Church security seminar to teach leaders safety measures

Becky Campbell • Mar 5, 2016 at 1:25 AM

When parishioners attend services or activities at Sulphur Springs Baptist Church, they might not think about what’s in place to keep them safe as they worship.

But it’s something that weighs heavy on the Rev. Jon Reed and his church leaders.

So much so that several years ago those leaders began putting safeguards in place — things like locking entrances to the children’s area, installing a camera surveillance system and even changing the protocol for counting tithe money.

Next month, Reed and his staff — and any other church leader in the region — can attend an eight-hour training seminar to learn more about security for faith-based organizations.

“We’ve had an unofficial security team for at least two or three years,” Reed said. “I guess with the events down in Charleston, our risk management team decided it was time to make it official.”

That’s when church leaders contacted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to walk through their building to look for potential areas where a breach could occur. Sulphur Springs was one of four churches the sheriff’s office did that for, and more calls kept coming in with the same request.

Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he felt the best thing to do would be offer a training class to help church leaders know what to look for and how to make changes where necessary.

“We’ve had a great response,” Graybeal said. “It will give everybody an idea of what they need to look for and how to set up security in a church without making it look like a fortress. We’ve been out and conducted several surveys, but we couldn’t cover all of them.”

The sheriff’s office will host the training with J&P Welch Law Enforcement Training and Consultants.

The all-day class is called Proactive Approach To Security for Faith-Based Organizations. The topics to be covered in the seminar include: how to make a facility safe without turning it into a fortress; steps to take in forming a security team; recognizing high-risk areas in an organization; how to prepare for an emergency; how to conduct a physical security survey; and how to establish action plans for emergencies.

Reed said his church had to ask tough questions when considering something like the shooting in Charleston could happen in this area.

“We started having discussions as early as seven years ago about whether there was a need for armed security,” he said. “We didn’t come up with any answers then,” but they haven’t gone as far as an organized armed team. The church has, however, installed the camera system for the parking lot and entrances to the church and have people who keep a watchful eye for anything suspicious.

It’s something Reed never thought would be necessary.

“I never, as a child, had any safety issues, never had any idea somebody would come into a church setting,” and commit a violent crime. “I didn’t have any kind of fear at all that it could be an issue.”

But Reed also said he realizes the need for churches to be aware of security issues.

The seminar will be held at Boones Creek Christian Church, 305 Christian Church Road, Johnson City.

The church will co-host the training April 23, beginning at 9 a.m. The cost for the class is $50 per person, and checks need to be made to John Welch. To get an application, go to www.wcso.net, click on the FAQS (frequently asked questions) link, print the application and return it and a check to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office by April 15.

For more information call 423-788-1414 and contact Captain Bryan Horton at the sheriff’s office.

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