Churches need to increase security layers
The “House of Worship” is a building intended for the performance of divine services and religious rituals. It should be a safe haven for worshippers to gather, but in recent days it has become a target for deranged individuals with ill intent. According to data from the FBI there have been 11 attacks on Houses of Worship between 2000 – 2018 accounting for slightly more than 4% of all active shooter incidents during the time frame. Business locations accounted for more than 43%, schools accounted for more than 20%, and government facilities accounted for slightly more than 9%. So why should we be alarmed that Houses of Worship are barely in the mix?
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin (2012), the First Baptist Church in Texas (2017), the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pennsylvania (2018), and the most recent incident at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the town of White Settlement, TX (2019) should all serve as a wake-up call to assess the security measures among our Houses of Worship.
Hardening of “Soft Targets”
Since the recognition and frequency of active shooter incidents, the United States has initiated the hardening of “soft targets”. A "soft target" is "a person or thing that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to the military or terrorist attack. Locations with large concentrations of people in compact areas like schools or business settings have always been “soft targets” and vulnerable to attack because of their lack of security and gun-free declarations. Consequently, it has been very easy for an armed individual intent on killing masses of people in a confined area to tally a high fatality rate before law enforcement response stops the threat. So, in response to the frequency and severity of active shooter incidents occurring at these locations, security measures have been upgraded. There has been a massive movement towards limiting access to buildings, hiring security personnel or School Resource Officers (SRO), installing door barricades, acquiring less-lethal defense systems, mandating safety drills, and even arming faculty or other personnel. These once high percentage soft targets have quickly become hardened because of the perceived need to safeguard lives. Just as water will take the path of least resistance, so will evil.
Our Houses of Worship have always been sacred, welcoming, and mostly void of security measures. In short, the perfect soft targets. We can no longer position our congregations facing the pulpit, backs turned away from the door, and their minds contemplating safety over spiritual fulfillment. How can we provide a safe and more secure environment?
Initially, we must increase awareness of our surroundings. Learn to be more judgmental, not of people, but rather, of their actions. What stands out about others? Is their behavior noticeably nervous, angry, or agitated? Do they appear to be loitering in an odd area? Are they wearing over-sized or out-of-place clothing? Trust your gut feeling because it’s usually right.
Increase Our Security Layers
Secondly, we must increase our security layers. It is vital to conduct a vulnerability assessment of your normal operating procedures. Do you openly advertise your House of Worship as a “gun free zone”? Do you have a limited access to the House of Worship? Do you have a specific Emergency Operational Plan? Do you have a Security Team in place to safeguard the congregation while in worship? Do you conduct active shooter drills on an annual or semi-annual basis? Do you have safe spaces to flee to that can prevent unwanted access?
Escape from the point of contact should be emphasized if applicable to the circumstance. If you can get out, you should get out. If escape is not a practical option, then the decision should be made to shelter in place and restrict access to potential victims. Close the door, lock the door, and then barricade the door. The use of furniture like desks, chairs, and filing cabinets can be helpful to prevent room entry, but is often times very labor intensive and time consumptive. The Bolo Stick door barricade device can secure a door against more than 4,200 pounds of force and operates in one simple step. Its simplistic design is comprised of three components made from solid steel and counters the effect of stress on fine motor skills during critical incidents. The ease of engagement allows anyone to secure a room against unwanted entry in seconds. It is critically important to buy the time needed for law enforcement response and Bolo Stick provides you with the security and peace of mind needed.
Endorsed by the NOCSSM
The Bolo Stick door barricade is easily installed on any in-swing or out-swing door. The Safety Mount is attached to the door with the use of two stainless steel security screws. The Safety Anchor is inserted into the existing floor surface and flush mounted. Installation is complete. When the securing of a room is needed, simply insert the Safety Pin through the Safety Mount and into the Safety Anchor. There is no special knowledge or training required.
Bolo Stick is currently securing churches, schools, business offices, and government agencies throughout the United States and internationally in four countries. While it is chosen for its strength and ease of use, its affordability at just $59 per unit is quickly making it the most sought-after door barricade device on the market. The Bolo Stick door barricade device is endorsed by the NOCSSM (National Association of Church Security & Safety Management).
Clearly, it is not an easy task to harden our Houses of Worship, but it is a necessary one. The suggestions for doing so should not be construed as all-encompassing or fail proof, but rather as tools to be placed into your security toolbox for selection as needed. Each location will present its unique set of obstacles, physical barriers, and even resistance from some of the congregation. However, it is imperative to emphasize that the increased frequency of attacks on Houses of Worship make it essential to begin the process of making your church safe for all. Indeed, there is no single action that will provide 100% safety against the violence in an evil mind, but the building of layered protective options greatly increases the chances of survival.
May God bless you and continue to keep you safe.
Be aware, proactive, and safe.
Bill Barna, President, Bolo Stick LLC
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