of creating a safe place to worship. Various security precautions can be implemented in a non-intrusive manner, completely unknown and unobserved by congregants. For example, implementing a “Welcoming Committee” that includes individuals observing and welcoming people as they enter the facility will basically be unnoticed as a security program, yet it is highly effective when the members are trained in security detection.
Other security measures may appear drastic in some settings, while rather routine in others. For example, the church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, Egypt, in April 2017, highlighted the importance of body scanners, as one of the bombers was denied access to the church until he had walked through the scanner. He detonated the bomb as he approached the scanner, killing several and injuring many. An important point here is that because the bomber was denied entrance due to access control, many lives were saved. HOWs in most countries must consider the possibili- ty of terrorism from bombs, vehicles, or other means.
Religious leaders are essential to the successful imple- mentation of security programs and, in many instances, will be the ones to take the lead. If your congregation includes security and/or law enforcement professionals or military personnel, you may have additional support in your initiatives. Regardless of congregation size, facility size, or location, it is imperative that religious organiza- tions keep the topic of security on their radar screen.
Religious facilities around the world vary greatly in size and resources, resulting in a diverse commitment to secu- rity. Some assemblies may be held in a home or a commu- nity center, while other facilities are huge campuses with multiple buildings and activities occurring around the clock. Each facility will have different considerations.
For example, a small congregation of 100 will have a differ- ent list of concerns than a congregation of 1,000. However, it is imperative that each congregation strive to enhance
its level of security and determine what is appropriate for their facility. On June 17, 20015, when a 21-year-old shooter entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, he chose a location with only twelve witnesses. Yet, when a pedophile is looking for a vic- tim, he may look for a larger congregation where it is easy to slide right in, unnoticed and unobserved.
A synagogue in Jerusalem will have different levels of threats than a synagogue in the United States, yet each face various threats on many different levels. The Anti-Defa- mation League reported in January 2017 that threats have increased, particularly bomb threats to facilities and that there has been a rise in anti-Semitic assaults on college campuses. It is imperative that security is included in the HOW budget and as an agenda item in business meetings. Many security recommendations listed in this paper can be implemented at little or no cost. On the other hand, some can be extremely expensive. This white paper cites a few best practices for consideration. Size, location, and avail- able resources will influence the recommendations and best practices that are implemented.
Security should be a component of every event that is offered at your facility, whether a prayer service, a youth event, or a concert. To reduce and/or eliminate threats, consideration must be given to the event, attendance, logistics, times
(e.g., what are the challenges of night programs versus day programs?). What are the potential threats and what can be done to reduce and/or eliminate the threats?
As leadership supports the issue of security, the first step is to develop a security plan for your facility based on the premise that it will be an evolving document that will change frequently. Getting started and putting security on your radar screen is essential to providing a safe place to worship.
The Houses of Worship Committee developed this paper to assist religious leaders and security professionals in the development of a security plan. An earlier version of this document was published in 2012. It was revised in 2017 to address threats from terrorist organizations such as ISIS that has affiliated itself with Boko Haram to focus solely on Christian churches, specifically citing Christian HOWs in the U.S., England, France, and other western countries. This is of significant concern as terrorists are instructing disenchanted individuals, also known as “lone wolves,” not to wait for assistance or formal instruction, but to begin at- tacking using knives, vehicles, or whatever means to harm others. Domestic or homegrown terrorism also is of major concern to our way of life and worship.
This paper is divided into three sections:
• Interior security
• Exterior security
• Procedural and/or best practices
This is not an all-inclusive list, but a summary of the highlights to review and consider as you develop a security plan for your facility. Additionally, KREENO International has various resources to assist you in this process.
Interior Security Controls
Controlling and limiting access is one of the most im- portant steps that can be taken to improve security, and should be implemented whenever possible. Some HOW staff and worshippers will not be comfortable with restricting access, however. If this is the case, then it is important to monitor access of those in attendance and those outside the premises.
• Doors and windows should be secured when the building is vacant.
• Limit points of access. When opening your facility, consider the event, the number of people, and the location of the event. Limit access by only opening doors that are close to the area being used. Do not open every door.
