Securing Your Church Facilities

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

This is the final installment of the six part series on security in worship facilities. The intent of this series is to provide the reader with a foundation in the principals of securing a church facility. In this issue we will be:

Reviewing what we covered in the previous five installments

Providing an overview of the state of security in worship facilities

Covering risk tolerance vs. cost

Describing the difference between public vs. private spaces

Describing different delivery methods

Identifying ways to select the right security integrator

Brief review of previous articles
In our first article we began with the topic of “threat assessment”. This article described various threats and how to prioritize them according to levels of danger, probability, frequency and manageability. The second article dealt with workplace violence. Workplace violence is a terribly important example of a threat that faces any institution assembling employees to work together. This article also identified the importance of this threat and ways to see the warning signs and how to deal with them. The third article laid the groundwork for the development of security policies and procedures that would be applicable to church staff. The article also showed how formal written policies and procedures will save church administrators a great deal of time, assist in adequate staff training, reduce legal liability, and support an environment of holistic security in the church facility.

The next article, forth, was a general description on physical security design. It started with an overview of the design process, identified objectives, risk assessment and finally an evaluation of the physical security systems. This article introduced the use of a systematic and measurable approach (process) to the design and implementation of a physical security system. The process stresses the use of integrated systems combining people, procedures and equipment to meet the protection objectives. The fifth and most recent article titled “Electronic Physical Security Design” addressed various electronic components such as card readers, video cameras and digital storage devices. This article introduced the use of electronic security systems into the overall system design. It is important that the electronic systems work together with other aspects of security to ensure a comprehensive scheme.

Overview of Security in Worship Facilities
Security systems in worship facilities, in general, are not perceived as important to operations as in other vertical markets such as education or corporate. Worship facilities do have some valid reasons for their slower adaptation. Traditionally, churches have been a sanctuary or safe haven for people. They have been regarded as a holy place where violence or any minor social infraction is frowned upon. As the post 9/11 era is behind us, we are understanding more about the world, the worldview of us and western culture, and it is now easier to comprehend how an outsider may not respect our reverence of worship facilities. On the heels of this revised understanding and increased perception of threats, church administrators seek to make their facilities more secure. Some are starting small – simply adding locks or revising procedures – others are hiring security consultants to evaluate or audit their facilities and operations.

Risk tolerance vs. cost
The right security system for a worship facility is a best estimate compromise that balances the risk and potential damage from unauthorized people gaining access to sensitive areas against the expense and nuisance of security measures to keep them out. While each worship facility has it’s own unique characteristics and potential for loss, most will have something to consider in these general categories:

Physical Loss – Loss due to artifacts being damaged, sabotaged or stolen. Cash being taken would be under this category.

Information Loss – Financial papers could be lost or electronic data could be corrupted.

Loss of reputation and congregation feeling of safety – Consequences from serious or repeated security breaches could affect attendance and confidence in church staff.

Workplace violence – A workers spouse could come to the office and create problems if proper protection devices and procedures are not in place.

Childcare conflicts – If the daycare is not secure, monitored and operated properly, children may be at risk for injury or kidnapping.

Security system design can be a complicated equation with many variables. While specific strategies for security system design are beyond this article, any design will likely consider these issues:

Costs of equipment – Budget constraints ordinarily limit the extensive use of high-confidence identification equipment. The usual approach is to deploy a range of techniques appropriate to various security levels.

Combining of technologies – The reliability of identification at any level can be increased by combining lower-cost technologies, with the innermost level benefiting from the combined protection of all the outer concentric perimeters that surround it.

User acceptance – The nuisance factor. Ease of use and reliability of identification are important in preventing the system from becoming a source of frustration and a temptation for subversion.

Scalability – Can the design be implemented incrementally as funding and confidence in the technology increase? Will you be able to easily upgrade the system?

Backwards compatibility – Is the new security system design compatible with elements of an older system already in place? Keeping all or part of an existing system can significantly reduce deployment cost.

The balance needs to weigh the costs of:

Initial cost of security equipment

Maintenance of security equipment

Day-to-day inconvenience of security protocols

Against the potential losses from:

Loss from theft or damage

Data loss or corruption

Loss of reputation and congregation feeling of safety

Increased Insurance costs

Public vs. Private spaces
One of the critical and unique issues with worship facilities begins with ensuring that public spaces are differentiated from private spaces and both are differentiated from the secure spaces. In the previous design issue we established the need to define these spaces and create the perimeter of each. This concept is reiterated again – once the system is installed and operational it is vital that each zone defined by a perimeter retains security functionality that supports its function and purpose. Entrances, hallways, restrooms, and the sanctuary are all usually open or publics spaces, whereas offices and other operational areas are considered private. Sometimes these areas change in classification, and often during a service additional areas are considered public spaces. It is important that at all times the staff, members, and visitors easily identify transitions from public to private areas and that appropriate physical security methods are employed. These measures can simply mean locking a door, roping off a corridor, or providing another physical obstruction in a more lightly secured area.

