In Texas, communities are often built around the churches where members worship. As such, many of these churches choose to manage their security needs in a communal way as well, relying on volunteer staff and deacons in order to preserve a welcoming atmosphere while avoiding the budgetary strain of more comprehensive security. However, this informal setup can have its drawbacks. Often, those volunteer security personnel aren’t familiar with serious incident response, or haven’t even considered the fact it may be needed at some point.
We only need to look to events like the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs to understand the risk our congregations face is very real. While managing security with volunteer staff can be helpful, churches must also provide resources which allow these individuals to respond quickly and effectively. Discreet electronic security systems can support volunteers while keeping them safe in the event of an incident.
Managing the Physical Security of a Church with Volunteers
Security can be intimidating. Having protection provided by people the parishioners know and trust supports a welcoming atmosphere. As these volunteers are often laymen, however, it’s critical they understand the basics of a church security plan. They should be able to answer the following questions:
- What happens in the event of a hostile intruder? Plans are needed for both after-hours and during services. Churches may be subject to burglary and vandalism as they’re often empty outside service hours. As such, a plan is needed for contacting law enforcement, preserving evidence and alerting insurance companies. The development and testing of response strategies for incidents like fires, natural disasters or hostile actors is also critical.
- Who’s in charge? Key personnel will execute the church security plan as needed, so they need to know their roles and responsibilities well in advance. While many might turn to the pastor to take on the leadership role in an emergency, this isn’t always feasible as the pastor must focus on reassuring their congregation. It’s best to have someone else handle the technical details of the emergency response, while every head member of the church should be informed and educated on the plan.
- What’s the evacuation plan? Most parishioners know one entry and exit point for their church: the way they come in every Sunday. They may not be aware of additional emergency doors and have likely never participated in a drill. The church should be zoned, with each zone assigned an emergency exit. This mapping prevents bottlenecking at the front door.
- What’s the emergency services contact plan? The emergency contact plan goes far beyond “Who calls 911?” It must also cover who will act as the first responder’s POC, providing information about the incident, people in need of help, available resources and other needed details.
These questions may be difficult to answer, especially if a church has never had to worry about hostile intruders before. However, not answering them now will be catastrophic if something does occur. Personnel may have little experience with real-world emergency response. Emotions will be high and vital tasks may be forgotten or overlooked. Electronic security provides the support these individuals will need to stay calm and effective during an emergency.
How an Integrator Supports the Church Security Plan
Integrated electronic security systems assist church members in responding to threats with clear, unbiased information and automated security procedures. Such systems help address church security plans in four ways:
- Triggering intruder response. Connecting after-hours intrusion detection with surveillance allows security to respond to alarms remotely by receiving the notice and then pulling up their IP camera feed. Such systems also provide evidence for law enforcement and insurance companies to speed investigations.
- Restricting unauthorized access. Magnetic locks can work with access control and other facility management software to schedule locking and unlocking of doors. These locks can also be triggered remotely for lockdowns. Credentials and databases can provide higher access to those who need it while also allowing church leaders to revoke access remotely.
- Establishing a digital blueprint. An integrated security plan starts with a digital map of the building’s key areas. The blueprint will list all areas of ingress and egress, security devices, and other essential parts of the infrastructure. Such blueprints allow stakeholders to see precisely where resources are and where potential security gaps lie.
- Connecting with outside help. Critical communications systems allow individuals to communicate with first responders from strategically placed IP call stations. These stations create a vital link in the event of an incident which can save lives. Shooter detection programs monitor for and validate gunshots and can connect directly to emergency services. These programs minimize false alarms while speeding response time.
A church security plan often relies heavily on volunteers, so those volunteers need an equally reliable system and an educated eye when it comes to protecting their church. Integrated electronic security gives them information, protection and the ability to communicate with outside help. Such systems offer a discreet way to protect parishioners so they feel safe and secure in their church community.
3Sixty Integrated can design an electronic security system for protecting all your parishioners and giving them a safe place to worship. Our solutions support your church security team to speed response in the event of an incident. For more information, call (210) 504-1731 or fill out our contact form.