Safety

Children’s Area Church Safety Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly

It’s easy to presume that church safety is going to look like a fortress, but that doesn’t have to be true. Security doesn’t have to be ugly. Here are some examples of how attractive the check-in desk for the children’s area in your church building can be, while keeping children safe and happy in a space that’s clearly designed for them.

Choosing Thematic Check-in Desks

One option, as you can see here, is to deck out the desk with a dramatic and colorful theme, such as Noah’s Ark, the Reign Forest (get it? Rain/Reign Forest), or the Sea of Galilee. With the Sea of Galilee, the check-in desk itself has become a ship, while the setting is laid out in colorful artwork that extends up the walls, which show the sea itself. Kids and parents are standing on the deck of a ship when they check in, enhancing the sense of adventure while providing security.

With the Reign Forest, a fountain and set of tropical trees behind the check-in desk do the same job of drawing kids into the experience of entering a rain forest, while the check-in desk itself serves as a visual barrier. You know you’re not supposed to go beyond the desk unless you’ve checked in, so it’s an effective design that is still user-friendly as well.

A Check-in Church Design with Bright Colors and Clear Views

In this photo, the bright colors clearly indicate this is the children’s area of the church building, without any need for a theme. The check-in desk curves around, creating a visual block to prevent anyone from proceeding further without checking in. Another advantage to this design is that all the classroom doors are visible from the check-in area, and that the doors have windows, which keeps everyone inside the rooms accountable and easily visible from outside.

Creating a Hard Barrier to Keep Children Safe in Your Church Building

If you want to create a hard barrier, rather than a visual barrier, you can choose a check-in desk design like this one. There is no way to gain access to the classrooms beyond without being granted access by staff at the check-in desk. This is for a preschool area, which means all the children will fit through these small doors—and probably love that the doors are sized just for them.

As with the last example, the doors to all classrooms are visible from the check-in counter, and there are windows in the wall of each classroom as well, which improves visibility, and therefore security. This increased level of church safety can increase parents’ peace of mind.

Church safety doesn’t have to be obvious, or ugly. Whether it’s the children’s area of your church building or the foyer and café area of your church design, creative, colorful, and attractive options are available to make your church building appealing to children and comforting to their parents. We think carefully about every aspect of your church design, which is why we regularly share free i3 webinars that help you see what’s possible in today’s church building environment. To learn more, register for our next webinar today!

2021-08-31T19:02:13+00:00 August 31st, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Options for External Security of Your Church Building

Making the exterior areas of a church building safe and secure should be a priority in a church design, but that doesn’t mean making the church exterior look like a fortress instead of a welcoming place to worship. It’s very possible to incorporate many security elements into a modern church design in ways that are both seamless and effective. Here are some suggestions and photo examples from a new church building project.

Let There Be Light

Of course, one of the most important considerations for the outside of your church building is good lighting. All parking areas should be well-lit, and there should be no dark spaces around the perimeter of your church building where someone could hide. If you’re concerned about the cost of electricity, we recommend installing motion detectors, and you can also use timers for lights in certain parts of the property when you know meetings or evening events will be taking place.

Keeping an Eye on Everything Around Your Church Building

Cameras are another obvious element in a modern church safety system. At a minimum, we recommend installing security cameras at each entrance to your church building, as well as covering all outdoor areas such as parking lots, playgrounds, and athletic fields. We also recommend placing windows in strategic locations of your church design to allow receptionists and security staff to have a clear view of who is coming and going from your church building.

In the top photo of this recent church design, you can see a series of windows which face out into the parking lot. These windows are for staff offices and the last one, closest to the doors, is by the reception desk. This allows staff clear sightlines to the entire parking lot and the approach area to the front doors of the building. The receptionist can also electronically unlock the front door from their desk once they’ve identified the visitor.

Having a Clear View on Church Safety

The other thing you can see from these pictures of the façade of this church design is that there is a lot of transparency around the church foyer. This allows guests to easily see what’s happening inside and feel more comfortable about entering your church building. It also allows the security team to keep an eye on who is heading toward the doors, so they can respond if something doesn’t look right.

