Is your place of worship safe? Should you be concerned?

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Places of worship are especially challenging to protect because their environment must be welcoming to the public. If we have armed guards and metal detectors processing participants into the facility, there wouldn't be much of an audience.

With the horrific hate killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015, and again in Sutherland, Texas, last week, parishioners are wondering if they can worship in safety.

If worshipers are not a little concerned, they should be, but there is no need for panic, provided church leaders take the proper steps to improve security. I don't have space here to share what should be done, but I can enlighten readers on a few questions that need to be asked of church leaders.

  • Is there a security program in place? If so, ask the pastor or worship leader to take a few minutes to share some details, such as: Who is responsible for monitoring security? Are there written policies and procedures that members of the house of worship can review?
  • When caring for infants, are access points controlled, and is an adequate CCTV system in place? You don't need cameras everywhere, but when it comes to protecting infants, extra protection measures are necessary.
  • Are there policies and procedures to protect children while worshipping in church or attending outside events? Also, what procedures exist to prevent an unauthorized parent, relative or person from picking up a child following a service?
  • While services or other activities occur, are there trained people observing from key positions to engage suspicious people or someone who seeks to cause harm to the facility or churchgoers? Again, you don't need armed guards everywhere, but select people need to be trained in this area.

I strongly recommend that houses of worship have a Security Risk Analysis conducted by someone skilled in this area of security to assess threats and hazards and identify cost-effective security counter measures to mitigate loss events.

A solid security program can be implemented that, for the most part, is transparent to congregants.

If your place of worship is interested in learning more about improving security, please email me at the address below. If there is sufficient interest, our ASIS Savannah Lowcountry Chapter will hold a special training session to assist those interested in making their places of worship safer.

For more information, visit www. savannahlowcountryasis.weebly.com

Jim McGuffey, M.A., CPP, PSP of Bluffton is the owner of A.C.E. Security Consultants and is board certified in security management and physical security. jimmc guffey@hargray.com or www.acesecurity consultants.com

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