Let’s do this!

Yesterday we discussed identifying which risks your church might be most vulnerable to, and how we should look into mitigation measures. Unfortunately, we need to realize that mitigation measures will often be based on a budget that the church has set. In some instances, the church may set large budgets, while in other cases, there may be no budget at all. Even when there is no budget, mitigation measures can still be implemented.

When looking at mitigation measures, you should look at the cost effectiveness of that measure. To describe this, I will use mitigation measures for church security against an active shooter as an example.  In this example, the church will have under 100 people that attend service every Sunday, and 20-30 people attend on Wednesday night. Mitigation measures identified could include locking all but the main door, trained greeters at the main door, security cameras, security film on the front door (glass window), locking all doors after the service starts, electromagnetic door locks, an unarmed Safety and Security Team, concealed carry card holders in the congregation, a hired security team, and hired law enforcement. These were all of the mitigation suggestions made by the sub-committee, who also gathered the price of each, and they are bringing this information to a full committee meeting.

  • Locking doors- $0.00
  • Trained greeters at the main door-Training of 10 people-$200 (one time expense)
  • Security cameras-Four cameras and DVD drive to record-$375 (one time expense)
  • Security film on the door windows-$385 (one time expense)
  • An electromagnetic door lock-$125 (one time expense)
  • Unarmed safety and security team-Training for 15 people- $500
  • Concealed carry card holders in the congregation-$0.00 (volunteers)
  • Hired security-$50 per hour (per person)
  • Hired law enforcement-$85 per hour (per person)

While the costs are made up, they should be close to what would be actually charged. Looking at these costs, the church needs to look at their budget, and do a cost-benefit analysis. Many of these costs are a one time expense, or one time per year cost. Secondly, they need to determine what their budget is, and compare it with an analysis of what their return on investment might be. Finally, they must evaluate what is needed, based on how probable the risk is. So if there is a high probability of an active shooter, then they may want to hire two or three police officers (if they can afford it). If the probability is low, then they may want to stick with in-house mitigation measures.

It is also important to note that mitigation measures can also be implemented over a period of time. Still using the example above, they may determine to lock all of the doors, to implement the Safety and Security Team, and integrate the Concealed Carry card holders into that team as a first step. They could then choose to spend a certain amount per year (over 5 years) for security mitigation measures, or they could be implemented as the money comes available. In both of these instances, it is important that future purchases for mitigation measures are prioritized based on what is most needed first, rather than choosing what you can afford as time goes on. By prioritizing them based on the most effective, then the Safety and Security Committee will not be lulled into a false sense of security.

Of course, the committee will need to discuss all of these measures and determine which will be most applicable to their situation. Once it all the measures has been discussed, then a vote should be taken. Even after deciding which mitigation measure to implement, the Safety and Security Committee is not finished, there is still more work to do! We will discuss the next step tomorrow; implementing the plan. Until then, stay safe, … Mark

Identifying Risks

Identifying risks is an extremely important part of keeping your congregation safe.  Looking back to yesterday, I talked about letting the Safety and Security Committee contemplate what specific risks might affect your church and congregation.  As I like to say “How can you protect a congregation if you don’t know what might hurt them?” Today, we will discuss what to do with everyone’s thoughts on risk.

After some time to contemplate over what risks might affect your church, there should be another committee meeting. At that meeting, everyone should provide a list of what risks might affect the church. Everyone’s list should be compiled into a “master list” that documents every risk mentioned. After the Master list has been compiled, then there should be a discussion that rates every risk in numerical order based on the input of committee members. That order should be based on the likelihood that the risk identified will actually happen. The easiest way to do this is to list the first risk that is most probable of happening and come to a consensus. If a tornado is the most likely risk to happen, then it should be number one. If a medical emergency is the second most likely risk to happen, then it should be labelled number two, and so on. Once the risks are prioritized, then the committee can go on to figuring ways to mitigate the risks.

Mitigation measures are actions the committee can take to reduce the severity of the risk, or in totally making a risk non-existent.  As an example, a mitigation measure for a medical emergency may be to implement a church medical team. This could be nurses, doctors, EMT’s, and firefighters that attend the church, who can help stabilize any medical emergencies until more help arrives. The purchase of an AED may help mitigate the effects of a heart attack in the church, while a first aid kit may help mitigate the affects of someone bleeding. This is done by putting gauze on the wound and applying direct pressure. All of these are mitigation measures.

When it comes to ways to mitigate the risks, there are several methods that have proven successful. The first is forming several subcommittees and assign each of the subcommittees two risks that they will research and make recommendations. Research is an important part of mitigating these risks.

