Did you know that according to recent research* that there is an uptick in church related shootings - 6 in 2007, 18 in 2008 and 17 for the first half of 2009. Typically, 46% of church violence cases occur during a church event, 53% occur during off hours. 64% occur inside a church building and 36% occur outside on church property.
Here are the reasons why church violence occurs:
10% - gang related
17% - domestic conflict
19% - robbery
28% - personal conflict
26% - random/other
*Sources: National Safety Council, Strategos International, Charles Chinn - Security Consultant
It is well known from many tragic church related incidents that a determined gunman can cause serious harm. Nevertheless, here are a few things that congregations can do to try to prevent their churches from becoming the sites of crime:
1. Prevention Steps -- Leadership & Local Authorities
- Build a relationship with the local police and ensure that they have current blueprints and photos of the church building, including interiors.
- In consultation with local police, develop an emergency contact list and distribute it to staff.
- Arrange to have the police regularly patrol the church property and notify them of upcoming special events.
- When traveling to other locations, try to do so in pairs and keep cellular phones handy for emergency calls.
- Do call the authorities as soon as possible during or after any incident, don't wait.
2. Prevention Steps -- Staff & Volunteers
- Develop an emergency plan to address threats of violence, including a building evacuation plan.
- Communicate plans to key staff and the congregation.
- Make sure First Aid resources are available and offer First Aid/CPR training.
- Instruct ushers and greeters to establish eye contact with all who enter the church and report concerns.
- Watch for strangers and monitor persons exhibiting strange or suspicious behavior, including persons with bulky clothing, trench coats and the like.
- Make sure all ushers have cell phones and are able to call police/EMS immediately in the event of an emergency or unusual circumstance.
- Recommend that people arrive and depart the church in pairs or groups, especially after dark.
3. Prevention Steps -- Building & Grounds
- Trim hedges and clear any obstacles to eliminate places a perpetrator could hide.
- Ensure all outdoor lighting on building and in parking lot is bright and operating properly.
- Limit number of entryways into the church and have ushers continuously monitor entry activity.
- Ensure that all exits are clearly marked, unlocked, and well lit.
- Secure any potential access windows and nonessential doorways.
For further information, see also the following Church Mutual links:Self Inspection Safety Checklist Crime-Proof Your Worship Center
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FBI and ATF Resources for dealing with bomb threats:ATF Phoned Threat Data Sheet ATF Bomb Threat Checklist FBI Bomb Threat Call Checklist Bomb and Disease Threat Management Procedures
General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church, used with permission.