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Securing Sacred Space: Is Your Church Safe?

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Mentioned below is an article from a professional security journal addressing the need for security reviews in houses of worship. 

The subject of providing physical security for churches, especially in America, is a more recent matter; although, forms of security have been present in large congregations dating back to the 1990s.

I coordinated security and protective measures for a couple of large congregations, and even extra measures were employed when high visibility national speakers or conferences occurred or key individuals (like a governor) were attending an event at the church.  On one occasion for the funeral of two police officers killed in the line of duty, I coordinated the various and complex protective and security measures with various protective details for the governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the mayor, the Director of Corrections, and two city councilmen.  Add to these VIPs, approximately 1,000 police officers from various departments, including Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs from various departments and then other high ranking commanders, and approximately 500 friends and family of the two fallen officers.  Take a moment and imagine the possible ramifications if a bomb exploded in the facility, or a crazed gunman worked his way into this large church (news media had posted all the details and times of the service for the public to review).  The air space over the 75 acre facility was closed, and the two hills overlooking the main entrance to the church had to be secured, as well as the perimeter of the church property with three roads onto the church property.  You can imagine how new all of this was for the pastor and staff, and members of the congregation.

How about a church congregation meeting in a school taking over virtually all classrooms and the main auditorium on Sunday.  Like many churches (although this has improved greatly over the past ten years), security considerations were more a PR problem; you know, be present but not seen and not engaged so as not to alarm any church attendees.  Then one Sunday the fire alarm went off due to a smoke issue in one of the science labs not being used.  Try moving 500 people in the middle of a service when no plans had been drafted for such an event; how about moving “Children’s Ministry” spread-out in classrooms; then the icing on the cake…evacuate the nursery of about 20 babies and toddlers!  Fortunately all was secure within minutes of the fire department’s arrival, and services continued.  But the reality caused quite a stir, and rightly so!

What about the individual who walks onto the church property but not to attend services?  How about a fight between ex-spouses over the taking of the child?  Or an active shooter situation across the street from the church with a police officer shot and killed (separate incident from the one mentioned above), and you need to place the church, nursery, children’s ministry, youth groups, various adult classes all on “lock-down – shelter in place” until the situation is secure and safe?  How do you handle people in-bound for the next service who have no idea of what has transpired?  And even a more likely scenario of a medical emergency in the congregation during the service?

The list of possible scenarios I have experienced is longer i.e.; a visitor begins actual child birth, a homeless person who is intoxicated wants to attend services but quickly commences a loud scene, and now with domestic terrorist threats increasing with churches considered “soft targets” the subject of security for worship centers is no longer an after-thought.  The issue of physical security for a church is not a simple matter nor should it be considered an annoyance.  And may I add that proper pro-active steps in this matter does not imply the church leadership has insufficient faith or trust in the Lord!

Please take the time to review this article.  If you are not involved with church security or protective matters directly, please consider providing the individual so charged with this article.  Better yet…provide your pastor and church leadership along with whoever is designated over church security this article.  It is way past-time for a serious and sober review of your church’s physical security and protective measures.

Recent attacks at houses of worship around the globe challenge security professionals with protecting open facilities on a limited budget.

https://sm.asisonline.org/Pages/Securing-Sacred-Spaces.aspx

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.

Lyle Rapacki

LYLE J. RAPACKI, Ph.D. is an intelligence, behavioral analysis and threat assessment specialist who has provided intelligence briefings and consultations to selected members of the Arizona State Legislature since June of 2010, on matters associated with Border Security and threats against the sovereignty of the state. He also provides consultations to elected and law enforcement officials across the country.

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