Safeguarding Houses of Worship

Reports of mass shootings and other threats to public safety monopolize the headlines. Houses of worship have been targeted along with malls, military recruitment centers, schools, theaters and other gathering places. Technology resources can be applied to identify vulnerabilities, strengthen security and create plans to respond to emergencies of any size.   

NIJ has created an app that will help local law enforcement work with houses of worship to evaluate facilities and create plans for preventing attacks and prepare for other catastrophic events. To access this FREE app, public safety officials should send the following information to asknlectc@justnet.org from your official agency email account:

Type Safeguarding Houses of Worship App, then provide:

  • Your name.
  • Your title.
  • The name of your agency.
  • How many copies of the app you need to distribute to your local houses of worship. One copy of the app is required for each device that will use it.   
  • Your mailing and email address.
  • Which version (iOS or Android, and how many of each).

You will receive an email with an access code and instructions for downloading the Safeguarding Houses of Worship App.  Staff from a house of worship wishing to access the app should contact a local law enforcement agency, and have the agency request the app.  For any questions relating to getting or using the Safeguarding Houses of Worship App, please contact asknlectc@justnet.org

JUSTNET has compiled a resource list for houses of worship to use in collaborating with community leaders and first responders. Bookmark this page and check back often for updates.

Resources

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company offers a site that includes free resources on safety and risk management, church security, background screening and legal assistance at http://store.brotherhoodmutual.com/pages/free-resources, as well as a guide titled “10 Things Every Church Administrator Should Know About Safety and Security” at http://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/www/?linkServID=BEF1EC9B-5056-9600-43CF7BB8D33EE4C2&showMeta=2&ext=.pdf.

Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California reprints an article titled “Securing God’s Sanctuary – How to Protect Your Congregation from Attacks” originally published in the Los Angeles Sentinel.
https://crcc.usc.edu/securing-gods-sanctuary-how-to-protect-your-congregation-from-attacks/

The Christian Emergency Network (CEN) is a network that equips Christians to serve communities in crisis. Their ReadyChristian, ReadyChurch and ReadyCity curriculum present a preparedness and action plan for response. Churches and community networks can use the Ready Series to assess readiness, prepare, and then mobilize for an individual, church or community-wide response. In addition, CEN provides a social platform for organizing volunteers, connecting with other churches, and community outreach. Additionally, CEN assisted in developing the DHS/FEMA House of Worship EOP Guide along with the nation's first DHS Active Shooter Faith-based Organization Table Top Training.
www.christianemergencynetwork.org

Church of the Brethren provides “Checklist for a Church Emergency Management Plan,” a guide for the leadership of a church or temple to evaluate its readiness to respond to an emergency, via its website.
http://www.brethren.org/bdm/files/checklist_for_a_church_emergency_management_plan.pdf

Facilities Management Guidelines for Meetinghouses and Other Church Property from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints includes a section on emergency management.
https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/08636_eng.pdf?lang=eng

Church Security offers a free Church Security/House of Worship Vulnerability Assessment Program at this site: http://www.surveyessentials.com/

The city of Denton, Texas, has posted a brochure titled “Violence Prevention Tips for a House of Worship.” Although resources listed are local, the brochure includes tips that are useful to a general audience.
http://www.cityofdenton.com/home/showdocument?id=5737

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Protecting Houses of Worship page contains resources for faith and community leaders to assist with preparing for emergency situations. Through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, FEMA brings together government and faith- and community-based partners to assist houses of worship to prepare for, and mitigate against, disasters and emergencies by providing tools, training and technical assistance. Many of these resources are at no cost and complement the Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship (see separate entry). http://www.fema.gov/protecting-houses-worship

Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship provides houses of worship with information regarding emergency operations planning (EOP) for the spectrum of threats and hazards they may face. It discusses actions that may be taken before, during and after an incident in order to reduce the impact on property and any loss of life, and it encourages every house of worship to develop an EOP. It resulted from a collaborative effort between the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Health and Human Services; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the FBI.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/developing_eops_for_houses_of_worship_final.pdf

Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church offers church security training materials (“Helping to Make a Safe Church”) on its website. http://www.igrc.org/files/tables/content/815363/fields/files/c26aee5e95ba4e99a68fba831a30606c/help-to-make-a-safe-church.pdf

International Association of Chiefs of Police includes an article titled “Advising Houses of Worship on a Comprehensive and Balanced Security Plan” on its website at http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1845&issue_id=72009

Lynchburg Faith Watch Program, located in Lynchburg, Va., has posted a brochure titled Preventing Crime in and Around Faith Buildings. Although resources listed are local, the brochure includes tips that are useful to a general audience. http://www.lynchburgva.gov/sites/default/files/COLFILES/Police/General_Photos/Documents/Faith%20Watch.pdf

The Martindale Legal Library gives access to an article titled “Church Security:  Concealed Weapons and Cowboys” at http://www.martindale.com/security/article_Rothgerber-Johnson-Lyons-LLP_831598.htm

Produced by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) of the United Kingdom, on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Terrorism and Allied Matters (ACPO TAM), Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Places of Worship offers protective security advice to those who are responsible for security in places of worship.
http://www.continuityforum.org/sites/default/files/images/CT%20Advice%20Places%20Of%20Worship.pdf

Read Active Shooter in a House of Worship, a tip sheet from The National Disaster Interfaiths Network, at http://www.n-din.org/ndin_resources/tipsheets_v1208/07_NDIN_TS_ActiveShooter.pdf

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has produced Safety and Security Guidelines for Parishes and Religious Education Programs, which includes a focus on faith-affiliated schools.
http://www.pilotbulletins.net/weeklymailing/RiskMgmt_SafetySecurityGuidelines.pdf

Recommended Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship for People of All Faiths, developed by ASIS International, can be accessed from the website of the Sacramento (Calif.) Interfaith Organization.
http://sacramentointerfaith.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ASIS-best-practices.pdf

How to Assess the Safety and Security of Your Place of Worship,” is a guide written by Tina Lewis Rowe, a career law enforcement officer from Denver, Colo., and made available on the website of the government of Santa Rosa County, Fla. http://www.santarosa.fl.gov/coad/documents/SafetyinChurch.pdf

The website of the Unitarian Universalist Association includes information on “Building Security in Churches,” which it terms an ongoing process. http://www.uua.org/safe/117545.shtml