After another church shooting, pastors and church leadership are asking how they can protect their church members against this kind of unexpected violence.
Ways to protect
• Hire security guards as a first line of defense. Train volunteer church greeters to be watchful for those who are suspicious and may cause violence. Provide them with two-way radios to report possible danger to an appointed church person.
• Establish a no concealed weapons policy in your church.
• Meet with local law enforcement officials and learn their strategy for responding to an active shooter. Give them a detailed blueprint of every room in the church to be used if they need to secure the building. Ask officers for up-to-date contact information in case of a church crisis and distribute it to church leadership/staff. Ask them about a lockdown policy for your church to avoid the chaos of an unexpected evacuation.
• Train your deacons to be watchful before, during and after church worship services and events. Teach them to be actively aware of people/things that seem out of the ordinary. During worship services, place deacons throughout the sanctuary, balcony and building. Most church shootings take place after the worship service begins.
• Consider locking some church entrances after services begin, but ensure members are able to leave the building if necessary. Put greeters or a security guard outside entrance doors left unlocked to meet latecomers.
• Establish an emergency plan in the event of an act of violence and practice it regularly. Equip church leaders and staff with information on how to respond to emergencies, as well as how to get police and medical assistance. Create a list of counselors in your area who can be contacted in case of an emergency.
• Hold a disaster leadership workshop. Ask a local law enforcement official to train appointed key leadership/people in your church to deal with active shooters.
• Plan for a post-incident course of action: evacuation and assembly points, witnesses speaking with law enforcement, prayer and counseling, etc.
• Make the congregation aware of all emergency exits in the building. Ask members to report any concerns and/or anything out of the ordinary to an appointed central person. Teach them what to do in case of an emergency. This can be done with the congregation as a whole or through newsletters and brochures. Practice emergency procedures together as a church on a selected day.
• In your children’s ministry area, organize a safe system of drop-off and pickup for each child. Make sure each volunteer worker with children has passed a criminal background check. Station security volunteers or professionals at the entrance of the children’s area. Report any suspicious persons.
• In case of an emergency, alert your members to places they can take cover and hide, as well as a designated rally point inside or outside the church.
• Know your church members.
• Establish a good method to communicate among church leaders, staff and security teams.
• Install closed-circuit televisions, alarm systems and good lighting for church grounds at night, especially sidewalks and parking lots.
• When reporting an active shooter, call 911 immediately. Tell first responders the following urgent information (if you know it):
• The estimated number of shooters.
• The shooter’s location in the building.
• The type of weapon the shooter might be using.
• The immediacy of the threat.
• The location of nurseries, children’s ministries and other sensitive areas.
Stay on the line to keep police informed about happenings, etc.
While church shootings are rare, shooting violence is escalating. Taking preventive measures including designated security teams, carefully placed safeguards and a practiced plan of action/evacuation can help Southern Baptist churches avoid the tragic results of active shooters and other acts of violence.
To help your church guard against violence and other disasters, GuideStone Financial Resources offers a safety toolkit through a partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. For more information, visit www.guidestonepropertycasualty.org.
Why the Church may be targeted
Churches are welcoming to strangers, inviting them inside to join worship services and church events. Many churches have few safety precautions in place, and a church worship services provide a shooter with a large number of potential victims. Churches may not conduct professional criminal background checks before they allow or hire volunteers to work with children, nurseries, etc. Most outside and inside doors are unlocked and easily accessible. Church doors may be left unlocked at night.
EDITOR’S NOTE — For more tips, visit tabonline.org/church-security. To assess your readiness for threats, visit counterthreatgrp.com.