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7 Ways to Protect Your Religious Institution from Forced Entry

By: Brad CampbellApril 7, 2020

Religious institutions of all types must face the ugly truth that they are potential targets of hate-motivated acts, from minor vandalism to violent attacks. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples are meant to be places of peace and tranquility, so what can you do to protect your religious facility against threats, especially an armed intruder attempting to force entry? We’re here to give you some ideas about how to protect your church or other religious facility against forced entry, as well as how to keep worshipers safe in the event of a violent attack.

1. Use One Entrance in and Out of the Facility

Ensure that all side and back doors remain locked and secure at all times. Use one main door as the primary way in and out for worshipers and staff. Depending on the perceived threat level, you can lock this door during a religious service once all the congregation members are inside or leave it open and monitored to allow latecomers or drop-ins to join the service.

2. Clearly Mark and Advertise the Exits

If you haven’t done this already, put up clear signs above emergency exits and indicating any evacuation routes. Make a point of letting your congregation members know where all the exits are, either by addressing it during a service or handing out leaflets that include a map of the facility with the exits marked. Remember to let any newcomers to your religious facility know about the exits as well. Ensure that these doors always remain unlocked on the inside so that people can get out quickly if it’s necessary.

3. Reinforce Glass Doors and Windows with Riot Glass

Riot Glass is an industry leader in mosque, synagogue, temple, and church protection. Riot Glass’s security window films, laminated security glass, and ArmorPlast shields can be retrofitted onto any religious facility’s glass doors and windows to protect against a range of threats including break-ins, active threats, and vandalism.  These products are the best way to physically protect your church or other religious institution.

For example, if your primary concern is preventing break-ins and vandalism, you can install security window film or security glass. These types of Riot Glass products can withstand attacks from common tools like hammers and crowbars or impacts from rocks and bricks, to varying degrees. Security glass and window film will delay entry long enough to deter would-be intruders in many cases and keep your existing glass from shattering after repeated impacts. 

If a violent intruder is trying to gain entry during a service, Riot Glass can give your congregation time to react by calling the authorities and barricading themselves inside or evacuating the facility. For the highest level of protection against active threats, Riot Glass offers a range of ballistic-grade ArmorPlast shields that can withstand multiple impacts from bullets of various calibers. Reinforcing your facility’s glass doors and windows with Riot Glass can truly be a life-saving decision.

4. Monitor Doors and Parking Lots

Assign volunteers and team members to keep an eye on all entry points to your religious facility, as well as patrol parking lots. Have them be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who might pose a threat to your mosque, synagogue, temple, or church. If you have the budget for it, consider hiring professional security personnel, who may be armed, to perform these tasks for you. These individuals will be the first line of defense and can save lives by spotting a threat before it’s too late.

5. Use Walkie Talkies for Communication

Give volunteers and team members walkie talkies and designate a channel to communicate on. This is a much quicker way to relay information throughout your religious facility than relying on cell phones. In the event of an armed intruder on the premises, someone who is monitoring the outside can quickly inform the person in charge of the inside. That way, you can quickly react to go into lockdown or evacuate the building through a back exit to keep everyone safe.

6. Assign Roles to Volunteers and Team Members

Find out who, if anyone, in your congregation has experience in areas like medicine, law enforcement, the military, and security. Ask them if they are willing to take on volunteer roles to help protect your church or other religious institution. For example, you could have someone with law enforcement or military background be responsible for securing the facility before each service begins. Someone with a medical background could be in charge of first aid and medical assistance in the event of an emergency.

7. Create an Active Threat Plan

How to protect your church from shootings is something that all churches and other religious institutions need to plan for. Religious leaders and their team members must create a physical security plan that outlines exactly what to do in the (hopefully unlikely) event of an active threat on the premises. It’s important to remember that shootings at religious centers aren’t always random mass shootings. They can also be targeted shootings related to domestic violence or other issues.

Even if you don’t feel like it’s necessary because you can’t imagine such a thing happening in your small, close-knit community, include an active threat scenario in your religious institution’s security plan anyway. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but it’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared. If you have no idea where to start, schedule a threat assessment with a security consultant to evaluate your religious facility’s current security measures, identify weak points, and receive recommendations on your security plan.

Conclusion

The reality is that churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples are not exempt from the threats that other types of facilities face. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance for any religious institute to implement security measures that include forced entry protection and plans for how to react in emergency situations, including shootings. Contact us today for more information about how you can protect your church or other religious center or to schedule a threat assessment.

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