There are many steps that church leaders can do to improve safety and security at their facilities. While I agree that it is God who protects us I also believe that God wants us to put some effort into protecting ourselves.
In my opinion failing to take any action to protect a House of Worship and its parishioners is testing God. Please, at least consider these basic steps to protect your facility, the people who visit the facility, information stored within the facility and the reputation of your House of Worship.
I am aware that church funding is often lacking and I so bear this in mind as I submit 15 action steps for your consideration to improve safety and security.
1) Control access points. Use only entrances and exits as necessary. “Necessary” is the key word and should not be replaced with the word “convenient”.
2) Conduct background checks (criminal, employment and references) and interviews for all paid staff and volunteers who are placed in positions of responsibility or trust, this includes the custodian who is often the sole person inside a place of worship containing valuable assets.
3) Never allow staff or volunteers to work alone especially at night.
4) Conduct opening and closing inspections to ensure that entry and exiting is secure.
5) Make sure outside lighting is sufficient and shrubbery is properly maintained and there are no hiding places for assailants.
6) Makes sure all doors and windows are secured when departing facility and control these access points even when people are present.
7) Separate the duties of payables and receivables. This will do much to reduce embezzlement.
8) Arrange your office space considering where infants are watched, money is counted and other valuables are placed.
9) Make sure facility vehicles are properly maintained and a Motor Vehicle Check is run on drivers.
10) Ensure that the inside of the facility is properly lighted while in use and while not in use and fire exits marked. If your budget allows, install back-up lighting in case of power failure.
11) Install a burglar alarm and make sure that it covers all access points or at least the points where access must not occur. Basic alarm coverage is very inexpensive and can be improved upon as funding allows. (Installing other than a basic security alarm should be done following a security risk analysis).
12) Have an emergency plan in place and ensure it is periodically practiced and revised.
13) Ensure adequate fire extinguishers are placed in proper places throughout the facility and inspected annually. In most cases the local fire departments regulate this safety practice.
14) Sensitive information should be identified and controlled regardless if paper or electronically. Ensure the information stored in desks or file cabinets are properly protected and secured when someone is not present. For electronic files, use and secure passwords and treat a computer the same as a paper file by making sure the information cannot be accessed without permission.
15) Maintain an inventory of all expensive or easily stolen items and do a periodic audit to ensure all is present. Take photos and record serial numbers for electronic items and other items of significant value.