For hundreds of years, places of worship have been seen as sanctuaries from the ills of the world, safe havens whose doors are always open. Times, however, have changed in recent years as the world has got smaller and less safe.
Indeed, terror incidents in places of religious sanctity have been on the rise around the world and it’s only natural that those in charge of keeping the lights on and the worshippers happy might want to invest in some security to keep the worst from happening.
But what specific allowances do you need to make when it comes to preparing the security at your house of worship in a manner that’s reliable, effective and respectful?
Planning – Have a plan in place that all church leaders are aware of. This could be anything from keeping a mobile phone on hand at all times (to contact the authorities) to conducting a risk assessment of your property on an annual basis.
Remember to remain objective when conducting this risk assessment, of course. This will include exterior and interior inspections and inviting other members of the community to help to ensure nothing is overlooked.
Securing equipment – As places of worship are often left open, they can be prime targets for those looking to steal electronics and media equipment. Many churches, mosques, and synagogues will contain various televisions, projectors, and computers that could be tempting for criminals.
So, don’t leave expensive equipment out and make sure it’s secured and properly labelled. Also, keep an inventory list and keep it updated as often as possible.
Training – Your worshippers should be seen as a viable security resource. Hold a meeting to discuss things such as knowing when to report unusual behaviour and make them aware of the role they could play in keeping their house of worship safe.
Also, be open with your members and ensure they are aware of any new security measures. Training also includes assigning roles, so everybody knows who is meant to call the authorities and who will take care of worshippers in case of an emergency. Obviously, trained professionals should be top of the list here.
Lockdown – As wonderful as the concept of being open all day every day for people from all walks of life might be, it’s simply not sensible in this day and age.
Give your house of worship some dedicated hours of operation and try to make sure that there is always somebody on the property during these hours. In more dangerous areas, you might even want to consider installing security access panels to keep out undesirable individuals.
Getting with the system – Finally, perhaps the most visible and powerful step you can take in securing your place of worship is to install a dedicated security system, complete with CCTV, intruder alarms and perimeter protection.
Modern systems can even be monitored and controlled via smartphone, so even if the property is closed, you can have members of the community keeping an eye on it.
There are many other things you can do to make your place of worship feel safer. Invite your local police around to tour the property and keep an eye on your local community – making a note of crimes happening in the area.
Don’t be afraid to use social media to keep an eye on things either. It might be a blight in many ways, but it can also be used as a force for good!