MAY 5, 2016

Skill Set: Church Security

Lately we've seen a large increase in church security teams coming for firearms and tactics training. (I use the word "church" for any house of worship.) This is a good thing. According to one study violence at religious centers has increased over one thousand percent between the years 2005 to 2010. What's the answer to this problem? The same as it is for personal defense – awareness, planning and being prepared. Being aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. There are plenty of records and data out there to show the need for increased security. Like anything else, you need to be aware of the problem and institute procedures before something bad happens. For example when most people consider security they only think about violence or attacks. Think about natural disasters. In this area this means tornados. A big concern is protecting children and young adults from sexual abuse; youth programs are a happy hunting ground for sexual predators. Domestic problems have a way of showing up at religious centers. And yes, you need to be thinking about someone who hates your race, beliefs and/or religion and decides to attack. The time to prepare is before something bad occurs. Planning and putting together a security program for this type situation is a lot more involved than just getting a group together to discuss the issue. First, you have to develop procedures, and they must be written out. This is going to involve lawyers, to ensure everything you're implementing is legal. You need to check with your insurance company, again to be sure is all procedures comply with your policies. Consulting local law enforcement agencies is a must. They can supply information and help, and again you're confirming that your policies are in line with the law. It's also worth considering whether to have church members involved in the actual security program, hire it out to professionals, such as off duty law enforcement officers, or a combination of personnel. All procedures must be documented, laid out in a written format. If it's not on paper it doesn't exist. Everything, from what degree of response or force is appropriate for specific situation must be laid out. For example, what is the policy for individuals that carry concealed at your church but are not part of the security program? You need a plan in case a child goes missing, or for domestic problems, such as an unauthorized parent showing up at Sunday school demanding his or her child. There are a multitude of situations that need to be considered. Once this is done then it's time for training and practice. Security members that are armed must trained. The fundamentals are move, communicate, use cover, shoot if needed and think. These same things apply to personal protection. Using these skills for personal protection - you and your family are one thing - applying them in an environment as a team responding to a threat with hundreds of people in the environment is a whole other subject. At the top of the list of tactics for individuals is avoiding and escape. A security team must move towards the danger, yet still is as safe a manner as possible. A team means just that, a group of people responding in a controlled fashion. Techniques for communications, movement, controlling areas of responsibility and basic contact and cover tactics for two and three man teams are a must. After receiving training it's time for practice. During a violent event is not the time to discover major flaws in your response plan. With practice you determine how things are going to flow, identify any weak areas plus make preparations on what to do when Plan A doesn't work. There is a need for security in places of worship. A good resource is to start with is Sheep Dog Safety.This group holds seminars focusing on church security; I attended one of their presentations and highly recommend it. You need a response plan, and practice. You pray it's never necessary, but if violence erupts you have to be prepared. Keep in mind you can't be ready for everything, but you can be prepared for almost anything. Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - Website: