Equipping Religious Leaders and Staff for Crisis Management

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Gary's Blog

Faith-Based Security Training

Equipping Religious Leaders and Staff for Crisis Management

Faith-based security training involves equipping religious leaders and staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively manage crises and ensure the safety and security of their congregation and facilities.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Soft Targets and Crowded Places (ST-CPs), such as sports venues, shopping venues, schools, and transportation systems, are locations that are easily accessible to large numbers of people and that have limited security or protective measures in place, making them vulnerable to attack. Your House of Worship is much like a School Campus.  Just because something bad could happen at your House of Worship does not mean bad things will happen.

Faith-based security training involves equipping religious leaders and staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively manage crises and ensure the safety and security of their congregation and facilities. This type of training recognizes the unique challenges and vulnerabilities faced by religious organizations and aims to empower them to respond effectively to various threats, including natural disasters, acts of violence, and other emergencies.

Here are some key components and considerations for faith-based security training:

1. Risk Assessment

Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities specific to the religious institution. This may include assessing the physical security of the facility, as well as potential risks related to the congregation, local community dynamics, and current events. Reach out to your county or state Emergency Management Agency to obtain a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA). A THIRA traditionally follows a three-step risk analysis process, asking: What threats and hazards can affect the congregation? If they occurred, what impacts would they have on the community? Based on these impacts, what capabilities should the community have in place?

2. Emergency Response Planning

Develop detailed emergency response plans tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the religious organization. This includes establishing protocols for various types of emergencies, such as evacuation procedures, sheltering in place, and communication plans. There are many templates and plans available online, but your Emergency Operation Plans (EOP) should be tailored specifically for your House of Worship.

3. Security Measures

The first phase of emergency management focuses on prevention and mitigation.  Prevention may involve installing security cameras, access control systems, alarm systems, and other physical security measures, as well as training staff on how to use them effectively. Mitigation means shortening the duration of the event and reducing the harm and damage from the event.  We cannot prevent a tornado from striking during a service, but we can minimize the impact by moving the congregation to a tornado-safe area of the building.

4. Crisis Communication

Establish clear communication channels and protocols for disseminating information to the congregation and coordinating with relevant authorities during emergencies. This includes ensuring that all staff are trained in how to effectively communicate with congregants and respond to inquiries from the media and other stakeholders.

5. Active Threat Preparedness

Provide specialized training on how to respond to active threat situations, including recognizing the warning signs of potential violence, implementing lockdown procedures, and coordinating with law enforcement. If your security team is armed, additional training will be necessary.

6. First Aid and Medical Training

Offer training in basic first aid and medical response techniques to enable staff to provide immediate assistance to those in need during emergencies. Most public places have Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and staff are trained in how to use them.  Consider adding bleed control equipment and training.

7. Continued Training and Drills

Conduct regular training sessions and emergency drills to ensure staff are prepared to respond effectively to various emergencies. Although many want to focus on Active Threat Events, be sure your staff is trained on the events most likely to occur, such as a medical emergency. You may have the best EOP ever written, but without an exercise to test your capabilities outlined in your plan and your training, all you have is a good theory.

By providing faith-based security training, religious organizations can enhance their ability to protect their congregation and facilities while promoting a culture of safety and preparedness within their community. Collaboration with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies can further strengthen security efforts and facilitate a coordinated response to emergencies.

Free Download Available

Download this Protecting Your House of Worship poster for free to print and refernce in your office, or share with a colleague.

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How does your house of worship prepare for possible crises?

Are your staff well-trained?

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