Everyone that attends a house of worship is looking for a place to center themselves, engage with their community, surround themselves with like-minded people, do good for their community or seek solace in their faith during hard times. Houses of worship are cornerstones of their community, and where people choose to worship rarely has much to do with how close it is to home. People look for a space where they feel like they belong when they seek out a house of worship. Unfortunately, these spaces that are supposed to be warm and welcoming have become a target for violence. Houses of worship need to find better ways to tighten security, but how can they move forward to protect their congregation and community?
Why do houses of worship need specialized security?
Houses of worship are seeing an increase in violent attacks, which raises a serious concern. While some public or commercial facilities can choose to adopt a more traditional security plan that includes access control systems, extensive video surveillance, and rigorous security integration, the unfortunate reality for many houses of worship is that these aren’t all viable options.
One of the first issues is funds. There are some megachurches out there that can afford video surveillance systems that are modern, high-quality, and well-integrated. That’s great for them, but they’re in the minority. The vast majority of houses of worship are small, and they simply do not have the funds for extensive security networks to protect themselves and their congregation.
The other reason houses of worship require specialized security, and possibly the most important reason, is the simple fact that these are meant to be places of comfort and community for those who worship there. A house of worship needs to be welcoming to everyone, from veteran congregation members to brand-new individuals and families that are looking for a safe place to practice their faith. If you walk into a house of worship and are greeted by an access control security panel demanding identification and a weapons detection system, you’re probably not going to feel very welcome. A higher level of security is required, but it needs to be balanced carefully to maintain a feeling of comfort and the welcoming atmosphere houses of worship are known for.
A very useful resource that has been created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Mitigating Attacks on Houses of Worship,” is a free online resource that goes a lot more in-depth about the specific issues houses of worship face, what holistic security is, and how these establishments can apply it. Ultimately, developing a holistic security strategy is centered around taking everything into account (building, events, etc) and finding ways to design an all-encompassing security strategy that keeps the congregation protected at all times.
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