Every church leader wants their church building and entire campus to be a safe haven, both for guests and regular attendees. And while we are church building experts rather than church safety and security professionals, we are sharing some information to help church leaders be prepared, and to increase awareness of the importance of integrating church safety into a church design. In this post, we focus on the value of church safety and security teams.
Church Building Risk Assessment
One key reason to have a church safety and/or security team is to assess risks within and beyond your church building. This involves reviewing your entire church property and your church building for weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that could be exploited by those with bad intent. The advantage of having a security or safety team is that it will intentionally be looking for weaknesses and thinking about how to address them, in order to make your church building a safer place for everyone. It’s critical to have background checks performed on every member of your church safety and security team (as well as all who work in children’s ministries).
Training and Visibility for Church Safety Teams
When you’ve got your church safety team in place, it’s important for them to understand what they’re expected to do in every situation. Comprehensive and ongoing training is essential. While we might think about the need to counter the deadly use of force, it’s much more likely that team members will be called to address a medical emergency. This is why it’s a good idea to have team members who are trained in CPR, in using an automated external defibrillator or AED, in general first aid, and who also can recognize the onset of a violent incident.
The visibility of church safety team members can also go a long way toward preventing violence. Parking lot attendants are a good example. Having someone keeping watch can deter many who might be looking for an easy target. The same is true in your foyers, and even in your worship center.
Critical Communication to Keep Your Team Safe
Clear assignments and communication with safety and security staff are critical. Some churches like to use professionals and may even hire sheriff’s deputies or police officers to be on the property and in the church building at certain times. Volunteer teams are the more common alternative, but it’s critical to make certain there is no conflict between volunteers and on- or off-duty first responders (police, firefighters, EMTs, or even professional medical staff, such as nurses and doctors).
It’s important for your security teams and volunteers to clearly understand who’s in charge in case of an emergency. Most volunteers would defer to a medical professional, but complexity can quickly arise during other kinds of situations. Circumstances involving concealed-carry laws, which vary greatly by state, would be one example.
This information on church safety and security teams comes from one of our free 2019 i3 webinars. Stay tuned for our next post, where we will detail our i3 webinar series for 2020.