Project Delivery Methods
In general there are two main approaches to security system installation. They are Design-Build and Design-Bid-Build. Design-Build is a system of contracting under which one entity performs both system design and construction activities under one single contract. This contractor is responsible for any system documents such as plans or other system parameters. Design-Bid-Build is a project delivery approach where the owner commissions a consultant to prepare drawings and specifications under a design services contract and separately contracts for construction by engaging a contractor through competitive bidding or negotiation. The determination as to which delivery method to deploy depends on a number of factors including: the complexity of the environment, the abilities of the facilities personnel, and the size of the project and schedule.

In large, complex situations it may be best to employ a security consultant to develop the design documents, assist in the systems procurement and provide guidance during installation. In smaller, less complex situations where the scope is easily defined it may be best if the worship facility’s personnel develop the scope documents and supply them directly to security contractors for bidding.

When evaluating the bids from a security installer, it is important to make sure the contractor:

1. Is licensed in the State where the installation is to occur

2. Is experienced in the type of system to be installed (typically 5 -10 years)

3. Is bonded

4. Provides references on similar types and sizes of projects

5. Provides equipment from reliable and well-established manufacturers

6. Operates regularly in the geographical region (typically 30 to 100 miles)

7. Possesses and maintains current liability insurance certificates

8. Has personnel adequately trained and certified to install the Security System

9. Has personnel knowledgeable in local, state, and national codes and regulations

Additionally the proposal should include:

1. Firm price with payment terms

2. The unit cost of potential add-on items such as card readers or cameras

3. Spare parts

4. Warranty period and terms

5. System testing procedures

6. Training for church personnel in the operation and maintenance of the system

7. Number of Operational manuals included

8. Response time for service calls and equipment replacement

Selecting the right security integrator
The purpose of the selection and evaluation process should be to determine which proposal provides the greatest overall value to the owner. This is true with all project delivery methods. A variety of selection techniques are available to church selection committee. Each has their merits and no single technique is appropriate for every situation. The selection committee must determine which technique or techniques to use.

The first technique involves weighting the various qualitative factors such as experience, quality of work, management, design solutions and other factors. Next, a point system is established for each factor. When the owner receives the proposals, the review committee rates each proposal according to the various qualitative factors and the results are totaled and compared.

Another technique is to take the low bid and compare it to the other bids qualitatively and adjust the bid according to this criterion. For example the low bid may not have included the same quality camera. Therefore, if you add the difference in price for the higher quality camera to the low bid you’ll get a better number to compare.

A third technique involves accepting the proposals and then critiquing each with the bidders, giving them a chance to respond to these changes and provide a corresponding price amendment (either add or deduct). These revised proposals are evaluated with more ease because the techniques should have created relatively equivalent parameters.

Fourth, the owner could establish a contract price and have the selected contractors provide proposals that meet this budget limit.

The final method involves the establishment of minimum design criteria. In this technique the church establishes a base criteria to which all proposals are compared, and the low bid is accepted.

To help ensure that the process works smoothly, the selection committee should make the selection process and the associated criteria available to all bidders.

No matter which method the owner uses for awarding the contract, the church will need to monitor construction and ensure a complete installation. Ensuring that systems are entirely finished on time and within the budget are the two most common major issues that owners face. See Article # 5 (July/August 05 issue) for a checklist regarding the installation of Intrusion Alarm systems, CCTV systems and Card Access systems.

Final thoughts
Once the system is installed and tested, operational procedures may need adjustment and manpower loads may need reevaluation. If a video surveillance system is installed, a staff member is needed to keep track of real time monitoring or to make sure the video files are kept available for the required length of time. Some institutions keep the files for a month or longer before deleting or overwriting. Card access systems need a person to key in the specific data for each cardholder. This information will include vital statistics and access information related to timetables for each door the cardholder would be granted access. Of course all of this equipment will need periodic testing and maintenance that can take from a few hours a month to a full time person, depending on the size and complexity of the system.

The point here is to realize that even the best security systems will not operate themselves; they require periodic interaction and maintenance from humans, either from inside the church or from an outside vendor.

The guidelines set forth in these articles are a good start for any church seeking to enhance its level of security. We hope that at the very least we have laid the groundwork for further self-education on the methods and means of physical security. The need to feel safe and secure is a basic human condition, and church administrators have a spiritual, ethical, and legal obligation to provide a safe environment for its ministries just as our Lord provides for us. May God bless your efforts.