Church Safety and Security Plan – Start with a Simple Three Phased Process

A OneNewsNow.com survey of 4000 churches in 2008 found that 75% of them had no security plans!

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

“More guns are not the simple answer,” says Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org.

 After the November Texas shooting, many small churches reacted by seeking a qualified Carry Concealed Weapons holder.  A reaction is not a church safety and security plan.

Assessing your church’s vulnerabilities is the foundational step in understanding what your risks are and how to prepare.

Good Springs Church

Become Proactive Instead of Reactive in the Process

A thoughtfully written, communicated, and exercised plan of action for church safety and security is a much better and safer solution and it begins with a facilitated discussion with your congregation.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises identifying threats, developing goals, and planning courses of action. Then implement, review and consistently maintain your plan.

Take into account your geographic region. Are you subject to natural disasters like the New Madrid Fault in Western Kentucky or hurricanes at Tybee Island, Georgia? Perhaps you worship at a church in tornado alley, or you are subject to fires or floods.

Active shooters, disgruntled congregants, angry church members, sexual predators and hate groups are always possible threats.

Churches are “Soft Targets”

The American Crime Prevention Institute notes that criminals see houses of worship as “soft targets” for theft, robbery, embezzlement, vandalism, arson, and violence from hate crimes. They are “soft targets” because many don’t have security systems, are meagerly staffed, leave their doors unlocked, and never think of robbery when taking up an offering.

Jimmy Meeks, who retired after 35 years in law enforcement and has been a minister for 44 years, is a consultant with Sheepdog Seminars for Churches, a training firm focused on teaching church security measures.  He notes that sexual abuse can and does occur in the church, citing 23 sexual crimes reported at Protestant Churches every day.

Sadly, the recent Texas church shooting points out the vulnerability of congregations when it comes to active shooters seeking revenge and the importance of being prepared even in a small country congregation.

Three Initial Planning Phases

Regardless of the size of your church, now is the time to implement a six-step emergency planning process starting with three general phases.

The first phase is to form a collaborative planning “ministry safety and security” team. Collaborative teams are made up of congregant volunteers who are willing to “co-labor” and get the job done. Choose this team wisely. We will discuss criteria for such teams in a future column.

This team should consist of your pastor, deacons, principal leadership, local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, an attorney, and your insurance agent. Others to consider are people with private security, teaching, counseling, and crisis communications experience.

Whenever possible, your team should have a right mix of genders and ages on this team because people in their 60s will see issues differently than those in their 20s.

In the second phase, facilitate your planning dialogue and risk assessment using the Collaborative, Informed Consent model. This model starts with the premise that the team “agrees” to provide their consent to the plan because they collaborate to design it and become well informed about its use.

Kay Armstrong, a senior consultant at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates, explains, “This engagement model uses a structured facilitation process that allows for a candid discussion about the pros and cons of having a plan for church safety and security. Participants can freely talk about their fears, current issues, and the perceived risks. This process helps them realize the possible emergency scenarios that could face the church; how to prioritize them; and how to develop options to handle them.”

Once the numerous situations are listed, discussed, vetted and prioritized, the committee can develop well-defined goals and objectives, which is the third phase.

Further information

These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and from experts in church safety and security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vital role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security – and to realize that just carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is not enough.

Find additional information including an introductory video on church safety and security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. anyone interested in participating in a pilot webinar can register at our website for future presentation dates.

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Churches, irrespective of size, must plan to ensure the safety of their congregants #churchsafetyministry

Church - Country

Churches, like any other businesses in today’s environment, must take steps to ensure the safety of their congregations.

Because emergencies happen to all businesses, a thoughtful and resilient emergency plan of action is prudent.

As of December 19, 108 people were killed in churches in 2017.

When an active shooter on November 5, 2017, killed 26 people and wounded 20 at a rural Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas,  media, public, and political concerns reached a new high.

This church attack was the deadliest active shooting by an individual in Texas history and the fifth-deadliest in the United States.  It is the most devastating active shooting in an American place of worship in our history.

Such events disappear quickly from the front pages of  mainstream media, and many people, including pastors and congregants, resort to thinking, “it can’t happen to us.” Hopefully, it won’t.

Although the chances that your congregants will be involved in such an attack are slim, church leadership must accept the possibility and plan for this and all other possible emergencies.

Having worked in the field of crisis communications, prevention, and management for 40-years, I believe in and practice with my clients “ praying for the best while preparing for the worse.”

Organizations that do so will survive and recover; those that don’t suffer severe and often irreparable consequences.

This series of columns will provide insight into the questions that church leaders and pastors must consider as they plan for the safety of their congregants.

Planning for the necessary personnel to respond, the communication of the event, training church personnel, and the event follow-up should cover issues such as:

  • Why houses of worship need an emergency response plan and the types of emergencies to include.
  • The importance of a facilitated dialogue with leadership and congregants about developing an action plan that includes law enforcement, emergency response, legal and insurance personnel a process we call “Collaborative Informed Consent.”
  • Considerations of hiring professional security personnel or using volunteers, including a “talent inventory” from your congregants.
  • Conducting a risk analysis and evaluation of your church facility, parking lot, and personnel.
  • Why your institution is a “soft target” and how to “harden” it by quickly achieving “soft” and “hard” lockdowns.
  • Having trained “screeners” and the options for action they must take when an incident develops.
  • Understanding your internal and external communication needs and venues before, during, and after a crisis.
  • Considering non-lethal and lethal options.
  • How to gather intelligence and ensure confidentiality.
  • How to protect children and seniors who are the most vulnerable members of your congregation.
  • Understanding what an active shooter is and how they think.
  • The times of day and the days of the week your church is most vulnerable.
  • The role of active or retired military, law enforcement, and concealed carry permit holders on your security team.
  • What you must communicate to your congregation about your plan and what they must do in the event of an emergency, including an active shooter.
  • Whether you should post signage, and, if so, what should it say?
  • Establishing proactive establishment of post-event counseling and recovery assistance.
  • Teaching self-awareness and using the “see something, say something” strategy.
  • Pros and cons of “Run, hide and fight.”
  • The need for “Stop the Bleed” first-aid kits and training.

