The holidays are a time to gather together and count our many blessings. However, for some it could be the perfect time to take advantage of a public place of worship and inflict terror and harm on a mass scale. It’s important to note that no religion is exempt from a possible act of violence. It doesn’t matter if the facility is a church, mosque, synagogue or temple – one is no safer than the other. All religious gatherings are potential targets, especially over the holidays when attendance is at an all-time high.
The urgency to implement sound house of worship security is a must to protect all who gather there. Therefore, to create a safe holiday season, all houses of worship must invoke procedures to prevent, prepare and respond to potential acts of aggression and violence committed under their roofs.
Prevention is ALWAYS the best policy. This involves listening to parishioners and law enforcement and monitoring the current events from locals to gage the threat level. Unfortunately preventing a disgruntled individual from acting on threats is outside of the control of the house of worship. When someone makes verbal threats in public or on social media it is up to those who witness the behavior to “See Something, Say Something”.
Since it is hard to prevent a violent act from occurring if it is unknown, the house of worship must assume it is possible and prepare.
Houses of worship vary greatly. Some can be single buildings, others can include a campus of buildings including both in-door and out-door gathering places. The number of worshipers will vary as well. Where one church can have 1,000 + members, another may have just 20. Therefore, the way the house of worship prepares for potential violence needs to be specific to the needs of both facilities and worshipers.
If your organization is unsure where to start, a security assessment is a good place. Discover vulnerabilities and security recommendations specific to your organizational needs. From onsite security personnel to video camera placement, a security assessment helps houses of worship prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
A security assessment can also be used to develop an emergency action plan (EAP) to respond when emergencies happen, including natural disasters (e.g. fire, tornado, earthquake, flooding).
All houses of worship are responsible for the safety of their attendees. It is one thing to call 911 when violence is threatened. However, what current events have shown us is that it is essential for all to be prepared to be first responders until help arrives.
- 54% of active shooter incidents are over in less than 5 minutes
- It usually takes 3-5 minutes before someone calls 9-1-1 to alert authorities
Make sure leaders know what to do and where to go when aggression presents, and violence ensues. For example, it is important to have leaders who can decide when to run, hide or fight. When injury occurs, leaders and/or some members should be trained on critical trauma intervention skills. In other words, make sure leaders and/or members know how to respond when aggression and/or violence occurs in the house of worship. Seconds count, help takes time, so everyone must respond to save lives.
It is a sad fact in today’s world that people who gather together in a place where they assume goodwill and solace must worry about personal security. Terrorism toward a religious group is not a new occurrence. In fact, religion has always been the primary reason violent acts have occurred on a mass scale throughout the ages. The reality is that it occurs in the United States, usually by U.S. citizens. The time to “hope” it doesn’t happen in our place of worship is over. Security must be in the forefront when large groups of people gather together to practice a shared belief or viewpoint, especially over the holidays where more people may be harmed or killed.
Assess and Train to be Ready
SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can perform Physical Security/Vulnerability Assessments of your house of worship and train leaders, staff, and members to be ready for any type of security breach or life-threatening disaster. Don’t wait until something happens, prepare for the worst-case scenario and gain peace of mind. Contact us to speak with one or our security and/or training professionals today to find out how you can be proactive and potentially save lives.