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Church Security Suggestions

Far too many churches in our country provide little or no physical security for parishioners. I believe that this lack of security is due to concern that a security program will create unnecessary alarm for parishioners. Many church leaders believe that a security incident will not occur at their church.

Also church officials in rural areas are less concerned about major crimes. However recent church tragedies show that church crimes can happen anywhere. There is also the concern that security is expensive and will not be cost effective. Jim McGuffey, CPP owner of A.C.E. Security Consultants has held church leadership roles for 10 years. While Jim understands these concerns, he also is aware that a well managed security program need not be burdensome or costly.

The following suggestions are not intended to address all security issues, but they will substantially improve security at churches where security is lacking or non-existent.

Basic low cost suggestions to improve church security:

1. Form a safety and security committee and select a chairperson to provide leadership. I recommend that anyone selected for this role have at least six-months of church membership in the church where appointed to the safety and security team.

2. Train ushers, greeters and other key volunteers to recognize, report and respond to suspicious activity or a security or safety incident.

3. One or more trained persons from the safety security committee should remain posted at designated areas to observe people exiting cars and walking towards the church. Part of training is to be observant for signs of stress or suspicious actions.

4. An emergency plan should be developed and tested annually in response to any natural or man-made disaster that could occur in your area. I would suggest including fire, police and EMS in annual testing. This requires work but there are many inexpensive books and free government publications available to assist with emergency planning.

5. Conduct a security risk assessment prior to purchasing security equipment. This assessment will help you to determine what is expected from the security equipment. Often equipment is purchased and installed only to discover that it does not meet expected needs or solve the problems since the needs and problems were never identified and properly assessed in the first place. Please refer to website where you can print a white paper titled “Security Risk Process” which will shed light on the process.

6. Review outdoor lighting to make sure it is sufficient.

7. Maintain plants and shrubbery low to the ground to reduce hiding places.

8. Opening and closing your church facility warrant paying close attention to security awareness. Depending on your environment, time of day and other activities occurring in the nearby area, you may want to implement opening and closing procedures.

9. A well thought out and installed burglar alarm and fire alarm system will help to protect church assets. As noted in item #5, a security risk assessment will help you better decide upon the security system that may be needed or if you are considering a change within your system or security processes.

10. Ensure that a process exists to release children to parents or authorized adults.

11. Perform background checks on both volunteers and paid staff that have responsibility for children. There should be no exception for this rule where responsibility for children exits. I suggest background checks on all the safety security team regardless of involvement with children.

12. Personnel records must be secured when the designated person of those records is not present.

13. Two people should remain present from time funds are collected until counted and stored. Key control for essential doors and containers for valuables must be managed.

14. Major or expensive assets should be marked in case of theft and inventoried at least annually.

15. Be proactive and observant for safety violations such as exposed wiring, locks that don’t work and cleaning chemicals that are not stored properly. Safety and security go hand-in-hand.

16. The most important strategy or action that can be taken to prevent security incidents is to increase security awareness with all members. This concept applies to all organizations.

17. Jim also suggests reading a book authored by Ron Aguiar titled “Keeping Your Church Safe”. This inexpensive book is an excellent resource that offers guidelines to improve security for both large and small churches. There are other informative books on this subject matter that you may want to review.

Disclaimer: This article is written for general information purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a primary source for making security decisions.

By Armored Car Expert (A.C.E.) Security Consultants
Employment Injuries, Armored Cars and Premises Security Expert Witness
Jim McGuffey, CPP has 38 years of security management experience with responsibility for the protection of approximately 70 high risk facilities during his career. He is a security consultant and has been retained as an expert witness by defense and plaintiff firms for premise security incidents and issues involving the cash-in-transit industry. Jim also conducts security risk assessments for organizations. Jim earned a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Aurora University and an M.A. in Management from Webster University. Prior to joining the armored car industry, Jim served 3 years in the military and 8 years in law enforcement.

Jim has been an active member of A.S.I.S. since 1981 and is also a member of International Association of Professional Security Consultants. Jim earned the Certified Protection Professional certification (CPP®) which is acknowledged as the security profession's highest recognition and is evidence that an individual is "Board Certified in Security Management."

Copyright Armored Car Expert (A.C.E.) Security Consultants

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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