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Are You Prepared? Simple Steps for Church Safety

Risk management involves the identification, assessment and prioritization of risks. Once identified, deciding to employ techniques such as risk avoidance, risk reduction or risk transfer in order to minimize the effects of risk upon an organization is essential. In simple terms, however, it is about taking steps to make your church a safer place for the congregants, guests, and employees who come onto your premises, and safeguarding your facilities and buildings against damage or loss.

Churches often inquire about the expense of various risk management measures, as churches are oftentimes limited in resources. Thus, it is encouraging to know that there are some basic low, or no, cost steps that can be implemented with ease to make your church a safer place.

Inspect the Property

Fires are a major cause of damage to churches, while falls are a leading cause of injuries to people. Both of these risks can be minimized by having a regular inspection process in place at your facility to help identify and correct potential hazards. One popular approach is to follow an established facility inspection checklist on at least a monthly basis. Since it can be easy to overlook potentially hazardous conditions due to familiarity with the property, consider the inspection as an outside person visiting the facility for the first time. Any defects or hazardous conditions noted on the inspection should be corrected right away. If they cannot be immediately corrected, the area in question should be cordoned off or, at a minimum, marked with warnings through the use of cones, yellow tape or signs given to those who might pass by. Sample inspection checklists are available on the SafeChurch Resources page.

Screen Workers and Volunteers

Children are a precious gift, and churches have the solemn responsibility of caring for children through nurseries, Sunday School, youth groups, and special events. It is vitally important for churches to take steps to screen those individuals caring for children during those times. While we often think of “screening” as simply running a criminal background check, there are additional steps that should be considered. These include a six month waiting period for volunteers before they are allowed to work with children, a written screening application, and checking references, in addition to running a criminal background check.

Sample resources are available on the SafeChurch Children and Youth Safety Resources page. Information on Check and Protect background checks, powered by SingleSource Services, is available on the Check and Protect page.

 Plan for Emergencies

Churches face emergency situations ranging from medical emergencies and severe weather to a menacing or potentially violent person. It is important for churches to plan ahead for these emergencies. A Emergency Action and Recovery Plan (Word) is available from SafeChurch.

Minimize Risk with Outside Contractors and Facility Users

When outside contractors come onto the property, or outside users are permitted to hold events at the church, risk increases. Several factors, including an outside person’s lack of familiarity with the property, their lack of “‘investment” in the church ministry, and, in the case of contractors, the higher degree of risk inherent in the activities that they are undertaking, contribute to the overall danger potential.

This does not mean the church is without tools to protect itself in these higher risk situations. For both outside contractors and users, consider utilizing a written agreement that includes indemnity/hold harmless language in favor of the church and require the outside party to name the church as an additional insured on the entity’s insurance policies. Then, follow up to secure proof that the church has been added as an additional insured. Sample resources for situations involving outside contractors and outside users of the church are available on the SafeChurch Resources page, under the Facility Safety category.

Act to Prevent Crime

Vandalism, burglary and theft are common crimes committed against churches, as is arson. While a monitored central station security and fire alarm system is a terrific tool, such systems can be outside the budget of some churches. That does not mean that churches are at the mercy of criminals; several steps can be taken to reduce the risk of a crime, including the following:

  • Lockup: Keep doors, windows and combustible materials locked when not in use; and keep tools and ladders secured;

  • Lighting: Maintain exterior and interior lighting, particularly around entrances and exits;

  • Landscaping: Keep bushes and trees trimmed around doors and windows, and pick up trash around the facility;

  • Lookouts: Consider forming a “church watch” program and develop relationships with neighbors asking them to keep a lookout for any unusual or suspicious activity; and

  • Law Enforcement: Develop relationships with local police, inviting them to review your security processes and to patrol your property.

By following some of these simple steps, you can help make a safer place for those who visit, attend and work at your church facilities.

© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.