In another post, we have discussed the idea of “building hardening,” which uses bulletproof glass, blast resistance, and decorative physical barriers to prevent someone from shooting or driving a vehicle into your church building. While we haven’t included those in a church design, they are an option that could be considered if exterior church safety concerns are a priority for your community.

While we don’t specialize in security system design, there are basic elements that can effectively be included in your exterior church design to maximize security without taking on the appearance of a fortress. To learn all of our latest ideas about church design, sign up for our free i3 webinars. We also address your questions live when you attend a webinar, so register today.

2021-08-24T20:19:51+00:00 August 24th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Controlling Access to Your Church Building: Another Element of Safety and Security

Controlling building access is another key element of church safety. It’s important to limit and even track who has entry to which parts of your church building and at what times.

The good news is that changes in recent years have made the process much easier. Security used to be handled by humans responding to push-button audio-only greetings, tracking entrances and exits with paper logs. Now, much more refined and useful options are available. Here are some church safety best practices for controlling access to your church building.

Beginning with RFID

One of the cornerstone elements to new church safety technology is RFID. This acronym stands for radio-frequency identification. With this technology, digital data is programmed into RFID tags that can be scanned by a reader via radio waves. Each unique tag transmits data that can be stored in a database for later retrieval and reporting. Also, unlike older barcode scanning, there’s no need for a perfect alignment, which makes it easy for anyone to use an RFID tag.

Why Use RFID to Improve Church Safety?

RFID can be specifically programmed for each individual user. This means you can arrange to allow someone into your church building at only certain times of the day and/or particular days of the week. This allows you to prevent Sunday morning nursery volunteers from entering the children’s areas during the week, when you have a preschool program running with paid teachers and different church safety rules and regulations in place.

You can also separate your overall church design into different zones and implement RFID locking systems on interior doors. This allows you to limit access to certain areas of your church building. In this way, it’s easy to prevent band leaders from entering your children’s area, while still allowing them to enter the church building and access the worship space early on Sunday to set up, or to come over for a midweek rehearsal while that preschool program is happening in another part of your church complex.

Another advantage of RFID is having a built-in record of everyone who comes and goes from each area of your church building. This way, you can track who actually uses your church building, and be able to confirm who was in the building if there’s a church safety incident, such as a theft or vandalism.

Thinking Beyond RFID in Your Church Building

Of course, there’s more to church safety access than just RFID. Guests need to gain access to your church building as well. Instead of relying on those voice-only doorbells, you can now use the same kind of sophisticated video doorbell systems that so many of us use in our homes. Since these are set up on a wi-fi system, they’re easy to install at any stage in your church design or long after construction is finished.

You can also integrate a wired camera system in your church building during the church design phase. Everything can be monitored and controlled from a central security office. We also integrate magnetic lock systems into many church designs these days. They can be programmed to automatically release when they sense motion detection (allowing for quick escape should a fire erupt) or engaged to prevent entry to unauthorized parts of your church building.

As you can see, there are some excellent options for controlling access to your church building today. To keep up with the latest smart ideas for your church design, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars, where we discuss the latest innovations and answer your questions.

2021-08-17T19:32:36+00:00 August 17th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Best Church Safety Practices for the Public Areas in Your Church Design

Church leaders may recognize the need to focus on church safety when designing the public areas of a new church building. But being able to imagine how that might work can be hard. That’s why we are sharing a specific church design schematic that can help you to see and understand how church safety can fit seamlessly into the public areas of your church building.

An Example of Safety in Church Design

This church design drawing shows the entrance and public-facing areas of one of our recent projects. The entrance to the building is at the top of this closeup from their overall church design. You can see there are multiple doors and plenty of glass, both for transparency about what’s happening inside the rooms, and easy viewing from both exterior and interior. It’s easy for guests to see that there are already other people in the building, which can help them feel safer as they walk in.

Another very helpful safety element is the location of the restrooms. When guests walk in, the doors to those restrooms are straight ahead of them and easily visible. This will feel safer for guests than having to walk around a corner or down a hallway into another part of the building. Finally, the doors to the worship center (which is directly below the bottom of this portion of the church design) are right next to the restrooms, again making it easy for guests to figure out where they need to go.

Visibility of Welcome Counter and Church Safety Team and Office

You can also see in the schematic that we’ve placed the information and welcome center directly in front of those restroom and worship center doors. This also directs guests’ eyes toward these important elements in your church design, while also providing a subtle hint that there are people keeping watch as well as answering questions. People stationed at this welcome center also can easily see down both side corridors, which lead to the restricted children’s area. This makes it easy to keep an eye on anyone who might be going where they don’t belong.

The security office is also strategically located to support church safety concerns. It’s located on the right, just below the bookstore and next to the nursery. The big window on the side of the office faces the foyer, so security team members can see everything from the entrance doors and foyer area to the worship center doors, welcome center, and children’s area corridors. They can even see out into the parking lot from that vantage point.

Limiting Access to Other Areas of Your Church Building

Finally, these various church safety aspects quietly but clearly make it more difficult for anyone to move beyond the public areas of this church building without being seen by welcome center and security team members. This goes a long way to discourage unwanted security events in your church building.

Notice how all of these elements help to do two things. First, they make it clear to guests and attendees that church safety matters. The presence of security team members is easy to see, especially if they are identified with a lanyard or name badge. Second, the security team doesn’t detract from the overall welcoming feel of the open foyer, with its café, bookstore, seating areas, and well-thought-out church design.

To learn more about well-designed church building options, register for our upcoming free i3 webinars, which we offer to help make it easier to see and understand all the important elements of your new church building.

2021-08-10T12:31:00+00:00 August 10th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Why Your Church Needs a Comprehensive Church Safety and Security Plan

As we continue with some posts on the elements of church safety, it should be clear that your church building plays a role in any safety and security plan. But simply following the International Building Code with your church design isn’t enough.

Your church building can only go so far in protecting people. You need more. For example, you need security teams. You need trained staff and volunteers who know what to do when security issues arise, or parents raise church safety questions about their children’s health and safety. You also need a comprehensive plan.

How Many Churches Have an Active Church Safety and Security Ministry?

It probably seems like a no-brainer that a church should have a thorough and well-documented plan for church safety and security, but not that many do. Here are some statistics.

According to data published by SurveyUSA in 2019, it turns out that only one in four churches today has an active security ministry. That’s just 25%. Yet 86% of regular church attendees feel it’s important that their church leaders and volunteers are professionally trained to prepare for an active threat. Furthermore, 73% of these faithful people say that their place of worship is completely unprepared to handle an active security threat.

Why Does This Matter?

Here’s another surprising statistic. 45% of people would go to worship services more often if they knew church safety and security systems were in place. This means almost half of the people in your community would be more likely to show up at your church building if they could be confident that they would be safe and secure while they are there. That’s a lot of people that could be joining you on Sunday mornings, if you invest in making church safety a priority.

How Can You Improve the Church Safety Ministry in Your Church Building?

Here’s one last statistical finding that provides some hope for church leaders who wonder about the costs involved in setting up a church safety and security ministry in your church building. The good news is that 63% of survey respondents would be willing to donate to help cover the costs associated with putting a security program in place. This means that almost two-thirds of the people worshipping with you each Sunday are likely willing to make an investment in keeping your church building, and everyone in it, safe and secure.

We encourage church leaders to have conversations about church safety and security. When you make it a priority, you are more likely to get that financial assistance. Once you have a comprehensive plan in place, word will spread in the community and more people are likely to feel comfortable coming to your church building on Sunday mornings.

So, how do you go about putting together an effective church safety and security team? We’re so glad you asked! We will cover that in our next article on this topic. Meanwhile, we suggest you check out our upcoming free i3 webinars, where not only do we address church safety issues like this, but also provide other important information about church building and design issues.

