Posted by: Jim McGuffey, CPP | December 12, 2011

A Security Survey Can Help Make Churches Safer


As our http://www.churchsecurityconsultant.com website develops, we will discuss many aspects of security and safety and share tools and resources to help make your church a safer place. One of the tools needed to evaluate security and safety at your church is the security survey. A security survey is the basic tool used in the security risk analysis process. Please refer to our Security Risk Analysis Process article for an explanation of this process.

The security survey consists of an on-site examination to determine existing security measures, identify deficiencies, establish protection needed and recommend measures to enhance overall security. A survey should be done prior to purchasing security equipment or changing an existing security process or system. It is conducted by a qualified security practitioner along with someone familiar with the property and daily operations at your church.

I begin each security survey by walking around the perimeter of the church putting myself in the mindset of a person who is casing your church looking for easy access into your facility. I am searching for hiding places near shrubbery not properly maintained and too close to facility doors or windows since I may need this space for concealment if police drive by or to hide and wait to accost someone entering or leaving the church. It is especially helpful if this area has little or no lighting. To make my crime even easier, this church is in an area that is not well traveled. I am at ease since I already know from attending this church that there is no alarm system in place and often the rear door is left ajar. But even if someone remembered to secure the door tonight, the entire rear side of the church contains so many windows, most of which can be easily accessed. The chances of me stealing, vandalizing and causing havoc without being captured are extremely good because of these conditions.
I know that my night is going to be lucrative since I have located a church considered to be a soft target. I don’t like churches and other facilities that are difficult to access so I simply avoid them. You don’t have to have a college education to know that your chances of being caught are much greater when you can be seen approaching a church with adequate lighting and no place to hide. I may be a criminal but I’m not stupid!

Once inside your church I know that I will be able to locate computers and other sorts of equipment that I can sell and finding cash will be easy since the church money counters often leave money from Sunday morning collections inside a metal box. They thought this box was well hidden underneath a towel on top of the second shelf inside the tall filing cabinet in the kitchen. Someone will take the money to the bank Monday morning so tonight is the time I decided to strike. I happen to know where this money is located but finding where people hide valuables has never been a problem for me since I often burglarize to support my habits. When I am finished, I may even destroy some of the artwork and things that I know these church people value just for the fun of it!

Now back to being a security practitioner. Since I want to make sure that lighting is sufficient, I will walk around your church during hours of darkness looking for open or unlocked windows and other vulnerabilities that may exist during hours of darkness. This is a good time to observe evening church services or the youth group returning from a field trip and other activities occurring to ensure that processes exist to protect people and property.

As I enter the inside of the church or facility, I notice the doors, windows and other possible access points. I look to see if the locks on the doors are working and adequate and the door and its frame are solid. I even look at the door hinges to see if they are located on the outside of the door and can be easily removed if window access is difficult which in most cases it isn’t. Too often windows are left open or the locks are broken so entry is not an issue for the criminal.

I observe where children and infants are cared for during church activities and ask questions about processes in place to ensure that someone other than the parent or guardian cannot easily kidnap an infant. I ask a lot of questions about controls in place to protect not only the welfare of people visiting this church but also controls and processes in place to protect the reputation of the church. I want to know how often inventories are conducted and how money is handled. I have quite a few questions to ask and most of the time people are surprised since they never thought of how important the responses to these basic questions were to the success of their ministry.

Most churches and other organizations review a security program has being costly and burdensome and now days church leaders think that if they even consider security it should be to prevent or mitigate damage from a mad person entering a service firing a weapon. I do not recommend implementing a security program just for this purpose since this event is far less likely to occur than other security events such as fires, embezzlement, child abuse, sexual harassment, damage from storms, burglaries, simple assaults and other crimes and security loss events. A security survey will help to assess your vulnerabilities and determine security strategies to mitigate damage from threats and hazards.

There are many questions that are asked during a security survey and many observations that are noted. Based on the findings and completion of a security risk analysis, cost effective security strategies are implemented using volunteers. In many cases adding security equipment is not required with the exception of an inexpensive burglar and fire alarm which often results in a discount on your insurance premium. Having a burglar alarm can also improve safety when opening your church in the morning which is a topic to be discussed later.

Disclaimer: This paper is based on what the author believes are generally accepted security principles as of the date of its writing, and on data gathered from what are believed to be reliable sources, this article is written for general information purposes only and is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a primary source for making security decisions.

About the Author: Jim has 40 years in security and during a 26 year period of his career, he was responsible for several thousand employees and 70 high risk facilities. He board certified in security management and serves as an expert witness in premise security cases and armored car incidents.
Jim has held various church leadership positions and he understands the importance of maintaining a security program which is not expensive or burdensome to the church. He also understands the importance of a security program and the immense value that it adds to the overall ministry. Jim can be reached at jimmcguffey@verizon.net

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