It is not hard to research mitigation measures. FEMA provides some basic mitigation measures, and just about any search engine will provide some good results if you type the name of the risk (tornado, flood, severe weather, etc.) and the words “mitigation techniques” or “mitigation strategies”. Additionally, you can talk with local public safety people and see if they might have suggestions, especially emergency managers. You can also call safety consulting companies and non-profits that specialize in church safety (such as Saving Lives and Souls, Warnick and Associates, and Sheepdog Seminars).

When coming up with mitigation measures, three things are commonly forgotten about:

  • Considerations for disabled and elderly
  • Considerations for children
  • The need to train the entire church

Failure to address these issues will bring about an incomplete mitigation plan. This incomplete plan will put some or all of your congregation at risk. Every effort should be made to identify all types of mitigation possible, including new and fresh ideas.

Tomorrow, I will discuss how to determine what mitigation measures the church should adapt, long-term goals to adapt others, and which mitigation measures should be scrapped. As always, stay safe and may God bless you, … Mark

 

 

First steps in planning to prevent an active shooter.

As I mentioned yesterday, preparedness is an important aspect of preventing an active shooter or bomber. It is also an important way to survive one. The shooter that has come into your church or business has prepared. They know EXACTLY what they are going to do, and how they will do it. The way to overcome their preparedness plans is to have plans of your own. In some instances, churches have done one or two things to addresses security, and then they forget about it. Throwing a plan together haphazardly can give you a false sense of security, so I encourage you to take your time and do it properly. This is why I am discussing the planning and preparedness aspect in such detail.

In order to create a plan, you should first create a Safety and Security Committee.  It is critical that you form a committee rather than use one or two people to plan for disasters and emergencies. When you use one or two people, you have a perspective from only one or two people rather, than 5 or more individuals. In most instances, using a mix of individuals will provide a 360 degree view of potential risks, vulnerabilities, mitigation measures, evaluating mitigation measure as well as other issues.

Think of it this way, if you only had a young able bodied person creating the plan, they may forget about elderly individuals and those with disabilities. If you use only older individuals, they may forget about children, or even the capabilities of young and middle age adults. Additionally, if only one or two people are responsible for all aspects of planning, they may miss something, while the likelihood of a group of people missing something is substantially less. In this instance, five (or more heads) are better than one.

When asking for, or appointing, committee members, try to get a good cross-section of individuals. Even if there is a large contingency of police officers in the congregation, you should never put more than one or two on this committee. Why? Because they will in most instances be led by their police training. Again, a cross-section gives you a 360 degree view from every aspect of your church (or business).

Once a committee is formed,  it is important to let everyone in your congregation know who these committee members are, and that they are available to listen to any concerns. Being available to listen to congregant concerns can be extremely helpful, and they may help guide the committee to identify other risks that the committee may have not thought of. The input of other congregants should at least be considered, but the committee is not required to take any other action, unless of course they think it is a viable risk.

In the initial meeting of the Safety and Security Committee, the members should choose the leadership of the committee. They should decide who should be appointed or elected as the committee leader, the alternate leader, and they should choose a secretary who will be required to keep good notes. After determining the leadership, then the committee will need to discuss the risks that the church may be vulnerable to. It is important to note that I did not say only the risk of an active shooter, but rather all risks.

For the Safety and Security of the congregants, every potential risk should be evaluated. This should include if the risk listed could happen to your specific church, and if it is possible, how it could affect the church. This holds especially true if the incident happened during a time when people will be in church. Disasters that should be considered might include:

  • Attacker(s) with knife, bat, etc.
  • Active Shooter(s)
  • Avalanche
  • Car Bombs
  • Dam Failure
  • Drought
  • Earthquake
  • Erosion
  • Expansive Soils
  • Extreme Cold
  • Extreme Heat
  • Flood
  • Hail
  • Hurricane
  • Landslide
  • Lightning strikes
  • Medical Emergencies
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Severe Winds
  • Severe Winter Weather
  • Storm Surge
  • Subsidence/Sink holes
  • Suicide Bomber(s)
  • Tornados
  • Tsunamis
  • Wildfires

This list is only a starting point. The list provided may not include everything that might affect your church. Upon briefly discussing the risks that might affect your church, you should adjourn the meeting to allow everyone time to think and contemplate on all the potential risks. When thinking about these risks, those on the committee should consider any risks that were missed, and which risks are most likely to occur in your specific situation.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the committees role in prioritizing these risks and how to come up with mitigation measures for your specific circumstance. Until then, may God keep you safe, … Mark