• Establish checkpoints based on need–and staff accordingly. A checkpoint is an entry where all people and things are screened based upon the security plan for the current threat environment.
• Zone areas in large facilities based upon activity and establish access based upon need (e.g., access to sanctuary much different than business offices or childcare rooms).
• Consider key-code entry systems for areas such as gyms.
• Reduce access points to bare minimum while maintaining fire code compliance.
• Limit access to childcare, business offices, cash counting area, and media rooms.
• Establish policies to maintain access control.
Reduce opportunities for just one person to be alone in the HOW.
If a limited number of people are in attendance for an event, lock the doors when the event starts.
Establish greeters or a welcoming committee to watch the doors. These individuals will be trained on how to interact with a suspicious person and whom to contact. Consider a visitors and guest’s authentication procedure.
Establish someone to “patrol” the halls, classrooms, and restrooms on a random basis.
• Have members stand at each entrance to the area of worship. They should observe, meet, and greet every person entering. This would be the second layer of security, the first being the welcoming committee members who are observing people as they enter from the outside.
• Install a basic burglar and fire alarm system.
• Ensure adequate fire alarm coverage. The local fire department can help with determining what is needed for your facility.
• Ensure an alarm system covers access points and key areas where expensive items are housed.
• Use a reliable monitoring vendor and ensure contact information remains current.
• Develop a policy that addresses response to alarms.
• A Camera system can also serve as an alarm system by using video analytics and integrating with access control systems.
• Install panic alarms at public reception areas where employees can initiate emergency procedures when suspicious persons approach and request access.
• Camera coverage should be considered for critical areas (such as areas with children, the business office, the clergy’s office, etc.) and access points. They can also be focused around items that are most likely to be stolen. For places of worship with little capital to spend, a camera with audio that can be monitored from a cell phone may be purchased for about $200.
These areas require additional security measures.
• Cameras should capture every door and point of entry. Additionally, cameras should be in the infant care rooms, daycare rooms, and areas where children play/eat/etc.
• All doors into daycare rooms or play areas should have windows so that no adult is ever concealed from view while supervising children.
• If cameras are installed in daycare centers, inform parents and caretakers that you would be storing digital data of their children.
• These areas must have sufficient staff and exceptional policies and procedures to ensure the children are safe from internal and external threats. A very serious potential mistake would be to release a child to the wrong person, which could happen during a divorce or with a blended family.
• Staff, child, and family identification cards can assist in controlling access and be integrated in card access control systems. They also assist in reunification procedures after an incident.
• Many local government offices provide children’s safeguarding support. If you are not aware of how to access this, then speak with local school staff who will provide you with advice on safeguarding the welfare of children in your premises.
• Cybercrime has become a global threat. The Insurance Information Institute reports that “the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and $13.1 million victims a year earlier.”
• Ensure passwords are protected.
• Back up information daily.
• Use virus and malware protection.
• Ensure computers are secured when not in use.
• Always install the latest patches and updates when prompted. This mitigates many hacking programs that rely on outdated vulnerabilities in your software. Set your computer to auto install updates.
• Ideally doors should be wood or steel with a solid frame. However, many HOWs have glass doors to allow visibility. In that case, purchase the thickest glass you can afford.
• Hinge pins should be located on the interior of door, or capped, if on the outside to prevent easy removal.
• Consider anti-intrusion glass film for entry doors and other ground level glass.
• Ensure that windows are secured prior to closing and latches are in working order.
• If windows are opened for air circulation, only open windows that are monitored and/or located where people cannot climb through.
• Consider glass liner for public areas to reduce and prevent glass chards for weather or explosions that may cause breakage and dispersion.
Locks and Keys
A code entry system with an alarm provides two levels of protection. The key code can indicate when someone enters and an alarm system will indicate if a door is unlocked. Additionally, consider mechanical locking systems, as they have become more affordable.
• Regularly check the locks on the doors and windows for evidence of tampering.
• If standard locks are used, keys should be issued to individuals who have a specific need. Maintain a master key list and require recipients to sign a receipt for keys.
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