Security For Places of Worship

The necessity for security for places of worship is no different than security for any other “business”.   Places of worship are sanctuaries. They are welcoming spaces where people go to recharge and center themselves spiritually.  But, sadly, in today’s world, all facilities, including places of worship, need to ensure they can control  and monitor access.

Areas of Vulnerability

So what can be done to effectively secure a church or a synagogue, or a temple or a mosque, while at the same time maintaining the feeling of spirituality?

A logical first step towards better security is an evaluation of possible vulnerabilities.  Let’s look at several areas where security might be an issue.

While these places are centers for spirituality,  they also have more temporal properties like business offices, state of the art a/v equipment, expensive furnishing and fixtures, even cash from offerings on site.  And these make them vulnerable to thefts.

In places where there are schools or daycare with children on the grounds, protection of these areas is a must.

Perhaps, the most deadly reason for crimes in these places are differing belief systems.  Here is where threat to lives of the members of the congregation is at its greatest.

Special Challenges

Undoubtedly, securing these places presents special challenges.  Security protocols must take into consideration that these are after all, hallowed grounds.  Therefore, security cannot be intrusive – metal detectors or routine searches are impossible.

The inclusive nature of most of these places where “all are welcome” make it also challenging to filter people.  Many of these facilities host community meetings and other non-church activities that necessitate allowing unknown people to pass through the facilities regularly.  However, putting a restriction on these kinds of interactions would be contradictory to their very essence – of being places of sanctuary or refuge.

What Can Be Done?

While there are certain challenges, it is possible to have a balance – to provide effective security and safety in a discreet manner.

Unlike in companies or established businesses, a place of worship might not have a dedicated security team.  So forming a security “ministry” or “committee” who will take charge of any decisions regarding safety is a good solution.  This group will be responsible for looking for a security system provider who has experience in helping houses of worship; a provider who understands the importance of creating a welcoming environment while ensuring that it is safe and secure.

One of the important safety features that can be implemented without necessarily being too limiting or intrusive is the installation of an electronic access control system.

Electronic Access Control System in Places of Worship

The beauty of installing an electronic access control system in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque is relative ease of use, as well as the flexibility it offers.

An electronic access control system replaces the traditional lock and master key system. People are granted or denied access to restricted areas – offices, storage facilities or the day car area, using entry devices such a keypads, card readers or biometric scanners.

Trusted individuals within the congregation are allowed access while limiting others.  While the use of physical keys and locks is still possible, the level of security of an electronic access control system and the convenience it provides outweigh the accompanying expense that installing such a system entails.

keyless entry with key card

                                                             Key Card Access

What are the advantages of installing an electronic access control system?

There are many practical applications of installing such a system. Here are just a few:

Public and “Restricted” Areas. With an electronic access control system, it becomes possible for public visitors to enter the premises.  This allows the place of worship to still be open and welcoming.  However, only trusted members within the congregation are allowed beyond designated restricted points.

For the business office area, restricted access is definitely a must.  Access by employees should be controlled and monitored so there is not only an audit trail of who entered and when, but also an easy way to change permissions with employee turnover.

Further, access by service workers, like cleaning and maintenance people should be easily controlled and monitored too

For those locations that have schools, sunday school, or daycare on premises, it is certainly wise to restrict access to these areas. Using an access control system would require anyone who is not a regular employee or visitor to register to receive an access control card.  This keeps unwanted people from entering the facility at all.

Further, with an access control system, you can monitor the movements of anyone within the area, as well as entry and exit times.  Some school facilities with access control systems even have access control cards worn by children while on premises, making it possible to track their movement within the premises.

For more specific information on school security, click here

Lost Keys. If an employee or a congregant loses a traditional key, it compromises security of the whole place and can necessitate rekeying of all locks.  This is an expensive exercise.  However, with an electronic access control system, it is easy to deactivate a lost access credential.

Programmable Specific Access. One of the best features of an electronic access control system is flexibility.  Permissions can be programmed for each individual.  It becomes possible to grant more access to trusted individuals within the congregation while limiting access to just a specific area, and even time period for other specific individuals.

It is also possible to grant or limit access for specific times. Eg. Access even for trusted individuals is limited to only during normal operating hours of the church, synagogue or mosque.

Audit Trails. An electronic access control system provides a record of who accessed controlled doors and when. This information is useful in determining when and how a security breach or offense occurred.

Fingerprint and password access

Types of Electronic or Keyless Access Control Systems

In deciding on the type of electronic access control system to use, it is important to consider specific needs, as well as the allocated budget for security of the synagogue, temple, mosque or church.  Here is where the assessment of your facilities particular vulnerabilities will also come into play. There are 3 basic types:

  • Access Control Keypads.  Users enter an assigned code into a keypad in order to obtain entry.  The devices are reprogrammable in the event that a code is compromised and needs to be changed.  Each user is given a unique code so it is possible to create an audit trail for each person.
  • Access Control Keycard Reader. Users are issued smartcards or keyfobs that have magnetic strips or microchips that contain the information about the card holder in terms of access permissions or restrictions.  These are presented to the card reader which allows or denies entry.  These are particularly suitable for those with daycares or schools where access cards also double as ID cards.
  • Biometric Access Control. Human characteristics such as a person’s retina, finger print or hand print is used to verify identity using a small screen or scanner.  Since a fingerprint or a person’s retina is unique to each individual,  it gets very difficult to forge and thus systems using biometric access are considered very secure.

Installing an electronic access control system to protect private areas is a strong indicator on how seriously an organization takes its security and safety.  While it will not be a 100% guarantee against criminality, having an efficient and effective access control system in place will go a long way in ensuring the safety of your premises against possible thefts or threats.

Action 1st Offers the Best Commercial Access Control Solutions for Places of Worship

Action 1st Loss Prevention specializes in providing access control solutions that address the security requirements of places of worship.  We have an appreciation of  the importance of creating a welcoming environment while keeping premises safe and secure.  Our team of experts will work with you to select the product that best meets your needs and budget, install it, and provide training to ensure your organization gets the most out of its investment.

Call us today at 800-675-3015 for a free onsite review and estimate.

Tags: access control system, keyless entry, access control for places of worship, electronic access control system, church security, synagogue security, mosque security, sunday school, church schools