Smart technology has come a long way in the past two decades. Just by saying “Alexa…” you can turn lights on and off in your home, play any music you want, start your car, and more. More recently, churches have begun to adopt smart technology to transform how church buildings and facilities are managed, and the same technology has been incorporated into church safety and security. With attacks on houses of worship on the rise for the past decade (as discussed in “Mitigating Attacks on Houses of Worship Part 1: Understanding the Problem“) it’s more important than ever to make sure your church is safe, and smart technology brings multiple levels of defense together to allow for added security and convenience.
Locks aren’t enough
Stout doors and strong locks aren’t enough to keep your church, the people, and the contents inside safe. One of the things you should know is who is locking and unlocking your doors, and when are they coming in and out.
Integrated security platforms make it easy to set alerts, telling you when a door or window has been opened off-hours, and like smart home systems, they even gives you the flexibility to access church security from a mobile device, so you can monitor and shut off alerts from your desk, or from any off-site location where you have your phone or tablet. For individuals entrusted with access credentials (ie. “key-holders”), there is also a record of exactly who accessed the church and when. This would be valuable information to have in case of an incident.
One advantage of most modern platforms is, they’re cloud-based. All the data is stored in the cloud, not on a central computer at your worship facility. You can access the information or control the settings from anywhere, as long as you have your phone or tablet.
Protect the inside and the outside
A key point to remember about church security is, doors only keep people out. You need to know what’s going on inside your church AND outside, and that means cameras. If someone has had an accident, obviously you need to know the details for a safety investigation, and as evidence in the event of a lawsuit. Further, if you have an affiliated school or day-care, you need to know who’s around the children and what’s happening with them at all times.
Security expert Bobby Brasher, speaking in our webinar, “Church Security Planning: Essentials for Maintaining a Safe Community,” talked about one incident in which a girl came out of church daycare with a clump of hair missing from her head. Fearing the girl had been abused by one of the daycare workers, her parents confronted the pastor, who immediately checked the footage from the security cameras.
“The recording showed the girl was off to the side in the room, pulling out her own hair,” Brasher said. “She did it to herself.”
That incident could have gone either way, and regardless of the outcome, the parents would want to know. Was their child abused, or was she displaying self-destructive behavior? Not only was the pastor able to quickly obtain this information to help the parents and their child, he was able to do it himself because the church had a security platform that integrated with the cameras, allowing him to access all current and recorded data from all of the security cameras, quickly and easily.
Gone are the days of needing physical keys to gain access to your church, and you should be glad. Maybe it’s still the case at your church, but not that long ago, if someone was given the privilege of being a key-holder, there had to be an actual key to give them, and if there wasn’t one lying around, you had to have one made. And if they (or, worse yet, you) forgot your key, well, that was a bigger problem. Today, with smart building technology, no key is needed. You don’t even have to be physically present. From the convenience of your desktop, phone, or tablet, you can:
- Provide access credentials for key-holders, enabling them to access the facility using their phone
- Deactivate access credentials at any time
- Lock and unlock doors remotely if someone is locked out and create lock schedules so doors automatically lock and unlock at specific times.
This level of control, combined with well-placed security cameras, would provide optimal security for the areas you would identify as high-risk or high-interest areas. These would be the areas most likely to be targeted by people with ill-intent. As noted above, any areas involving children, such as the playground, classroom, or day-care, but also the office or rooms where mothers can nurse. All of these are areas that would need one or more dedicated cameras as well as restricted access. Using an integrated security software platform, not only could you view footage of who is trying to access those areas, you could limit access to those areas, perhaps allowing some key-holders the ability to open up the main door, but not have access to the office.
Those are just the basic ideas of smart church security. When combined with other safety measures in you facility, such as cybersecurity and fire safety, you can continue to expand the degree of safety, security, and convenience at your fingertips. If a fire alarm goes off at your church, you can be notified on your phone, then check the cameras and see if it’s a false alarm, which you could deactivate. No system is perfect, and nothing can eliminate every possible threat, but combining smart technology with other security and safety technology will put the odds in your favor.