Preparing Your Faith Community for the Unexpected
Recent tragic events are causing many congregations to pay closer attention to the safety of their people and the security of their spaces. We all like to think of our congregation as a safe space that offers sanctuary from the world beyond but churches everywhere have become increasingly vulnerable to unexpected intrusions. The chance of an incident occurring remains exceptionally low but we know that when it does happen it is devastating for victims, their families and their communities. The threat of everything from a tornado, flood or fire to a stranger who enters our space with malicious intent is remote but real and all faith communities are encouraged to engage in an open and transparent process to create internal policies, action plans and training for staff and volunteers before the unthinkable happens.
The following resources have helped our congregations develop plans and procedures for addressing threats and violent incidents:
- Your local police department. Often, they can do a walk-through of your building and give you guidance.
- Church Mutual Insurance Company’s ALICE Training Institute Online Tutorial. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. These tactics are broader than a “lockdown only” approach, and have proven effective for minimizing harm.
- The Justice Technology Information Center’s Safeguarding Houses of Worship App and resources to use “in collaborating with community leaders and first responders.”
- The Anti-Defamation League’s Protecting Your Jewish Institution is a comprehensive security guide covering not only active shooter situations, but also violent protests, threats, and surveillance by hostile groups.
As CER’s program manager for Safe Congregations, I’m interested in hearing from congregations that have developed strong policies and procedures. I’d like to share what you’ve done with other congregations. And if you’re from a congregation that’s just getting started with this work, I encourage you to begin by viewing this webinar, “Safe from Harm.” (see the video in the sidebar)
For more resources on how to keep your congregation safe from all types of harm, check out our UUA.org Safe Congregations resources or to reach out to your primary contact. This website is in the process of revision and update, so if you can’t find what you need, just safecongregations [at] uua [dot] org (write to the UUA Safe Congregations team) and we’ll get you connected.
CER Congregational Life Staff, Program Manager for Safe Congregations