Skip Navigation LinksASIS International / Membership / Member Center / Security Spotlight / Security for Houses of Worship

Security for Houses of Worship


​Media reports confirm what many citizens know: hate crimes are on the rise around the world. Incidents targeting religious institutions and houses of worship are especially troubling, and governments are taking action.

The following ASIS curated resources, including U.S. government guidance, are available to h​elp security professionals worldwide.

>> Additional related resources include Soft Target Protection and Active Shooter <<​

NEW Resource! 
Recommended​ Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship Around the World​​​​

White paper, 2017
Cultural Properties Council
Houses of Worship Committee 

Protecting Houses of Worship 

(All resources are free - login may be required)

View all past Security Spotlights


Cultural Properties Council

HOW best Practices ad 2.pngRecommended Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship Around the World​
Houses of Worship Committee White Paper, 2017

Security and worship can be successfully blended for those who worship in your facility. No house of worship (HOW), whether a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue is exempt from crime, whether committed by an internal member, a stranger, or as a random act of terrorism. We must consider threats and be ready to respond in a quick, efficient, and effective manner. ​​​

HOW_Vulnerabilities.png Houses of Worship Vulnerability Mitigation Scenarios

White Paper, 2017
Written by members of the council, this paper recounts criminal behavior that affected houses of worship (HOW) around the United States.  Such crimes as the mistreatment of infants in a HOW childcare center, hacking of members’ financial information, clergy safety, and embezzlement are addressed, noting the vulnerability and the investigation. Mitigation options are provide in each example, showing how the HOW could prevent future incidents through safety and security procedures, volunteer and staff training, and legal or law enforcement assistance.

HOWSRAimage.png Houses of Worship, Security Risk Assessment Guide

Houses of Worship Committee White Paper, 2017
The five sections that comprise this document provide resources that ASIS chapter members can use to assist houses of worship (HOW) in their communities. The White Paper details how to conduct a Security Risk Analysis (SRA) process that HOW leaders can use to identify critical assets requiring protection, assess vulnerabilities, and determine consequences. Enclosures include a comprehensive SRA HOW checklist and 34 actionable steps to improve HOW safety and security.     

A 36-page Power Point presentation, which was used by the ASIS Savannah Low Country Chapter in concert with the local police department, is also included.  In two three-hour seminars, approximately 80 clergy were trained on how to conduct a SRA at their facilities.

Target Hardening Suggestions

Organized in five sections each with relevant bullet points, this document provides a comprehensive review of how organizations should approach and structure their security program. It begins with six “Short Term (Right Now!)” solutions, including remembering the organization’s mission, understanding staff concerns, and learning about neighboring facilities. “Long Term” solutions follow, including site surveys and risk assessments, plan implementation, and employee travel. Security personnel are advised to remember five key points: be visible, be vigilant, and be proactive. 

RecommendedBestPracticesHOW.png Recommended Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship

Houses of Worship Committee White Paper, 2012
 Suppose you are the head of safety and security for a HOW that has just experienced an incident where services were disrupted and people were hurt.  While reliving the incident, questions will obviously emerge in the security leader’s mind, including these points:

  • How could we have stopped the intruder?
  • Will we be sued?
  • How can we assure our members that it is safe to attend our HOW?

To answer these questions, the HOW Committee members compiled lists of recommended practices for 27 physical exterior and interior controls as well as 43 practices and procedures

Crime Prevention and Loss Prevention Council ​
The Delicate and Sensitive Nature of Church Security

Bill Martin, ASIS Crime Prevention and Loss Prevention Council
The vulnerability of any institution is based upon several risk factors, but generally the more open an institution, the more vulnerable. Churches are no exception to the rule; in fact churches are much more vulnerable than most other institutions. Corporations are more of a controlled environment while schools and universities are semi-controlled but often resemble open environments. Shopping malls, some sporting venues and large outdoor campuses present similar challenges that make them vulnerable, but churches have their own distinct uniqueness.

The challenge is to obtain a healthy balance, which is essential for the ministry/work. Critical to our efforts is the understanding of the ebbs and flows of the emotional and spiritual aspects within the church; this is a must, if we are to be successful.


