October is Church Safety and Security Month, a great time to make sure that your church or other religious institution is adequately protected.
Churches used to stay open around the clock. But the violent events of recent history have changed that tradition. Now, churches must be safeguarded against shooters, robbers, and other criminals.
Here are some tips for keeping your church safe during October and throughout the year.
The first step in keeping your congregation safe is to conduct a church security assessment, to identify potential threats, and develop plans of action. Be sure to know your local neighborhood, so you can identify potential issues.
Here are some things to consider when developing a security plan:
Church access: If there are many entrances to the church, consider having only one open during business hours, and securing the additional entrances with heavy doors, locks, and security windows.
Implementing a procedure for giving out and collecting keys to the church may be helpful in preventing former staff or members from having easy access to the church and any valuables inside.
Also, be sure to lock up valuables such as microphones, televisions, and computer equipment, to protect against theft.
Dangerous property conditions: If your church is having repairs or remodeling done, be sure that the proper warning signs are posted, and that work is completed in a reasonable amount of time.
Churches must expediently address known hazards and keep the premises reasonably safe for churchgoers and staff. If someone is injured on your property due to your negligence, they may file a premises liability lawsuit, which may subject you to responsibility for their injuries.
Armed security: Many churches do not want to have armed security on the premises. However, it may be wise to consider nowadays. There were 346 mass shootings in the United States in 2017 alone, according to the not-for-profit organization Gun Violence Archive.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 95 percent of active shooters do not stop shooting until someone who is armed arrives. Uniformed, off-duty police officers, or others with training in law enforcement or the military, are often good choices when it comes to armed security guards.
Screening employees/volunteers: Churches are often at the center of allegations of abuse. It is important to develop a thorough screening process for all potential workers or volunteers.
Conduct background and reference checks on anyone who will be working with children, and implement a waiting period for new members. Also, have a policy in place that requires two unrelated adults to be present with children at all times. That way, children are never left alone with one staff member or volunteer.
Emergency preparedness: It is crucial to have emergency plans of action, in the event that your church is the target of a violent crime. Church members should be informed that there are security measures in place. Further, they should be advised on what to do if there is a crisis.
DHS recommends forming a collaborative planning team to address safety risks, determine goals and objectives, and implement and maintain emergency operations plans.
For more information on how to keep your church secure, contact The MacMain Leinhauser by filling out an online inquiry or calling us at 484-318-7106. From our office in West Chester, our experienced attorneys serve clients throughout Chester County and Philadelphia.