Updated: Jul 20
Follow these 10 practical steps to enhance the safety of your congregation.
1. Establish a communication plan: Develop a system to keep church leaders and off-site members informed during emergencies, utilizing communication methods such as text messages for large-scale emergencies.
Pro Tip: Create a communication flow chart that details who should be contacted in the case of various types of events.
2. Communicate with the broader community: Designate individuals, preferably from the safety or security team, to contact emergency services promptly to prevent confusion or delays. Develop communication plans tailored to different situations and assign a church leader to handle media relations.
Pro Tip: Put a plan in place for communication with families of those affected by the event.
3. Build a safety team: Create a dedicated group responsible for preventing and responding to potential crimes. These individuals can also assist with communication and surveillance during events.
Pro Tip: Never overlook the importance of a safety team. Read our article detailing the benefits here.
4. Create a response team: This team should be comprised of individuals with some form of military or law enforcement experience– well-trained in crisis management, including effective communication and de-escalation techniques.
Pro Tip: Your safety team and your response team may consist of the same people- that is OK!
5. Collaborate with local law enforcement: Invite law enforcement personnel to tour your premises for recommendations on security enhancements. Sharing blueprints can aid their response in case of an emergency.
Pro Tip: Consider labeling different buildings on your premises to make them easier for responders to find quickly.
6. Develop a comprehensive plan: Anticipate various crime scenarios beyond active shooters, such as robberies, domestic violence incidents, or vandalism. Create prevention and response strategies for each scenario, share them with the safety team, and consider making them accessible to church members for feedback.
Pro Tip: As you plan for the possibility of crime or violence on church premises, consider all the potential events that could occur- from an altercation breaking out between family members to vandals throwing rocks at your stained-glass windows, etc.
7. Secure services and events: Implement measures like locking side and rear doors during events to guide attendees through designated entrances. Assign greeters to monitor access and either let in or turn away visitors.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave unused areas unlocked and discourage individuals from straying from the event area.
8. Enhance exterior visibility: Trim vegetation that could provide cover, particularly near windows and entrances. Install adequate lighting to eliminate dark areas.
Pro Tip: Make sure that parking lots and play areas are adequately illuminated.
9. Utilize signage and labeling: Clearly display address numerals and plaques indicating the church's name and denomination, making it easier for emergency services to locate the premises. Label different buildings for easy identification and emergency response.
Pro Tip: Ensure that your signage is visible!
10. Continuously improve and adapt: Regularly review and update safety plans based on new information or past incidents. While there is no way to completely secure church members and property from being affected by crime, taking these steps will go a long way toward increased safety.
Pro Tip: Flexibility and a willingness to learn are crucial for enhancing security.
Don't wait until an incident occurs to take action. Empower your congregation with the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure a safe and secure place of worship.
Download the Crime & Violence Handbook for Churches today!
This content has been prepared by United Methodist Insurance Company (UMI) for informational purposes only. No article or document may accurately contemplate all possible scenarios or church resources. As such, this information is meant to foster discussion by the individual church and its members to develop a plan tailored to its own circumstances. UMI is providing this information with no warranties or guarantees of any kind and it should not be viewed as legal, financial, or other professional advice. All liability is expressly disclaimed. Any claim examples described herein are general in nature, may or may not be based on actual claims, and are for informational purposes only. Any coverage available for a claim is determined from the facts and circumstances of the claim as well as the terms and conditions of any applicable policy, including any exclusions or deductibles. In the event of a conflict with the content herein, the terms and conditions of any issued policy will control. Individual coverage may vary and may not be available in all states.
The commercial insurance coverages for United Methodist Insurance are sold and serviced directly or indirectly by Sovereign Insurance Agency (CA Lic. No. 0B01380) ("Sovereign") and underwritten by various available insurance markets. Sovereign pays United Methodist Insurance a royalty for the use of its intellectual property.