Imagine walking into an elementary school and noticing a classroom door permanently unlocked, secured not by a lock but by several layers of duct tape. This is exactly what my team encountered during a recent vulnerability assessment at a high school in Minnesota.

Last week, my team conducted a vulnerability assessment at an elementary school. As they inspected the building, they discovered that a teacher had applied duct tape over the classroom door lock, effectively keeping it permanently open. It was a stark reminder that while security may be expensive, challenging, and time-consuming, it should never be compromised for convenience.

This brings up a critical point: at our Houses of Worship, while security technology can be fun, exciting, and dramatically enhance your overall risk management program through advancements like AI and analytics reporting, it is often ineffective without a strong security culture.

Here’s another example: I visited a school district last year that went through an $8 million dollar security referendum to implement bullet-resistant glass at all their schools on the first floor to prevent an attack by an active assailant. However, when I visited one of these schools with the newly installed glass, the school front desk team member had propped open the door to the secure vestibule, meaning you could walk right into the school. Why? Convenience.

While it is easy to criticize and say how irresponsible this team member was in propping open a security door, it shows that the $8 million investment was completely worthless without a solid security culture. This brings me back to the taped-over door lock at the elementary school. Without a strong security culture at your house of worship, no amount of money can ensure safety. Personal safety and security are responsibilities we all share. While the school will receive stern feedback as part of our assessment process, we know they are not alone in facing such challenges.

It’s crucial to challenge security practices at your house of worship that don’t make sense and, more importantly, to confront behaviors that undermine security principles. You’re probably wondering what the head of the school thought about this glaring security lapse. That conversation is yet to happen, and we are interested in what they have to say. However, here are three things you can do today to enhance your house of worship’s safety concerning security culture:

  1. Make sure people don’t just follow the rules at your house of worship but understand the why. Why is it so important that your staff and volunteers keep doors locked and closed?
  2. Regularly walk around your building and inspect doors, locks, and windows to ensure they not only closed but can also be locked.
  3. Challenge those who don’t follow security practices. Changing culture is hard, and when it comes to propping doors, it’s most often the worship teams (sorry, but it’s true!). Don’t be afraid to hold people accountable, as your safety may depend on it.

Remember, prevention is always better than response.

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 leading 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 is the author of two Amazon bestselling books and the host of the Worship Security Academy podcast. For submissions or topic ideas, reach out to Simon at sosamoh@worshipfacility.com

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