Managing Targeted Violence and Active Shooter Threats

Seminar Session 3211, September 2015

​Speakers from Hillard Heintze:

  • Michael Crane Esq., CPP, Senior Vice President
  • Matthew Doherty, Senior Vice President
  • Robert Davis, Senior Vice President

​Speaker from Pennsylvania State University:

  • Regis Becker, CPP, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer

 The speakers, each with extensive corporate security and law enforcement experience, offer insights into the mindset of an active shooter, mitigation best practices, and the human impact of an active shooter event.  Key points follow:

  • Answers to ten questions can help professionals know whether a person is motivated to take action against a perceived target.
  • An active shooter plan consists of four components: prevention and mitigation, prepare, respond, and recover.   
  • Despite the best plans, an active shooter event can be random, meaning employees need to be trained on how to react.

Active Shooters: Risk Management Planning

Seminar Session 3111, September 2016
Speaker: Kevin Doss, CPP, PSP, CEO, Level 4 Security, LLC

The speaker contends that four levels of coordination are needed to prevent and respond to an active shooter incident: law enforcement and other agency knowledge, community involvement, organizational commitment, and individual actions. Soft targets, such as houses of worship, are especially vulnerable because they often fail to devote the funds for adequate prevention, or they feel “it won’t happen here.” The speaker focuses on pre-attack behaviors and statistics showing that in only 27 percent of cases the motive for the attack unknown.  That means, he concludes, that “In 73 percent of the cases we had a chance to stop it.” He offers numerous examples of ways to achieve this goal.


Protecting Faith-Based Assets Against Emerging Threats (2017)

​​This webinar addresses emerging terrorist threats directed towards Houses of Worship and present cost-effective security strategies to protect them against these threats.  Threats against Houses of Worship historically have resulted from criminal attacks, but now include terrorist attacks. You will learn the Security Risk Assessment (SRA) approach for protecting Houses of Worship.  This approach can be applied to the protection of any facility; however, Houses of Worship will be the focus of this session. Attendees will receive copies of the SRA document created by the Cultural Properties Council – Houses of Worship Committee, which includes a detailed description of the process and a security checklist.​


Houses_of_Worship_SSApril2017.jpg Crime Prevention for Houses of Worship, 2nd Edition
Buy the full book

ASIS International, 2015

Author: Paula Ratliff
Chapter 6: Vandalism
Chapter 15: Disruptive Incidents: Protestors and Bombs

In these two chapters, the author delves into crimes that are frequently experienced by houses of worship. She notes that vandalism at these properties is fostered by social prejudices among the perpetrators.  Acts can include arson, graffiti, and “trashing” after a burglary. A list of 14 recommendations to prevent vandalism is included.

The profile of a bomber is more elusive, claims the author, but revenge is a common factor.  The end of a marriage, an unsuccessful business partnership, legal prosecution, or political injustice can lead a victim to seek revenge on a random target. Prevention, therefore, is more difficult. The chapter offers ways to handle mail bombs, telephone bomb threats, and vehicle bombs as well as how to design evacuation plans.

Active Shooter book cover.TIF
Active Shooter: Preparing for and Responding to a Growing Threat

Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier, 2015

Authors: C. David Shepherd and Kevin Doss
Appendix D: Active Shooter & Workplace Violence Training Exercise

This appendix initially poses 15 questions that employers, in concert with local law enforcement, must consider when writing an active shooter workplace violence plan. Here’s a sample:

  • When first responders are on site, how does the business coordinate with them?
  • If the active shooter has been neutralized, is the threat over?
  • What is the business’s process for locating and accounting for employees? Guests? Contractors? Vendors?

Answers to these questions are revealed through scenarios involving an office complex, a hospital, and a school, all of which could be affiliated with a religious institution. To optimize the benefits, the authors suggest that the scenarios be presented to a group of employees from different departments as well as first responders.      


Magazine articles
Security Management Podcast

Security Trends: Protecting Houses of Worship​
Houses of worship are more vulnerable to attack than ever, but these properties must maintain the balance of being an open environment, as well as hardened against threats. ASIS Cultural Properties Council member Jim McGuffey, CPP, PSP, PCI joins us to talk about the latest trends in protecting these facilities. ​​


Safety for Faith-Based Events and Houses of Worship (pdf)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI), April 2017
This resource is designed to bolster emergency preparedness for churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious organizations, as well as faith-based events, while also fostering best practices among leaders of the faith communities; clergy, congregation members, security committees, ushers, greeters, and guests of houses of worship or faith-based events; and the first responders in the community.​

Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Since it was established in 2006, this center helps emergency managers engage with faith- and community-based groups. It delivers training and technical assistance and provides subject-matter expertise to help houses of worship prepare for disasters and emergencies, and to help communities mitigate the damage caused by these events, including active shooter incidents.

