How to Evaluate Your House of Worship Safety and Security in Six Easy Steps (Part Two)

by | Facilities, Security

In Part One of this article, we looked at the problems facing Houses of Worship today, and discussed why it’s important for churches to have plans to deal with any eventuality, whether the problem came from inside the church or outside, whether it was due to natural disaster or human behavior. We also discussed how to evaluate your safety and security plan, beginning with setting realistic goals and expectations, and determining what resources you have and need to help you achieve those goals. We now continue and conclude with steps 3-6.

Inputs and outputs = resources and goals

Step 3: Identify which inputs (resources) affect which outputs (goals)

Not all inputs affect all outputs, but it is essential to determine which inputs play a role in achieving specific goals. Priority goals are listed on the horizontal axis and resources are listed down the vertical access. Inputs affecting a particular output are designated with an “x” in the appropriate cell as indicated in the notional assessment matrix of selected inputs and goals illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 1:

Step 4: Assess which inputs are fully-, partially-, or not mission-capable.

Mission capability is assessed by a committee of stakeholders and is indicated by coloring each “x” wherever it appears under a particular goal. Full (80+%) is indicated by coloring the cells marked “x” green. Partial capability is indicated by coloring the cells with x’s yellow and the lack of mission capability is designated by coloring the appropriate cells red. The matrix in Figure 1 is presented with assessed colors in Figure 2.

Figure 2:

Step 5: Interpret the results to identify deficiencies requiring priority remediation,

Figure 2 reveals three kinds of important information. The first, looking at the columns under each goal gives a measure of how effectively it is being achieved. Obviously, a column with a majority of green cells is mission-capable, while columns with lots of yellow and red cells are only partially mission-capable or not mission-capable respectively. In our notional example, 6 goals are judged to be mission-capable (green), 8 are partially mission-capable (yellow), and 6 are not mission-capable.

The second revelation identifies which goals (avoiding liability and members’ feelings of safety and security) have the most moving parts. In other words, they are affected by the most inputs. Therefore, they are more complex and require more attention to be maintained in a mission-capable status.  Finally, we can determine which inputs affect the most outputs. In Figure 3, we find a newsletter affects all 5 goals; employing best practices and providing info on the website each affect 4 goals; and team member skills, electronic locks, alarms, signage, and security information in the pews each affect 3 goals. The red inputs require priority resolution and inasmuch as placing security information cards in the pews is a low-cost endeavor, it should be the first initiative undertaken in an improvement plan. It may work out that low-cost items that are yellow may be economically implemented to improve overall mission capability. In the hypothetical example in Figure 2, implementing best practices and distributing a security newsletter or, at a minimum, security information in HoW weekly bulletins are attractive candidates.

In short, this methodology provides a rationale for HoW corrective action plans.

Step 6: Develop an action plan.

Knowing the status of your security and which areas need remediation is the sine qua non  of improvement; however, it is not the most important or difficult step. It is easy to identify flaws but it is far more difficult to correct them.

The best way to develop an action plan is to 1) identify critical deficiencies, 2) identify which deficiencies affect goals at the far left of the goals flowchart, 3) identify inputs, such as policy revisions, on-site training, meeting with local responders and conducting tabletop exercises, that are no- or low-cost (these should be addressed early in the resolution process), and 4) develop an action plan assigning responsibility to an individual or group, identifying other stakeholders with whom coordination must occur, schedule periodic milestones with criteria of success for each, require a milestone status report to the senior HoW leaders. As we see in Step 5, once these “low hanging fruit” deficiencies have been corrected, an action plan should be developed for later affecting and/or more costly solutions.

A Final Word 

This methodology to improving safety and security has several distinct benefits:

  • The colored assessment chart is easily understandable.
  • The methodology’s empirical nature and its color coding can develop a consensus on the way ahead. It is difficult for individual stakeholders to elevate their idiosyncratic priorities over others demonstrated to have a greater effect.
  • The emphasis on temporal causation ensures early improvements will have a beneficial synergistic impact on the overall security process.
  • The rigor, systematic, and comprehensive nature of this analysis demonstrably constitutes due diligence and will help insulate a HoW from liability suits in the event a damaging crisis occurs.

The improvement of HoW safety and security is an arduous process and will require consensus building, coordinated decision making, and the sustained expenditure of personnel and possibly financial resources. Our congregants deserve no less.

About the author

Dr. John Weinstein is a retired senior law enforcement commander with over 40 years of public service. He is a national and international lecturer and has published more than 50 articles on various safety and security topics in professional journals and publications. He is currently a Principal with Dusseau Solutions. For more information about Dusseau Solutions, go to

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