Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know the United States is experiencing a shooting rampage including armed intruder attacks in religious facilities.
. We’ve had mass shootings in Tulsa, Uvalde, Buffalo, New York City, and from a “stranger lurking evil,” who shot and killed the pastor of a church in Laguna Woods, California—and many more since this was written a week ago.
It is likely because of this last incident in California, and because crime in houses of worship has been on the increase in recent years, that the Church Mutual Insurance Company was prompted to release recommendations for houses of worship to help them prepare – as much as possible – for armed intruder attacks.
Here are some of the things they suggest to help prevent an armed intruder attack:
- Be aware of all the access points to your building.
- Lock entry doors after services begin or when the facility is being used. (Make sure that those inside can still exit.)
- Regularly check locks on doors, security cameras, alarm systems, and exterior gates to ensure they are operating properly. Fix anything that is not and consider upgrading all security monitoring technologies.
- Keep your security measures visible. If an electronic security monitoring service has been hired, ask them to place their signs around the building. This is often a deterrent.
- If security personnel are hired, hire from a reputable service. Your due diligence is critical.
- Make sure security personnel can communicate quickly with facility administrators, staff, and law enforcement personnel.
- Hire security and risk assessment experts to create a workplace violence prevention program and train all staff and volunteers on how to detect and prevent workplace violence.
- Conduct armed intruder drills; once again, security or risk assessment experts can help put these together.
The insurance company also has three more armed intruder prevention suggestions that should be observed:
- Make it easy for congregants to report safety concerns. The best way to do this is to allow these concerns to be posted anonymously.
- Pay attention to disgruntled or unhappy members in your church. If there is a concern about someone, scan social media platforms to see if they are expressing anger or potentially dangerous intentions in their posts. If so, view these as warning signs. (NOTE: The insurance company did not state what steps to take should you find a person of concern. We suggest contacting local law enforcement or a security and risk assessment expert about your situation.)
- Create a security investigation and assessment team. This team is to receive all safety-related information. Their job is to focus on the big picture and assess what steps are necessary to protect the facility and when there may be a credible or imminent threat to the facility or those using it.
But what if steps are taken, and an armed intruder still manages to get into the facility? In this case, include the following actions:
- Make sure everyone in the facility is aware of the danger.
- Evacuate the property as quickly as possible.
- If evacuation is not possible, look for a safe place to hide and barricade these areas.
- Contact law enforcement as soon as it is safe to do so.
- If possible, create noise to distract the intruder.
- Keep in mind the FBI’s defensive tactics and strategies: run, hide, and fight.
We need to add one more suggestion to this list: arrange for a professionally conducted risk assessment. Security precautions for many religious facilities, especially provisions to protect themselves from an armed intruder, were not even considered a few years back. Now, we need them.
We find that many religious facilities take security steps on their own, many of which later prove to be ineffective and costly. A professionally conducted risk assessment will ensure proper and effective measures are in place that safeguard people and property and are cost-effective.
Johnathan Tal is Chief Executive Officer of TAL Global Corporation, an international investigative and risk-consulting firm. He served as a military field intelligence officer for the Israeli armed forces during the 1970s. Tal has also served as an antiterrorism security specialist. He is a licensed investigator, Certified Private Investigator (CPI), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and he holds a Bachelor of Science degree. He can be reached through his company website at www.talglobal.com.