HOW TO BALANCE OPENNESS AND SECURITY IN FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS
On May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas, two gunmen opened fire upon attendees of a controversial event displaying caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Although no direct link to ISIS has been proven, there is no question that terrorists worldwide are bringing
their brand of fanatic violence to U.S. shores.
The world is becoming ever more dangerous, and few entities elicit greater threats than religious organizations. This puts faith-based organizations in the crosshairs of all sorts with axes to grind. But how can an organization with open doors be secured?
Trends in Security Threats
Terrorist threats; spree-shooters in schools, shopping malls and college campuses; and even random vandalism and theft all contribute to the need for increased security.
Faith-based organizations are turning more and more toward security services to protect their property and members, but often find their purpose and mission at odds with providing real security. Funds for faith-based organizations come primarily from the members, from the congregation, and these funds are expected to support education, outreach and/or worship. Nevertheless, for many large organizations, spending a portion of those funds on security has become necessary.
Real-World Security Solutions
Unfortunately, security breaches typically provide the biggest motivator to engage security services—after something bad has happened. A proactive approach is far more cost-effective than dealing with the aftershocks of a tragedy.
But prevention is harder to justify in budget discussions. People don’t see the benefits when security does its job. The security team can’t quantify how many incidents of vandalism, theft or violence are prevented, which makes it difficult to divert funds from a church’s youth programs or community ministry to security.
Despite these challenges, Sunstates Security offers these best practices for protecting large faith-based organizations, based on decades of experience securing these unique communities.
- Partnerships. Close working relationships with both the security team and local law enforcement is key to security. Everyone working together is the best way to protect the organization and its members.
- Emergency action plans. Organizations should develop an emergency action plan before the unthinkable happens. Members should know what to do in the event of a crisis, where to go, who to call, how to get to safety. Ideally, the plan should be developed with a security partner and law enforcement.
- Testing and assessment. An emergency action plan is most valuable if it’s tested, assessed and refined. This means planning, table-top exercises and drills to ensure that a plan that looks good on paper actually works in the real world. Preparedness saves lives during emergency situations.
- Education. The more that organizations can educate members about security, the more everyone will be on board. Posters, notifications, letters, notes in the weekly bulletin, etc., can all help raise awareness. An attitude of, “If you see something, say something,” empowers members to contribute to the safety and security of the community.
- Mass notification. The technological age has created many ways to communicate quickly with large numbers of people. Email and social media are acceptable—if often slow, maybe too slow in emergency situations—ways to accomplish this.
These best practices apply not only to faith-based organizations, but also to any organization that is, by its very nature, an open environment, including schools, college campuses, shopping malls, etc.
If you would like to know more about how your organization can improve its security, contact Sunstates Security.