Posted by: Jim McGuffey, CPP | June 15, 2010

Church Security Tips

Jim McGuffey, CPP

by Jim McGuffey, CPP

Far too many churches in our country provide little or no physical security for parishioners. I believe that this lack of security is due to concern that a security program will create unnecessary alarm for parishioners. Many church leaders believe that a security incident will not occur at their church. Also church officials in rural areas are less concerned about major crimes. However recent church tragedies show that church crimes can happen anywhere. There is also the concern that security is expensive and will not be cost effective.

Jim McGuffey, CPP owner of A.C.E. Security Consultants has held church leadership roles for 10 years. While Jim understands these concerns, he also is aware that a well managed security program need not be burdensome or costly.

The following suggestions are not intended to address all security issues, but they will substantially improve security at churches where security is lacking or non-existent. Basic low cost actions to improve church security:

1. Form a safety and security committee and select a chairperson to provide leadership.
2. Train ushers, greeters and other key volunteers to recognize, report and respond to suspicious activity or a security or safety incident.
3. One or more trained persons from the safety security committee should remain posted at designated areas to observe people exiting cars and walking towards the church. Part of training is to be observant for signs of stress or suspicious actions.
4. An emergency plan should be developed and tested annually in response to any natural or man-made disaster that could occur in your area. This requires work but there are many inexpensive books and free government publications available on emergency planning.
5. Conduct a security risk assessment prior to purchasing security equipment. This assessment will help you to determine what is expected from the security equipment. Often equipment is purchased and installed only to discover that it does not meet all of the needs or solve all of the problems since the needs and problems were never identified in the first place. Please refer to website where you can print a white paper titled “Security Risk Process”.
6. Review outdoor lighting to make sure it is sufficient.
7. Maintain plants and shrubbery low to the ground to reduce hiding places.
8. Ensure that a process exists to release children to parents or authorized adults.
9. Perform background checks on both volunteers and paid staff that have responsibility for children. I suggest background checks on all the safety security team regardless of involvement with children.
10. Personnel records must be secured when the designated person of those records is not present.
11. Two people should remain present from time funds are collected until counted and stored. Key control for essential doors and containers for valuables must be managed.
12. Major or expensive assets should be marked in case of theft and inventoried at least annually.
13. Be proactive and observant for safety violations such as exposed wiring, locks that don’t work and cleaning chemicals that are not stored properly. Safety and security go hand-in-hand.
14. The most important strategy or action that can be taken to prevent security incidents is to increase security awareness with all members. This concept applies to all organizations.


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