Sunday School Security Tips
January 2009 - SecurityIs your Sunday school safe?
It used to be that churches were a sanctum, a place of refuge from the ills of the world. But as the world grows ever larger – and seemingly more malevolent – some of the old traditions that respect sanctuaries are dismissed.
Gone are the days when churches and schools were revered and safe; now, just like any other environment, they are targets for potential terrorism. More than that, Sunday schools are places where divorced parents, estranged family members, and pedophiles posing as family can gain access to young children. That means that Sunday school security shouldn't be ignored.
Given all of the possible threats, how do facility managers in churches and Sunday school centers ensure the security of building occupants?
Most facility managers seem to be choosing two relatively simple techniques for the immediate future: 1.) improve lock and door security, and 2.) install cameras.
Gene Brody, facility manager for St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston, Va., has started to improve his church’s security.
“We’ve changed some of the locks, and have begun to discuss installing a CCTV system,” Brody says.
It’s the right order, according to consultants: Lock and door security should be the first line of defense and helps keep threats outside the building. If they get inside, a closed-circuit TV system can help track movements of possible threats, or evaluate an unfolding situation.
Another facility manager who wished not to be identified has an advanced security system in place, largely because the Sunday school in his facility is attached to a parochial junior high school and the facilities are used for extra-curricular sports by the high school.
“We built a new early childhood building last June,” he said. “We already have a good sense of what kind of security is needed because of the middle and high school students who also use this facility.”
He further said that they have classroom cameras, multiple monitoring locations, and security cameras that also watch entrances and corridors.
It’s quite an expense, but the facility manager says it pays off.
“Now with digital, it’s easy to send images [of potential threatening persons] to other churches in the area.”
He cited a recently example where the school had a stranger roaming the hallways with a cellphone pressed to one ear.
“You know, most people wouldn’t bother him because they didn’t want to interrupt this guy’s conversation, but nobody knew who he was,” he said. “I’m always trying to share information with others in the area, but everybody needs to get better about it.”
Just like facility executives in other organizations, every Sunday school facility manager is beset by the same problems others face within the industry. They include concerns over budget, maintaining adequate security when services like cleaning are contracted to outside providers, and determining the appropriate response to threatening situations.
Finally, as with all budget challenges, security needs to be given full attention by decision makers within the church and not pushed off until too late.
According to one facility manager at a church facility, the organization was going to put cameras in throughout the building – including the Sunday school classrooms – but later voted to spend that money on landscaping in front of the church.