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7 Ways to Protect Your Religious Institution from Forced Entry and Active Threats

Written By: Brad CampbellJanuary 26, 2024

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, temples, and other places of worship are meant to be places of peace and tranquility, so what can you do to protect your religious facility against outside threats, especially forced entry and active threats? 

Fortunately, protecting religious facilities from forced entry and active threats can be done using many of the same security strategies used by other types of commercial properties.

We’ve put together this brief guide to give you some ideas for how to protect your religious facility against forced entry, as well as how to keep building occupants safe in the event of a violent attack.

Do These 7 Things To Protect Religious Buildings Against Forced Entry and Active Threats

1. Use One Entrance in and Out of the Facility

Designate one main door as the primary way in and out for visitors and staff and ensure that all side and back doors remain locked and secure at all times. This helps control the flow of people in and out of religious facilities and makes it easier to identify forced entry attempts and possible active threat scenarios.

Depending on the perceived threat level, you can lock the principal entry 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 without letting down your guard.

2. Clearly Mark and Advertise the Exits

If you haven’t done this already, put up clear signs above emergency exits and indicate any evacuation routes that people should take in the event of an active threat incident or another emergency situation.

Make a point of letting your congregation members know where all the exits are, either by addressing it during a service or handing out informational 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 or have emergency egress mechanisms, so that people can get out quickly if it’s necessary in the event of any type of emergency.

3. Reinforce Glass Doors and Windows with Riot Glass® and ArmorPlast®

While controlling access in and out of religious facilities and keeping non-essential doors locked at all times can prevent intruders from simply walking into a religious building, they don’t mitigate the risk of an attacker breaking a window to open a door from the inside or climb through it.

Riot Glass security glass and ArmorPlast glazing shields solve this problem by creating virtually unbreakable access denial barriers over windows and doors. 

Riot Glass and ArmorPlast can be retrofitted onto a religious facility’s existing glass doors and windows or used to replace existing glass to protect against a range of threats including break-ins, active threats, and vandalism. 

These security glazing products use 100% unique formulations of laminated security glass, polycarbonates, acrylics, and other plastics that outperform and outlast comparable glazing products on the market, making them the most cost-effective way to physically protect any religious building and its occupants.

All Riot Glass and ArmorPlast products are forced entry-resistant and can withstand prolonged, determined attacks using common tools like hammers and crowbars or impacts from rocks, bricks, and other readily available objects, to varying degrees. 

For religious facilities with high threat levels, ballistic-grade Riot Glass and ArmorPlast is also an option. These bullet-resistant commercial doors and windows can stop a certain number of bullets from specific types of firearms commonly used in active threat attacks. The exact level of ballistic resistance is denoted by the glazing’s UL 752 rating.

Regardless of the solution you choose, Riot Glass and ArmorPlast will delay entry long enough to deter would-be intruders in many cases. The virtually unbreakable glazing will also keep your existing glass from shattering after repeated impacts, preventing it from flying dangerously inwards towards building occupants.

If a violent would-be intruder is trying to gain entry during a service, Riot Glass and ArmorPlast can give your congregation time to react by calling the authorities and barricading themselves inside or evacuating the facility. The glazing also buys time for the authorities to arrive and deal with the attacker, who will be easier to locate and neutralize if they can’t get inside the building.

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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.

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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, those inside can react by going into lockdown or evacuating 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, while 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 Emergency Plan

While the probability of an active threat scenario is low, violent attacks are something that all religious institutions need to plan for. 

Beyond implementing the security measures outlined above, protecting religious facilities against active threats requires a detailed active threat emergency plan. 

Religious leaders and their team members must create a security plan that outlines exactly what to do in the (hopefully unlikely) event of an active threat on the premises, including how to lock the building down and where everyone should go to stay as safe as possible.

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, you should schedule a threat assessment with a professional security consultant to evaluate your religious facility’s current security measures, identify weak points, and receive recommendations on your security plan and physical security measures.


The reality is that churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other religious facilities are not exempt from the threats that other types of commercial properties face. 

That’s why it’s of the utmost importance for any religious center to implement security measures that include physical access denial barriers for forced entry protection and comprehensive plans for how to react in emergency situations, including active threat scenarios. 

Contact us today for more information about how you can protect your religious facility from forced entry and active threats or to schedule a threat assessment with one of our security experts.

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