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Creating a state of security is an ongoing process, and not an endpoint. Shocking events reported in the media can cause congregations to take immediate action on emergency and security issues, but emergency planning is a long-term process. To be effective, it should be undertaken systematically and revised as needed. Regularly updating plans and policies and having training and drills are key to ensuring that people can use what they have learned.
A range of resources exist for congregations to plan for greater safety and security in the sanctuary and church environs. These cover a range of safety topics including natural disasters and man-made occurrences.
Thankfully violent incidents at churches are extremely rare. Although rare, they do occur and it can lend peace of mind to prepare for the eventuality in the same way that preparations are made for the eventuality of a fire. Both fire and violence at church seem unlikely eventualities, but they are sufficiently horrific that some preparation may help minimize possible damage or even prevent the occurrence. At the least, this preparation can help allay anxiety within the congregation.
A checklist (PDF) from Church Mutual Insurance is a starting point to assess security needs.
Other articles can be found in the resource collection from another of the major companies insuring houses of worship, Brotherhood Mutual.
For specific thoughts on security against gun violence see "Security Against Shooters," by Andrew G. Mills. The author is an officer in the San Diego Police Department.
Your local police and fire departments are willing to do some good consulting free of charge. Several of our Unitarian Universalist congregations have reported that their local services have been wonderful at this.
The Union for Reform Judaism has resources on synagogue management that include security planning.
The Anti-Defamation League's security document (120 pages) includes all aspects of planning, and low-cost ideas for all sizes of organization.
Protecting Your Church from Crime and Violence Price: $17.95. Nine chapters.
Confronting Gun Violence at Church Price: $17.95. Nine chapters.
For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
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