2021-08-03T18:24:14+00:00 August 3rd, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Church Building Security Guidelines for Keeping Children and Youth Safe

While we are not safety and security experts, or ministry and programming professionals, we know how important it is to keep people of all ages safe and secure while they’re in your church building. And when it comes to children and youth, there are some church safety considerations to make. Here are some important security guidelines for children and youth ministries in—and beyond—your church building.

Have and Use Proven Policies for Children and Youth Ministry

First and foremost, it’s critical to have current and proven children and youth security policies in place and to use them. Those policies should include elements like background checks for all staff and volunteers who work with children and youth, as well as zero tolerance for inappropriate touching and other issues, social media guidelines for communicating with youth or posting and identifying photos of children, and so forth. Fortunately, many insurance companies and denominational bodies have model policy templates that church leaders can use to craft wise policies for their own children and youth ministries.

Maintain Appropriate Adult Presence at All Times

Many of the important security protocols for children and youth ministry involve the presence of adults. Children and youth should never be left alone in your church building—or anywhere on your property. There should be a minimum of two approved adults always present at every event involving youth or children. Remember that visits by children to other areas of your church building, such as the restrooms, should also be carefully monitored.

Also, whenever a group leaves your church building for an approved or official church event, make sure an appropriate number (two or more) of chaperones are in attendance. It’s important to note that half of all church security and safety incidents involving youth and children take place off church property, and only a quarter take place within the church building itself. This is one reason why approved chaperones are so important to keep your youngest attendees safe.

Concentrate on Visibility and Awareness in Your Church Building

Another way to keep youth and children safe is by having the right mindset. Visibility is important, whether it’s volunteers who are sitting at the children’s ministry check-in desk, or roaming security team members who remind everyone to be on their best and safest behavior. For the same reason, unannounced drop-ins to youth and children’s events are another way to make certain that all is well and security procedures are being followed appropriately.

Also, train all staff and volunteers to recognize signs of abuse and tell them to keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look right. (Remember that it’s not your job to investigate any suspicions, but rather to report them to authorities so that they can be investigated by professionals.)

There’s much that goes on in your church building that needs your careful attention. Whether for safety and security or the latest trends in church design, to learn more about what we recommend in terms of your church building needs, sign up for our next free i3 webinar today.

2021-07-27T21:40:07+00:00 July 27th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Exceeding the Safety Basic Requirements for Your Church Building

The International Building Code (IBC) helps ensure a minimum level of safety for any building. However, the building code is meant to be a baseline. There are times when church leaders make a conscious choice to exceed those safety basics with their church design. There are also times where you may be required to exceed the basics because of the types of activities that take place in your church building.

Going Above and Beyond with Your Church Design

There are some straightforward ways that church leaders choose to exceed the safety basics required by code. Some can be very simple and not overly expensive. For example, we have worked on church designs that voluntarily included extra smoke detectors.

Some church leaders go much farther. We’ve had conversations with a few of them about installing automatic sprinkler systems because of safety concerns, something that can be a pretty expensive addition. But it’s also an added investment in the safety of everyone who enters your church building.

Incorporating Emergency Evacuation Shelters into Your Church Design

Another area where more churches are going beyond the basics is with storm shelters, although in some areas and situations these may be required. One type of shelter is the emergency evacuation shelter. This is a place where people can gather for safety after a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, winter storm, or other significant event has left them without shelter. To prepare for events like this, you would need to install backup generators, showers, sometimes commercial kitchens, and open spaces in your church building (without fixed furniture) that can be used as gathering spaces and for sleeping.

Does Your Church Building Need a True Storm Shelter?

Another type of storm shelter is one that can withstand the storm itself and provide a safe refuge for people as the storm comes through. These types of shelters are more durable and expensive. They are also required by the IBC (and thus in most states) for many types of buildings, including some new educational facilities. This is important for church leaders to understand.

In some states, the storm shelter requirement applies to all educational facilities, including schools within a new church facility. However, there are exceptions for daycare facilities and “occupancies that are accessory to religious worship.” This means that if you just hold Sunday school classes or small groups in your church building on Sundays, you don’t need to have a storm shelter in place. However, if you have any sort of school, anything from preschool through twelfth grade, you may need to include a dedicated storm shelter that can safely hold all occupants of the entire building. (Of course, every state makes its own decisions regarding storm shelters. For example, Ohio has been delaying the implementation of storm shelter requirements for three or four years.)

