The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have given some updated guidance on how parishes can better protect their houses of worship. Follow the six steps listed below to protect against potential threats and targeted violence in a cost-effective manner that also maintains an open and welcoming environment.
Step 1: Understand the Risk
- Review the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin to understand and monitor national trends and developments.
- Connect with local law enforcement, the local FB field office, DHS Intelligence Officers within the DHS Fusion Centers, and other places of worship in the area to better understand localized threats.
- Perform a security self-assessment of the facility to determine potential vulnerabilities or contact the local Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Protective Security Advisor or local law enforcement to conduct the assessment.
Step 2: Understand Your Space
- Evaluate your facility through a layered security approach that considers the outer, middle, and inner perimeters of the building and grounds.
Step 3: Develop and Practice a Plan
- Create a security and emergency action plan to document the steps that personnel and volunteers will take to respond if an incident occurs.
- Practice the plan to build muscle memory of the actions that will be taken if an incident occurs.
Step 4: Inform and Educate Greeters
- Identify suspicious behaviors and possibly prevent a potential attack through de-escalation techniques.
- Recognize signs of terrorism-related suspicious activity and how to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or a person of authority. Many states also have designated a unique “tip line” to collect reports of terrorism-related suspicious activity.
Step 5: Pursue Grants
- Apply for grants that can provide new resources for security.
Step 6: Report Hate Crimes and Other Incidents
- Report hate crimes or any other criminal incidents to local law enforcement and the FBI.
Thank you to Philip Lofflin, Junior Warden of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, for sharing this information with the diocese.