Hardening the Soft Targets

We’ve experienced a noticeable uptick of interest in security protocols for locations considered to be “soft targets” for individuals bent on doing violence. These are scary times; and, while none of us wants to be intimidated into cowering at home, neither do we want to foolishly disregard our safety when we are out in public spaces.

The risks do not always come from political terrorists. In fact, the three most common sources of violence in churches are domestic disputes, other interpersonal conflicts and unstable persons. Churches are not generally liable for harm caused by third parties over whom they have no control, but still they are expected to take reasonable steps to protect their congregants.

What should those steps be? Perhaps the most challenging one is to decide whether to allow certain persons to carry guns on the premises. If the answer is “yes,” then who should those persons be? Will it be just a designated security team, or will the list include others? (A security team, if put in place, would ideally consist of people trained in emergency response as part of their jobs.) Another important step is to consider the installation of risk management protections such as security cameras, alarms, and mechanisms that allow all doors to be locked at once.

Preparing the staff (both paid and volunteer) and the congregation is a critical step. Do they know the floor plan, hiding places and exits? Do they know how to identify suspicious behavior and how to report it? Do they know how to contact security personnel?

Security policies should always be drafted with the help of an experienced attorney. If your congregation or workplace is wrestling with the many thorny issues involved in planning for emergency response, the attorneys at Wright Beamer stand ready to help.

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