Security Connections – Recapping 2023

by | Editorial, Security, Security Connections

Welcome to 2024 and the January edition of Security Connections, wishing blessings and safety to you, your families, and church communities. 

Security Connections will now bring you curated risk management and security content to your inbox twice a month!  Expect enlightening interviews with security experts, innovative product reviews, and the latest best practices all designed to enhance your ministry’s safety without requiring any action on your part. 

Who I Am

I’m honored to be the editor of Security Connections. Having been a security columnist and editorial advisor with Worship Facility for two years, last Fall I took on the new role of security editor. With extensive experience in law enforcement in England, my work has included leading counterterrorism initiatives at Mall of America in Minnesota and high-profile crime investigations, such as working on the liquid bomb terrorism plot in with the British Security Services, a case that has redefined aviation security internationally, reducing the amount of liquids you can take on planes.

As founder of Kingswood Security Consulting based out of Minneapolis, my team provides risk management support to houses of worship across more than 30 states. I’m also the author two Amazon Best Selling Books that are focused on worship safety. 

On a personal note, I’m a father of two young boys (10 and 13) and a husband. I’ve been a security advisor for my church, Westwood Community Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, for more than a decade. Should you wish to suggest content or make a submission, please contact me at sosamoh@worshipfacility.com

In this first article of 2024, I’ll reflect back on the past year’s key learnings to guide your planning for the year ahead, touching on school safety, threat assessment, mass shootings, and emergency planning. And in the next edition (now just two week away!), we’ll look ahead to the Church Facilities Expo (CFX) coming to Chattanooga this October where I’ll be providing security training, as well as other security initiatives. 

Security for Churches with Schools 

The importance to safeguard children in educational settings within churches has never been clearer. This encompasses church schools to preschools, where the risk of physical, sexual, and psychological harm exists. In my article, “Five Crucial Areas of Security for Churches with Schools,” I outlined strategies for creating a secure environment, underscoring the importance of implementing advanced access control, establishing vigilant child protection measures, and ensuring medical emergency preparedness. A well-crafted, practiced response plan for various emergencies, from fires to natural disasters, is essential for a comprehensive school security approach. You can read the full article here.

Threat Assessment in Church Risk Management 

One essential component of a house of worship risk management program is BTAM—Behavior Threat Assessment and Management. It’s a strategy for identifying and acting on potential violence signaled by an individual’s behavior. In my article last year titled “Preventing Violence through Effective Threat Assessment Programs,” I provided the framework that outlined the formation of a specialized team, protocol development, assessment execution, and risk management strategies. 

Threat assessment is vital for proactive church safety, as BTAM helps address concerning behavior before it escalates to the point of violence. It’s about engaging early with individuals through counseling, mental health support, and church community groups and outreach, effectively disrupting their path to violence. For an in-depth look at how BTAM can strengthen your program, you can access the full article on threat assessment programs here.

The Importance of Emergency Planning 

This past year we addressed the importance of emergency planning as a critical aspect of your church safety program, being prepared for an emergency is the effective way to manage through a crisis. Making sure that your worship teams, volunteers and staff know just what to do and when to do it. I wrote about this in my article “How to Improve your Emergency Plan in Four Steps” I shared best practice in Improving emergency planning within your organization through a simple four-step process. 

Begin by forming a safety committee to establish an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) for immediate crisis response and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for recovery. Assess potential people-related risks and develop clear response procedures. Communicate effectively during an emergency, ensuring tailored messages reach all stakeholders. 

Lastly, maintain your BCP by identifying risks, understanding mission-critical elements, and conducting regular training and testing. This approach ensures resilience in the face of unexpected events. You can access the full article on emergency planning here

Mass Shootings at Houses of Worship 

The attack last year at a Christian school in Nashville reminded us that, despite the rarity of such events, vigilance is crucial. According to The Violence Project, there have been 193 mass shooting incidents in which three or more people have been killed since 1966, with a notable increase in the past decade. As we refine our safety plans for 2024, we reflect on two pivotal events. The Covenant Presbyterian School shooting, where an attacker killed six people, and a Virginia church incident where observant community members and prompt police action successfully prevented a mass shooting at a church. These cases illustrate the importance of community awareness and swift reporting in averting potential mass shootings. Here is an overview of both: 

Nashville Presbyterian Covenant School Shooting

The Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, occurred on March 27, 2023, when the attacker, executed a planned attack on the Presbyterian Church-affiliated elementary school. They were a former student of the school with a history of mental illness and emotional disorder. 

The attacker killed three nine-year-old students and three adults before being killed by law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene. A manifesto, including a detailed map of the school noting potential entry points, was found. The attacker had considered different locations to carry out the deadly attack, but these were ruled out due to the school having lesser security measures. 

This tragic incident underscores the necessity for vigilance, effective law enforcement response, and community engagement in preventing and responding to such threats. It also brings to light the complex discussions around gun control legislation, mental health issues, and the safety of public spaces such as schools and houses of worship.

Vigilant Community Thwarts a Planned Shooting at a Virginia Church

In Haymarket, Virginia, a mass shooting at Park Valley Church was prevented due to the quick actions of law enforcement and the vigilance of the community. Troubling Instagram posts by a 35-year-old man threatening to attack the church prompted an investigation that led his arrest at the church. 

He was found in possession of a loaded pistol, extra ammunition, and knives. Coordination among police in three counties, informed by the suspect’s social media activity and a detailed manifesto found at his residence, was pivotal in averting a mass shooting tragedy. This incident highlights how important a vigilant community and openness to report suspicious activity taking a proactive security approach avert what would have been another mass shooting in a church.

What Were your Security Highlights

When I reflect on the past year, there have been numerous insightful articles from our contributors. These selected highlights have resonated with me, and I’m curious – what were your standout moments? In our upcoming edition, we’ll look ahead, delving into future themes, topics, podcasts, and webinars that you can expect to receive in 2024. Your suggestions are invaluable; if there’s a topic you’d like to see featured in ‘Security Connections’ please feel free to contact me at sosamoh@worshipfacility.com.

Simon Osamoh serves as the editor of Security Connections and is nationally recognized for his work in safeguarding houses of worship. He began his career in England, spending 14 years as a Detective specializing in serious and organized crime, before moving to the United States to lead Counter Terrorism at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Simon founded Kingswood Security Consulting and the Worship Security Academy, aimed at providing security solutions to houses of worship. He volunteers his knowledge as security advisor to Westwood Community Church, where he has served for over a decade. He is the author of two bestselling books and the host of the Worship Security Academy podcast.

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