What does this mean? That space must have increased roof strength and wall structural design. It must have multiple exits, minimal windows, and be fire separated from the rest of the building. It must have emergency power for light and ventilation for up to two hours, through a generator or battery system. This storm shelter also has to have its own restrooms and first aid station, and many other very specific details. Schools typically combine storm shelters with other big spaces like the cafeteria or a gymnasium (since locker rooms contain restrooms and showers).

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to safety for your church building. We know such building code requirements are not top-of-mind for most church leaders. This is why we implemented our free i3 webinars—to help you understand what’s involved in creating a safe church design and constructing a safe church building. Sign up for our next i3 webinar today!

2021-07-20T20:29:58+00:00 July 20th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Get a Clear View on Church Safety with These Church Building Exterior Examples

Church security is an important component of the best church experience, for both guests and attendees. In one of our free i3 webinars, we took an in-depth look at many elements of church safety, from hardening the church building exterior to protecting internal children’s areas. Many of those elements have been presented here in our blog.

One theme emerges from all these church safety components; they can seamlessly and beautifully be incorporated into a church design. As we conclude our church safety series, here are some church building examples which illustrate the ability of an aesthetically pleasing design to dually serve a safety purpose.

Choosing Church Building User-Friendliness

Many church leaders are opting to keep the exterior of their church building focused on user-friendliness. This first example is from a Florida church design we recently completed. You can see it has a car canopy to protect attendees on rainy days, and lots of natural light flowing into the foyer on sunny days. The leaders of this church do allow people and cars to come right up to the building, in contrast with some church safety recommendations, but a bright foyer allows their security team to keep a good eye on everyone coming into the church building.

Choosing a Strategically Located Second Exit for Church Safety

In this second example, from another recent McKnight Group church design, you see again that lots of light comes into the building from the glass-walled front entryway. This allows people to see what’s going on in the foyer area of the church building. A second entryway with a car canopy is visible on the left side of the lower image. This is certainly convenient for the elderly and parents with young children, who can get into the church building quickly on days with rain or snow.

There’s a second reason for this canopy-covered entrance which is specifically related to church safety. In this particular design, the hallway which leads to this entrance is where the church security and medical offices are located. This allows security teams to direct ambulances to the entrance that’s closest to the medical office, without disturbing other guests and attendees by pulling up to the front entrance of the church building.

Choosing a Church Design that Welcomes Guests

In these final examples, you can see that church leaders have opted for lots of light in the front facades of each church building. Both buildings have tall sections of the foyer filled with glass. This makes it easy for guests to see that people are gathered in this church building. When they see that lights are on and people are inside, they know that this is a safe church building for them to visit. All that glass also makes it easier for Sunday volunteers and weekday receptionists to get a clear view of who is approaching the church building.

Obviously, there’s a lot of thought that goes into church safety elements in any church design. To learn more about how you can incorporate security components into your church building, contact us today. You can also learn about what else we consider to be priorities in church design by signing up today for the next in our free i3 webinar series. You can learn more about what we’re focusing on here.

2020-04-14T19:14:39+00:00 April 14th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Support Church Safety with a Well-Placed Church Building Security Office

There are some other areas that should be considered when integrating church safety into your church design, like the need for a well-placed church building security office. One that doesn’t stand out but does function well within the overall church design. Here are some key points to equipping and placing your security and medical offices in the best possible location of your church building.

What Does Your Church Safety Office Need?

An effective church safety office needs to be well-equipped to meet the needs of your security team. This means it should be wired for camera monitoring and recording. We further recommend that anytime a service is going on, there is somebody from the security team monitoring cameras and watching public areas, making sure they have an eye on what’s going on in your church building.

Your church safety office should also be located next to a medical office or storage room, that can hold medical equipment like an AED, or automated external defibrillator, as well as standard first aid equipment. Ideally this medical room should function like a small doctor’s office and have an attached, dedicated restroom. If that’s not possible, it should be located near a public restroom in your church building.

