It is important for us to understand the risks churches face and how best to make them safe for the future.

Ecclesiastical Insurance recently attended the Protective Security Conference, organised by the Cathedral Administration and Finance Association, and has sent through some feedback and advice which might well be of use to PCCs.

Leading experts  presented on best practice to make cathedrals and churches as secure and safe as possible from security-related incidents against a background of increasing threat levels in the UK.

The conference focused on recent events, some of the key risks faced and practical steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to these threats.

Every place of worship and its location is unique, presenting different challenges – so a tailored assessment and response, reflecting the individual risks faced needs to be undertaken.

Security plans should be developed to address the risks you identify and should be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain current and reflect location/site changes. The plan should be compatible with any other plans for the property, such as evacuation and fire strategy plans. You should also develop incident response and business continuity plans to help deal with the aftermath of any attack.

These special buildings are places of worship so a balanced and proportionate approach to planning is required.

Some simple steps to help you develop your response:
  • Raise awareness of potential security attacks amongst staff and volunteers. Additional training may be necessary. A permanent diligence culture is critical. Often, attackers will visit a building a number of times to plan their attack before the actual event.
  • Report any suspicious activity immediately to the police.
  • Consult experts for advice. Regional police forces are supported by dedicated Counter Terrorism Advisor Teams.
  • Review security at entry points to your premises including vehicle access. Do existing door and window locks appear robust/adequate or do they need improving? Are internal doors closed and locked in the evening?
  • Does any current intruder, fire alarm or CCTV systems meet your individual requirements – or are there identified blind spots?
  • Are appropriate background checks undertaken on new or existing staff and volunteers?
  • Has a formal and recorded search plan been introduced at opening and closing times to identify any suspicious activity or devices?
  • Extra attention and precautions are required when arranging special events. Think about having dedicated staff for car parking and visitor conflicts.
  • Are staffs or volunteers aware of how to respond to suspicious mail or emails or unidentified objects?
  • Do not make life easier for attackers. Do not allow ignition sources or other materials that could be used in an attack to be left inside or outside the building.
  • Ensure your business continuity plan is straightforward, up-to-date and meets your needs. Staff and volunteers should be aware of the plan. Test the plan on a regular basis. The plan should be available and easy to use in challenging scenarios.
  • Have you appropriate debrief and counselling support available should an event occur, which affects your staff and volunteers?

You might want to consider attending one of the anti-terrorism courses that are being run this month by the police – details in our previous story: