According to FBI statistics, hate crime incidents, including shootings, have increased by 34.8% between 2014 and 2018. No religion seems to be immune – churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques have all seen attacks since 2012.
It seems contrary to what our hearts tell us – that places of worship are places of peace and safety. But it is logical in the minds of attackers who may have a special hatred for a particular religion or ethnic group, or who may want to attack a particular person they think will be in worship at that time. Both motives have been present in recent attacks, and houses of worship traditionally have less surveillance than places of business, so they are easy targets. Attackers go for the easy targets, whenever possible.
It is an unfortunate truth in our current era that all places where people congregate – including houses of worship – must take steps to prepare and protect themselves.
Religious leaders of houses of worship need to develop a “Church Security Plan” to address the different aspects of safety. A few things to consider:
- Review the interior and exterior of your premises to determine where assailants can easily enter or hide. Plan for volunteers to regularly walk the perimeter during services to check for any suspicious activity.
- Contact local police and fire departments to visit your location to get their suggestions and advice on how to improve safety on your premises.
- Create emergency response plans and training. Develop exit strategies in case of shootings, offer first aid training and CPR courses on your campus. Having well-prepared worshipers would be helpful for any emergency – harsh weather, fire, a congregant having a heart attack, or an accident on the premises.
- Tighten protocols about leaving doors open, access to keys, and other security issues. Though it may be contrary to the spirit of openness and acceptance, consider that new people coming to activities on your campus may be coming to case the building. Develop precautions.
Few houses of worship have up-to-date security systems or security cameras. Some now have livestream cameras in the worship area for livestreaming events, but no security cameras at the entrances or the exterior of the building. This is a critical aspect of your security system that should be corrected as soon as possible.
Another important component would be a gun detection system such as ZeroEyes, which also includes a powerful communications component that immediately sends messages to local 911 and first responders as well as to you and your staff the moment a gun is detected on your premises.
Mounted on your security cameras, ZeroEyes sends real-time data to law enforcement and your staff so you know exactly where the would-be assailant is and what he is doing. This provides you with the information you need to get your worshipers to safety and gives police the information they need to quickly neutralize the threat to your congregation. Exterior cameras would be very helpful for this purpose, possibly stopping an attacker before he enters the building.
Contact us today at ZeroEyes to discuss the steps you can take to safeguard your people so that they can continue to worship in safety and security.