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How to Prepare for a Malicious Attack


Unfortunately, churches and schools have been targets of shooters and other violent scenarios, as we all know. This second article on preparing for unexpected violence is part of a series that will be appearing in Church Protection Guide throughout the year. You can read the first, about forming a response team, here.

Though attacks on churches are (thankfully) a rare occurrence, it is still a good idea for houses of worship to plan for the possibility of unexpected violence. After all, organizations prepare for natural disasters and other emergencies, so it makes sense for them to prepare for a malicious attack, as well.

The key ways in which to prepare for violent acts are to: anticipate, prevent, respond, and recover.


Often, the person who commits a violent act is known to a person or some of the people he/she attacks – and they have usually investigated the area and done some preparation.

Church members and staff need to stay vigilant and recognize when something is amiss. What that means is looking out for the absence of the normal or the presence of the abnormal.

And, church leaders should create an environment in which everybody in the church feels comfortable reporting suspicious behavior – and knows to whom they should report their suspicions.


The kind of physical security arrangements that prevent crime are also helpful in the event of a malicious attack. For example, it is a good idea to make sure that all of a church’s external doors effectively lock.

Respond and recover

If your church is in a situation where an active shooter event is occurring, follow the guidelines outlined by the Department of Homeland Security: Run. Hide. Fight.

If there is a threatening situation on or near your property, a potent response hinges on your organization’s ability to lockdown and shelter in place. This requires some advance planning.

It is likely that your church has constructed a plan for evacuation and has maybe even run some fire drills. Planning to shelter in place – and communicating those plans to your church members – is just as important. After all, shelter-in-place plans could be useful during a natural disaster, civil commotion, or security incident – not just during a malicious attack. These plans do not need to be complicated and should be in place just in case something happens in the vicinity of or on your property.

Figure out where you will instruct church members, staff, and volunteers to go if they should not leave the church premises. And, prepare and place an emergency kit, complete with food and water, in case people need to stay put for a long period of time.

What can be really important in stressful situations is the ability to get in touch with everybody quickly. Put together a contact list for church leaders’ to have on their mobile phones, as well as a hard copy of names and phone numbers of key people from the church.

Though it is unlikely that your church will face a malicious attack, being prepared can create peace of mind, for church leaders and members alike. 

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