Security for Worship Houses

This month we’ve gone to an industry expert for their assessment of how to secure houses of worship. Frank


Harlick: How do you even begin to secure the facility against people that could disrupt a service or even what we’ve seen in the news lately, church shootings? Are armed volunteer or paid guards the way to go these days?
Santamorena: Violent acts and incidents of terrorism are impossible to predict or prevent. The panic and pandemonium that follow an incident makes rational response even harder. You can’t rely on your instincts in these situations — instincts are often wrong. Many people just freeze. The one thing you can do is establish an incident response protocol so as to know what you would do if an incident occurs. The components of your protocol should include: A procedure for evacuation or lockdown: Routes and meeting places should be established: First Aid: Who is trained to provide it?  You should have a communication procedure. Something as simple as who places the call to 911? Then, who alerts your staff and your members? How do you alert them? And who would handle media inquiries? Talk to any emergency responders in your area; see if your local police department has a Special Weapons or Tactics Unit — a SWAT team. Depending on the geographical location, having an armed volunteer or paid guard should be determined by the Board of Directors at the Worship Center.  These are personal decisions and should be discussed for the safety and security of the members of that Worship Center.

Harlick: Is there a specific time of year when these facilities are more vulnerable than others?
Santamorena: We are creatures of habit. Our bills lie in the kitchen; our keys placed close to the door; our personal possessions and jewelry stored in our dresser drawers. Because these are the things for the most part we take for granted, during the holidays worship centers are just as vulnerable if not more likely to experience a crime for several reasons; money, money, money. Be it Passover or Easter, Hanukah, Kwanza, Christmas, or Festivus-whatever you call it, there is more money lying around. People become very generous in the season to be merry; and then there are those who have less, and are looking for more. 

Harlick: Why should they approach this type of facility? 
Santamorena: Sure, the sale is wonderful but it is the “feel good” factor in our hearts and souls that is the ultimate goal. Helping others and not looking for something in return has rewards far beyond what I am able to articulate with words.

Frank Santamorena PSP is the Principal of Security Experts, a security consulting and systems design firm. Board Certified as a Physical Security Professional with more than 20 years of experience working in all phases of physical building security, he has worked with clients to recognize critical security issues, architecting and designing customized solutions and ensuring client satisfaction. He demonstrates specific expertise in designing comprehensive solutions integrating security/access control, CCTV, visitor management systems, turnstiles, elevator destination dispatch systems, and building automation systems.