In the U.S., mass shootings have occurred in a variety of spaces. Some have taken place in playgrounds, nursing homes, movie theaters, and in many schools and churches.  

The sad reality is that mass shootings do occur in houses of worship, including Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Benedictine monasteries, Sikh temples, and Amish schools. Deadly incidents at houses of worship are on the rise.

According to research conducted by church security expert Carl Chinn, 500 incidents occurred in all houses of worship in 2015 and 2016.  In 2017, there were 173 incidents. Many churches and other houses of worship do not make security a priority but are looking to change this.

Houses of worship no longer feel like a “safe space”

People still believe that houses of worship are safe spaces, but religious leaders need to work on genuinely making their area safe for congregants.

While the rise in church shootings may not necessarily have to do with religion, shootings across the nation are increasing. There are several reasons why mass shootings can occur in a house of worship.

Houses of worship often have regular schedules and lack securities. Religious institutions are meant to be welcoming, and sometimes that means welcoming in potential threats. Additionally, criminologist Dallas Drake discussed that the most common reason for shootings in churches, specifically, is intimate partner violence.

Preparedness as a solution

Mass shootings can traumatize a community. Religious institutions need to have a plan for keeping their congregations safe in the event of an active shooter incident.

Religious leaders are often hubs of community outreach and have a clearer understanding of the surrounding area and the religious community. Work to foster a welcoming environment and respectful attitude both within the house of worship and throughout the surrounding community.

Mitigating active shooter events is a complex and challenging procedure. An event can occur at any time — during services, congregational events, or business hours. The best way to prepare your congregation is to develop and practice an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and by taking steps to decrease the likelihood of an active shooter event.

Houses of worship need written policies regarding any security, incident responses, lockdown procedures, and active shooter mitigation and response. Post-communication must also be considered as well as training for all staff and key leaders.

For many houses of worship, having an active law enforcement officer can be cost-prohibitive. Some houses of worship are opting to invest in security staff. However, this can lead to additional challenges as the religious institution could be sued if people are harmed, and security staff was poorly trained. Security teams or staff is a valid option for protection, but the liability must be considered.

Download our free eBook: How Do Religious Institutions Recover After an Active Shooter Incident?

Mitigate risks and recover from the damage

An immediate reaction to an active shooter event at a house of worship might be to claim that it was a hate crime. However, law enforcement officials will need evidence of this kind of motivation. It is best to look at the situation objectively and work with law enforcement to investigate the motive behind the incident.

While addressing the impact of an active shooter event objectively and strategically can be a challenge, this is a necessary step to facilitate effective planning for future emergencies.

Analyze the recent event and create an after-action report, which can be useful for:

  • Documenting response or recovery activities
  • Identifying successes and areas for improvement that occurred during the event
  • Working with law enforcement to analyze the effectiveness of your EAP
  • Describing and defining a plan to improve the EAP
  • Editing your plan, security infrastructure, and training

Active shooter insurance helps with risk and recovery

Active shooter coverage provides monetary coverage for lawsuits, as well as the cost of preventative and post-event crisis management, including victim services and brand fallout.

Active shooter insurance started as a response to requests from larger school systems, health care companies, and organizers of high-profile events like parades and festivals. Now, small business owners, daycare centers, churches, car dealerships, and other local organizations have started to see the value in these policies too.

While general liability policies offer an expansive range of coverage, there are limitations. By contrast, named-perils policies for mass violence explicitly state what they cover. Of course, any insurance coverage has its limitations, but mass violence policies address common expenses and scenarios that many general liability policies do not.

Active shooter insurance often covers items such as:

  • Crisis management
  • Victim counseling, medical, disability, funeral expenses, and death benefits
  • Loss of revenue
  • Property costs
  • Litigation

McGowan Program Administrators offers Active Shooter/ Workplace Violence insurance programs that can help houses of worship manage the risk of violence, and help them to be prepared if violence does strike. We also offer training programs to help religious leaders reduce the likelihood of violence and know how to respond if tragedy does strike.

Contact us today to help congregations prevent an active shooter incident and to be prepared if tragedy does strike.