In the tranquil sanctity of our houses of worship, we seek solace, a sense of community, and a connection to something greater than ourselves. However, these sacred spaces are not exempt from the harsh realities of the world. From physical attacks to cyber threats, our places of worship face numerous security challenges that threaten their peace and sanctity.
The Unseen Threats
When we think of security threats, our minds often jump to the most catastrophic incidents - active shooter situations, arsons, or bombings. These are the threats that make headlines, shake us to our core, and remind us of the fragility of our safety. But security is about more than just preventing these unthinkable events. It is about creating an environment where everyone can worship without fear. This includes addressing less obvious threats like cyber-attacks that can compromise personal information or disrupt digital services. For example, a cyber-attack could lead to the theft of sensitive information, such as the email addresses and financial details of congregation members, or it could disrupt online services, such as live-streamed worship sessions.
The Human Element
Security is not just about protecting buildings or data - it is about protecting people. This includes addressing potential threats posed by individuals dealing with mental health issues, domestic disputes, or child custody battles. By recognizing and addressing these issues, we can help ensure the safety and well-being of all members of our community. For instance, a person dealing with a mental health issue might need additional support and resources, while a domestic dispute could escalate and pose a risk to others in the congregation. By being proactive and compassionate, we can help mitigate these risks.
Preserving Our Heritage
Our houses of worship are often home to valuable religious artifacts, symbols of our faith and heritage. Protecting these items from theft or damage is not just about preserving physical objects, but about preserving our history and identity. These artifacts are a tangible link to our past, a symbol of our shared beliefs, and a source of inspiration for future generations. Their loss would be a loss for our entire community.
A Call to Action
The task of securing our houses of worship may seem daunting, but it is not insurmountable. By conducting comprehensive security assessments, implementing recommended improvements, and remaining vigilant, we can create safer spaces for worship.
Every house of worship is unique and may face different security challenges. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Instead, we need tailored solutions that consider the specific needs and priorities of each place of worship. This could involve a range of measures, from installing security cameras and alarm systems to providing training for staff and volunteers on how to respond to diverse types of threats.
Together, we can create sacred spaces where everyone feels safe, welcomed, and at peace. Let us safeguard our sacred spaces.
About the Author
Joseph “Paul” Manley is the Founder and Principal of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC. This firm is an Independent Security Management Consulting and Training firm, specializing in violence detection, prevention, response, and recovery. Paul is a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (IAPSC) and a retired Massachusetts Police Lieutenant. He also serves as an Adjunct Lecturer teaching courses in criminal justice, security studies and behavioral sciences. His credentials include being a Board-Certified Workplace Violence and Threat Specialist, a Certified Crisis Intervention Specialist, and a recognized Security Expert and Trainer. Paul holds a master’s degree in criminal justice administration, further equipping him with the knowledge and expertise in his field.