Security Planning for Your Faith Community
When I began work in church security, I immediately recognized a critical gap between the typical security conferences and security information for churches. There’s a lot of information on what churches should do, but very little about how to go about doing it. Most information tends to be too generic to help churches with unique needs.
To address that gap and help congregations create security programs that address their unique needs, I developed a program that helps churches:
- conduct an initial hazard assessment specific to their activities, resources and location
- develop an emergency action plan based on the assessment
- create needed programs and documents
- establish training and education programs.
As the program has matured, it has grown to help assisted living facilities, day schools, nursing homes and other organizations. My team consists of military, law enforcement, fire department and emergency medicine veterans who want to use their skills to help protect others. We also conduct “in-house” training on most of the subjects associated with church safety. While we have to be on site to do a detailed assessment, there’s a lot that we can do remotely.
Detailed documents for developing a security plan
The linked documents described below provide detailed information that your church can use to consider and improve its current planning around security. The information they provide is mostly generic and meant to be adapted to the specific needs of your congregation.
• Church Security Handbook
The Church Security Handbook lets members know the church’s security plan and the role everyone plays in keeping their faith community safe. It provides information on the work of the security team, evacuation procedures, what to do in an active shooter situation or a medical emergency or when a child is missing or a suspicious package or bag shows up, along with the church’s policy on carrying weapons. It includes a staff and leader handbook outlining the specific responsibilities of the staff and security team.
• Policies and Procedures Manual – Generic
The Policies and Procedures Manual describes the elements required for a church safety and security program – from its purpose and method, authority and oversight, to the composition, training, duties equipment, etc., for the congregation's security team and information on conducting regular safety surveys. Further information is available in a series of additional documents called “Annexes.”
• Annex A – Emergency Action Plan – Generic
The Emergency Action plan offers specific and detailed procedures to enable your congregation’s “Staff and Security Team to respond to threats, hazards, and contingencies” that might occur.
• Annex G – Security Training Program
The Security Team training Program describes the broad skills from weapons training to first aid, fire safety and that team members might need to “respond effectively to adverse situations that might arise during church services.”
• Annex J – Fire Safety
The document on fire safety describes the security team’s responsibilities for fire safety training and equipment, fire drills and burn training in addition to routine surveys.
• Safety Survey Checklist - Generic
This Excel document gives an example of a straightforward way to note any hazards in classrooms, offices, worship and other spaces in your building.
Mark Stevens is a 40-year retired veteran of the Army whose service specialized in aviation operations, intelligence, safety and security. He currently serves as the Security Director for Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, and is the regional coordinator for non-denominational, semi-annual safety and security conferences in the north Mississippi and west Alabama regions. He is the president of Centurion Safety Associates, a firm that specializes in tailored, site-specific organizational safety and security programs for churches, schools and medical facilities. Centurion Safety employs a small team of medical, security, safety, law enforcement and fire experts who discretely assist organizations in establishing or improving their safety and security programs with respect to their specific needs. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
- Faith Forged in the Fire by Diana B. Henriques, Vestry Papers, January 2002
- Flames and Faith by Judy Hoover, Vestry Papers, November 2002
- Helping and Healing Resources (Children), an ECF Vital Practices tool
- Doing the Advance Work by Tilly-Jo Emerson, Vestry Papers, January 2002