Church Security & Protecting Religious Figures
In the aftermath of the church shooting in Charleston, religious organizations across the country are looking for ways to protect their parishioners. Unfortunately, deadly shootings and other violent crimes have disproportionately increased for churches and other religious establishments, driving the leaders to increase their preparedness for the unthinkable. Thankfully, the thought of “It won’t happen to us” has begun to shrink in their minds, and reality and statistics have begun to influence their decisions.
Below are some of the most critical aspects of protecting religious figures.
Access Control and Screening
Access should be restricted to minimize access points. Typically (size dependent) one way in, generally through the front doors will work just fine. This minimizes the risk of someone sneaking past those who are positioned to monitor guests upon arrival, and it maximizes the chances of spotting an anomaly – someone who does not belong. Access areas should also be established; general access versus areas for employees, etc.
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Also consider advanced screening of guests. In most cases, the objective is to be perceived as welcoming, and utilizing magnetometers and performing bag checks may be counter-productive to this ideal. However, the call must be made based on the most suitable reduction of risk given the threats at the time. In almost all cases, pat downs are ineffective and almost never worth the trouble as this is seen as more invasion than metal detectors.
One very effective way I have seen screening of guests performed is to scan ID’s with a smartphone. The app I have seen used is Bar and Club Stats. This app scans the subject’s driver’s license and presents the documented information, offering the ability to verify against the face value to reveal a fake. The added benefit is the knowledge of the subject that their identity has been revealed and more importantly recorded. This particular app also affords the ability to designate “VIP” or even red flag an ID, and a subsequent scan will notify all others on the system.
Constant vigilance of the crowd is very important as well. Behaviors should be observed, with the intent of attempting to spot an individual exhibiting pre-attack indicators. Agents in the crowd should complement the surveillance efforts of, for example a high-def PTZ (pan tilt zoom) camera that has a good vantage point over the crowd.
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Immediate Action Sequences
These sequences should be drilled by all security members, focusing on the most probable and most dangerous incidents that can occur. Crowd control and response is very important as agents should be positioned to enable a response to a subject in the crowd prior to them getting too close to the principal. Additionally, cover and evacuation of the principal should be immediately capable.
Workplace Violence Awareness & Prevention
There are many types of emergencies, such as medical issues, power outage, bomb threat, fire, embarrassing attacks or violence attacks. Therefore, a tiered response plan is also very important, given the possibility of occurrences, such as embarrassing versus a violent attack. The principal must know how to respond to different types of incidents, such as an attempted glitter bomb versus a knife attack for example.
Nonprofit faith based organizations can apply for a grants through several agencies, namely DHS and FEMA, as well as their specific State Administrative Agency (SAA). They may also apply through the grants.gov portal at www.grants.gov. FEMA grants can be processed through submitting application packages into the Non Disaster (ND) Grants System. Grantees are able to use these funds to pay for security systems, such as access control systems, target hardening systems, alarm systems and even for security related training.
DHS Find and Apply for Grants: https://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/find-and-apply-grants
FEMA Nonprofit Security Grants: https://www.fema.gov/nonprofit-security-grant-program
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Joseph M. LaSorsa, CPP® is currently employed as a senior partner managing and conducting: Protective Operations Training Courses, Executive Protection & Bodyguard Services, Risk Management Consultations & Seminars, Workplace Violence Prevention Seminars & Intervention Services, Security Consultations & Seminars, Private Investigations and Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures with LaSorsa & Associates – an International Protection, Investigations & Consulting Firm.