Further information

These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and those involved in church security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security and not just to conclude that carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is all you have to do to protect your congregants.

Interested persons can find additional information including an introductory video on church security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.churchsafetyministry.com. A pilot webinar is under development, and those interested in participating in this pilot can register at our website to receive announcements of future presentation dates.

Kathy Griffin, a victim?  How  lawyers tried to reposition pathetic behavior for their client

The Kathy Griffin debacle is the drama of the week for Hollywood celebrities attempting to regain purchase with the American public. Posing with a decapitated head of the President with blood dripping to the floor and a smirk on her face, Ms. Griffin somehow equated this with comedy and art giving no concern to the horrors that many families who have been defiled by ISIS in the same manner nor the trauma brought upon the President’s son.

Of course, her followers and those of her ilk also believe that an upside down crucifix in a bottle of urine should always be prominently displayed to reinforce the importance of art and their First Amendment rights of freedom of expression. Before you read further, I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of our Constitution. Many good men and women have died defending this document and your and my rights to freely express our opinions.

However, interestingly, I seem to recall from my journalism law classes that “screaming fire” in a crowded theater is not covered under the First Amendment of our Constitution nor are behaviors that can be deemed “true-threats.”

Kathy Griffin

Photo source: https://twitter.com/kathygriffin

I am sure someone as revered and influential as Ms. Griffin, who has already humiliated herself by apologizing for her tasteless art would not be held legally accountable for inciting violence, or would she?

Had Ms. Griffin stopped and exited stage left after her “eye-rolling” apology, shown some genuine contriteness and even called the President to apologize personally I postulate she might have been able to continue her moderately successful career.

Instead, taking a page from Hillary Clinton, she becomes the “victim.” She engages her lawyers. They advise her to quickly “apologize” for fear of further legal ramifications. Then as fast as possible her lawyers prepare her a script including the production of “crocodile tears” and delivering with much emotion as possible line “I’m broken.”  Ensuring she looks haggard, and with no makeup, Griffin trots out, and they stand beside her for moral support and to provide direction to observe how well she throws herself upon the victim wagon.

By the way, did anyone see how her press conference touted her legal expertise companions behind her on the marquee as if they were selling fresh meat of the week?

Kathy Griffin now proclaims through her anguish, all the while reminding folks she apologized because it was the “right thing” to do that she “feels” has been “broken” through a conspiracy of the President and all his family.

No, Ms. Griffin, you are a victim of your loutish behavior and shallow thinking. You broke yourself. You simply didn’t realize how broke you would be!

You have allowed your self- importance and belief that the art of comedy has no bounds. Perhaps, next time you should take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy the Malibu ocean view before inserting your foot into your proverbial mouth. Your sophomoric and boorish behavior should cause you some fear in reflection since you may have well crossed into the “true-threat” area of free speech which does have certain prohibitions.

There are, and always will be consequences to your behavior.

Anderson Cooper dumped you like day old milk so fast he didn’t have time to say anything; CNN drops you from the New Year’s Eve celebration after a day and a half of consideration, of course,  and I suspect there will be other consequences. Did you not learn anything from Michael Richardson affair (http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/michael-richards-my-racist-outburst-in-2006-was-a-reality-check-20152310) .

When Richardson overstepped the “societal” bounds and used the “N-word”, he was forced to apologize on national TV and do rounds with Al Sharpton, the Godfather, and Priest who can give redemption to all offenders.

All Presidents get their share of ridicule and abuse, Ms. Griffin. They are burned or hanged in effigy by protesters all the time who for whatever reason don’t agree with their politics. Your behavior went a tad bit too far.

The clarity of “true-threat jurisprudence remains a muddled mess,” even after a decade of trying to sort it out at the Supreme Court level. However, one thing I know Ms. Griffin your “shock and awe” came back to haunt you this time.

Are you a victim like Hillary? Not even close to playing it like her, kid!

Perhaps, the two of you can have tea one evening and cry over the spilled milk, and she can help you make a list of 101 reasons the public as a whole should forgive you since it wasn’t your fault but that of the President and his family.

I recommend that you look to one of your own for your next press conference statement instead of a bunch of lawyers.

“I felt ashamed for what I had done. I don’t have any excuses. I did what I did. I take full responsibility for myself and my actions. I wouldn’t pawn this off on anybody. I’m sorry it happened. And I hurt people.” Louie Anderson

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong is a crisis prevention and management consultant. 1.888.340.2006 www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

 

McGill University’s Water Main Break – Reminder: Conduct Regular Situation Assessments

When McGill University had to cancel classes due to a water main break recently, it reminds all of us of the importance of being prepared for such an infrastructure crisis. While most organizations conduct table-top exercises for major disasters even an infrastructure problem can become a major media issue.

When contemplating and planning for table-top exercises a comprehensive situational assessment review is essential. Doing a campus “walk-about” with key managers dealing with infrastructure issues on a daily basis is a prudent idea. Reviewing past concerns and issues and budgets for planned maintenance is also advisable. Don’t forget to review those areas where budgets have been eliminated or reduced as well.

Learn more about crisis, issues, emergency operations and designing table-top exercises at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com