Churches all over the US will be very reflective this coming Sunday. They will be feeling sorry for the victims’ of the terrible shooting in Charleston, South California that killed nine church-goers who had assembled for a Bible study group at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday evening.
Even non-church goers were shocked at the mass shooting, and when I heard that he actually sat with the group for an hour before he pulled out his 45 and start shooting. I was raised in a typical Baptist family and my father taught Adult Sunday School for 36 years!
In those days, it never occurred to me that church was not the safest place in the world, however recent events prove that churches turn out to be very high on the list of places where there could be a possible attack, regardless of the religion, the geo location, or the racial composition of the group.
A recent FBI study showed that places of worship account for almost 4% of active shooter events (from the recent FBI Study of Active Shooter Events between 2000 -2014.)
While the media analyzes the event, the psychology of the shooter, his lack of education, his anti-social tendencies and extreme hatred, and the fact that he was taking mind-altering prescription drugs, I’d like to suggest that churches around the country DO A BETTER JOB OF PROTECTING THEMSELVES, THEIR CONGREGATIONS, AND THEIR FACILITIES.
As a Security Risk analyst, I get about 60 calls every week from facilities like hospitals, and manufacturing plants, and government agencies, and how many calls do I get from Houses of Worship? Maybe 1 every 6 months! That tells me that churches haven’t gotten serious about security.
No matter how strong your belief system is, church leaders need to understand that violence encourages more violence. There have been so many violent incidents in churches in the past few years that the Department of Homeland Security even published a Guide just for Houses of Worship on how to protect themselves.
It’s time to think about what it would take to improve the security program in your facility
to prevent an active shooter event from happening to you. And luckily, we have a guide to work with, and a Risk-Based Security program for churches, synagogues and other religious facilities.
Hospitals have had to address similar issues and have effectively used new technology to become less of a target. And hospitals have a lot in common with houses of worship because they are generally considered places of refuge, and they can both be associated with deep emotions like birth, death, and, even worse, marriage!
The entire security community has developed incredible solutions to keep facilities safe. If you’d like to see how you can improve your organization’s security profile, starting with a Security Risk Assessment, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; and I’ll send you the latest guidelines and a simple spreadsheet on how to start your own risk-based security program to improve safety and security in your House of Worship!