Attacks on faith-based and religious institutions are increasing throughout the world.

Differing beliefs have historically attracted reprehensible violence, but in recent years headlines have increased exponentially at churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship.

According to FBI hate crime statistics, incidents in American religious institutions have increased by 34.8% between 2014 and 2018.

The very things that make religious institutions a unique and needed part of society –open-door policies, large gatherings of diverse congregations, and regular fellowship – also make them particularly vulnerable targets. Places of worship are also frequently left vacant for stretches of time, with many lacking sufficient safeguards.

But things are beginning to change.

To help fortify public gathering spaces throughout Maryland, including schools and religious institutions, The Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM) recently awarded 68 Maryland nonprofit organizations more than $8.7 Million in federal homeland security grant funds to be used for contracting security personnel, security-related planning, exercises, and training, and the installation of security equipment on buildings and property.

A professionally vetted security plan that seamlessly integrates your facility’s access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, and alarms is essential, as it helps to protect against all vulnerabilities while delivering widespread efficiency. But places of worship must also move beyond core security components to address their specific level of risk.

Here are just three steps to get started:

  • Be prepared. Even the simplest of actions can save lives. Religious institutions should consider installing programmable door prop alarms, which alert authorized personnel and parishioners when a door has been left open longer than a pre-specified time. Restrict access and reduce the risk of attack. Integrated lockdown capabilities, too, are imperative and can be activated remotely from any Internet-connected device. A trusted security vendor can talk to your membership about creating custom protocols based on threat level.
  • Be proactive. In addition to state-of-the-art access control systems, biometric facial recognition technology allows houses of worship to verify and authenticate visitors before they enter the building. Similarly, license plate identification software can pinpoint identifying numbers on vehicles coming and going from your nonprofit’s property. This not only provides a more comprehensive view of your daily traffic but also helps to identify troublemakers, alerting leadership whenever a suspicious vehicle returns.
  • Be informed. Every moment counts during an emergency. Mass communication and alert solutions allow religious institutions to dispatch threat and emergency alerts to their congregations in real-time, while providing critical information and direction that prompt protective action and mitigate risk.

These measures are merely starting points. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to securing your house of worship, and every religious institution is different, with different security needs and points of vulnerability. Additional safeguards like gunshot detection and bullet-resistant windows may provide one facility with peace of mind, whereas unarmed guard response services may fit the security profile of a different organization.

If your religious institution is just beginning to explore its security options, Secom can help. We are now offering a free vulnerability site assessment for nonprofits seeking a comprehensive approach to their security plan. With more than 50 years of industry experience, our team will help your church, synagogue, mosque, or house of worship determine the best security measures to maximize your members’ and visitors’ safety, giving them a safe and secure place to gather.