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So, what are the best steps for church leaders to protect members and guests from armed attackers?
Here are 4 fast steps to consider:
1.) Outsourced Private Security
Private security firms provide on-site services based on your schedule. These firms will provide armed and unarmed security and should be considered for regular services and special events. Just the presence of uniformed security acts as both reassurance and warning. Southwest Florida has some great security firms like Summit Security and Global Security Group International that are experienced in working with churches.
Outside of the obvious cost of outsourcing security, keep in mind that opting for armed third-party security may increase your liability insurance rates or preclude you from coverage from certain insurance carriers.
2.) Volunteer Security
Many churches have members with law enforcement, security, or military training, and they would gladly use those talents for the benefit of the church. While volunteers provide the backbone for all churches, it is critical that any security volunteers be properly screened and trained before making them part of the security team. Screening should include a criminal background check and training should include techniques in the use of appropriate force. Local law enforcement and security firms can be a resource for appropriate training.
A volunteer application and volunteer release forms should be used, and templates can be downloaded by following the links.
Quick note on Concealed Carry Firearms: The state of Florida does allow those with a concealed carry license to bring their guns to church. However, there is a HUGE caveat which I wrote about in another article “Can I Take My Gun to Church?” That caveat is whether your church also has a school (including preschool) on site. As any Conceal Carry Weapons Holder (CCWH) knows, it is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida to carry a weapon on school grounds, even if the school is not in session and even if the school is in another building. This means that if your church has a school on site, then bringing licensed firearm to church is a no-go. If you have CCWH staff or members they may be a great backup plan but shouldn’t be relied on as a primary response, especially if there is a school on-site.
3.) Develop a Plan
A formal Emergency Action Plan can encompass not only weather and medical-related emergencies but should also include a plan of action for intruders and unruly guests. A plan does nothing on its own, so once developed, the plan should be reviewed, and employees or volunteers trained annually.
Your Emergency Action Plan should include guidelines regarding: dealing with unruly people, evacuation plans, seeking refuge, observation and detention, and lockdowns. You can download a sample Emergency Action Plan here.
4.) Control the Entrances
While there may be multiple potential entrances throughout the church facility in the form of front, rear, and side doors, the risk conscious church leaders will control the entrances. Fire code requires that attendees can exit the building through all doors, but that doesn’t mean they have to be open for entrance at any time. The best scenario is to have only one or two doors open for entrance and all doors open for exit. This allows for the security team to be concentrated at minimal entry points and used most efficiently.
To view our complete risk management library of articles for churches and non-profits, click here.
John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAI is Client Advisor & Risk Manager at Gulfshore Insurance specializing in non-profit and religious organizations. John works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis and guidance. Comments and questions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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