Where to Locate the Security and Medical Offices in Your Church Design

These two church safety offices should be centrally located in your church building so that security teams can quickly and easily see and access several key areas. As you can see from this church design, the prime location of this security office gives the team a view of the entire foyer and the main entry to your church building. Through the glass entryway, they even have a view of most of the parking lot through a large, one-way window that faces the foyer. For the public, from the foyer, that window appears to be a mirror, while security staff can easily see out from the inside.

In addition to the foyer, the security office has a clear view down the corridor on the left side of the church design, which leads to the children’s wing. They also can easily see both the welcome center and the main doors into the worship space. The corridor to the right, past what’s labeled as the nurse’s office, leads directly to an outside door with a canopy, which would be where an ambulance is directed for easy pickup from the medical office. You can also see the dedicated restroom, which allows for medical treatment and cleanup in a more private and secure location.

How Else Can Your Church Building Benefit from a Security Office?

In addition to serving as a central medical location and monitoring station, your security office can hold supplies that you will need for various church safety situations. In addition to a defibrillator and first aid equipment, storage space in your security suite can hold ice melt or salt and shovels for winter storms, traffic cones for various occasions, and other useful safety equipment.

As you can see, we’ve given a lot of intentional consideration to every facet of church design. We are glad to share this information with you, which is why we host our free i3 webinars over the course of each year. Click here to learn more and sign up for our next free webinar.

2020-04-07T17:23:16+00:00 April 7th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Examples of Church Building Offices with Multiple Safety Layers

Last post, we described some of the church design safety and security measures that might help protect and secure offices in a church building. Here are some examples of how those measures have been incorporated into projects we’ve completed for church leaders like you.

Incorporating Layers of Church Safety into Your Church Design

One important security concept for any church design is to think in layers. While we might think of a church building as a single entity, it is made up of numerous parts. Church safety elements can be implemented into each part of your church building, such as doors, windows, rooms, etc. This means each door can serve as a layer of security, because it can be locked. A window allows people in one room to see into another, and so on. When considered in this fashion, it’s clear that you can do a lot to keep staff and church leadership safe while they are in your church building.

One Church Building Office Area with Three Layers of Security

In this first church building example, you see an office reception area that is very friendly. It’s well decorated, clean, and looks appealing. It also incorporates three levels of security. There’s a door to the left (the doorframe is just visible in this photo) that includes a window, which allows the receptionist, sitting at the desk, to have a direct visual connection with whomever is outside. The door is also locked, so the receptionist must buzz visitors through the door after speaking with them and looking at them through the window. This is the first level of church safety.

For any visitor to move beyond this reception area, they must pass through two more levels of security. The first is the counter, with a volunteer or staff member. That’s level two. Beyond the counter, out of sight to the right, is another door that leads into the actual office complex. That’s level three. Most visitors will just see a beautiful little room, but those who are thinking about church safety will recognize three levels of security built into this one element of the church design.

Another Example of an Office Area Church Design

Here is another church building project, for a very large church. This lovely two-story office entry area is part of a four-story office wing for a church building we designed. It’s a bright and open space with a lot of glass, which makes it appear very welcoming. But there are also many levels of security incorporated into this church design. First, the main front doors are controlled by the staff receptionist, who has a direct view through the glass front doors. As in the first example, people can be buzzed in (a first layer of security) but cannot move beyond this two-story lobby without passing the receptionist (a second layer of security).

Every door in the rest of the office area, on both the first and second floors, can only be accessed using key fobs. So, while there are clearly many doors that can be accessed from this lobby, visitors can’t get anywhere beyond this reception area without an escort who has a key fob. Once again, one church building reception area holds at least three levels of security.

These examples demonstrate that church safety doesn’t have to appear grim or threatening. Instead, it’s about thoughtful incorporation of church safety elements into each layer of your church building. To learn more about what we’re thinking regarding church building design, sign up today for one of our upcoming webinars.

 

2020-03-17T18:34:19+00:00 March 17th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|