Resources to Protect Your House of Worship

Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2017
This site includes links covering five topics: resources from federal partners; resources on trauma, resilience, and stress management; webinars; training; and testing an existing plan.

Guideline for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operation Plans for Houses of Worship

Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2014
This PDF provides insights into developing an emergency operations plan, such as planning principles, the planning process, and plan content. It concludes with “A Closer Look: Active Shooter Situations, which points out effective best practices.

Protecting Houses of Worship Event Resource Guide

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, January 2016
This 22-page document outlines the steps used by The District of Colorado to present a “Safe Sanctuary Symposium” at three locations around the state. Its content Includes event objectives, event planning, an event checklist, and a list of resources.

​Best Practices For Places of Worship​

Caroline County Sheriff's Office, December 2017
The Sheriff's office compiled a list of best practices for securing houses of worship derived from ASIS Cultural Properties Council resources.

Counter-IED Resource Guide

Office for Bombing Prevention
Department of Homeland Security, March 2014
A mission of the Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP) is to build capabilities across the public and private sectors to prevent, protect against, respond to, and mitigate bombing incidents. This publication outlines available OBP resources, including an analysis database, security planning, and training. Posters, checklists, brochures, and videos are also available through OBP.

Houses of Worship Security Practices Guide

Department of Homeland Security, May 2013
This guide covers five aspects of a comprehensive security plan for houses of worship: threats and vulnerabilities; prevention, protection, and mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery.  This final section includes the following points:

  • Assemble a crisis intervention team and assess the emotional needs of staff, members, and responders.
  • Keep members, families, and the media informed.
  • Provide stress management sessions and on-side counselors for children and adults.

Emergency Plan Template for Faith Based Organizations

Missouri Office of Homeland Security
This plan details the roles of a safety response team and aspects of a building emergency procedure for four types of emergencies: medical, fire, severe weather, and intruders/active shooters. Appendices include types of threats as well as space for evacuation maps and specifics of a building’s emergency systems.

Safeguarding Houses of Worship

National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Dept. of Justice
NIJ has created an app to help law enforcement work with houses of worship as they evaluate facilities and create plans for preventing and preparing for attacks. Staff from a house of worship wishing to access the app should contact a local law enforcement agency, which can request the app for the HOW. This document also lists resources that offer security assistance to a HOW in the insurance, education, government, and faith-based communities.


​​Risk Assessment Standard (RA.1-2015)

This Standard introduces the foundations of a risk assessment process used to inform decision making. Through a logical, structured, and consistent approach to assessing risk, decision makers can select from possible choices and determine a course of action. Its seven sections include managing a risk assessment program, performing individual risk assessments, and risk assessment methods, data collection, and sampling. The Standard was produced jointly by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Risk Management Society (RIMS), and ASIS International.


Securing American Non-Profit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2017 (H.R. 1486) has been introduced by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. H.R. 1486 would authorize $30 million in grants for non-profits that DHS deems to be a risk of a terrorist attack. The funds could be used for security equipment, terrorism awareness, or employee training, for example. The bill offers options for non-profits receiving ideologically-based threats of violence.​


Webinar: Soft Target Hardening: Houses of Worship
12 July 2017 | 15:00-16:30 ET

​This webinar will address emerging terrorist threats directed towards Houses of Worship and present cost-effective security strategies to protect them against these threats.  Threats against Houses of Worship historically have resulted from criminal attacks, but now include terrorist attacks. Participants will learn the Security Risk Assessment (SRA) approach for protecting Houses of Worship.  This approach can be applied to the protection of any facility; however, Houses of Worship will be the focus of this session. Attendees will receive copies of the SRA document created by the Cultural Properties Council – Houses of Worship Committee, which includes a detailed description of the process and a security checklist.

Participants will:

  • ​Review the history of threats against Houses of Worship and emerging threats
  • ​Learn the elements of the Security Risk Assessment (SRA) Process​

Security Management

This monthly publication of ASIS International will be publishing two articles related to securing houses of worship soon. In the April 2017 issue, Senior Editor Mark Tarallo profiles an organization that works with volunteers to secure Jewish communities. The August 2017 issue will feature an interview by Associate Editor Megan Gates with Jim McGuffey, CPP, PCI, PSP, chair of the ASIS Cultural Properties Council’s Houses of Worship Committee.

 The magazine has also published the following articles: