To most people, religious institutions provide sanctuary not only from the stresses of everyday life, but also from the physical threats prevalent in modern society. However, you must take precautions to provide a safe haven for your members and ensure their safety.
For administrators and staff, the safety and security of your members and guests must be your first priority. A few things to consider:
- You want newcomers and members to know that you take the safety and security of all who attend very seriously. Many parents will feel more at ease if they know that child security is a top priority at your church.
- You want to protect the church from any legal incidents.
- Your congregation wants to love and care for people. With a proactive approach to safety and security, your congregation can experience this to the fullest and continue to grow.
Any check-in system you design should be part of a larger safety and security plan that includes the following:
Many safety problems in facilities arise because potential hazards go unnoticed. To ensure that you are prepared in the event of an emergency, consider each of the following:
- Make sure first aid kits are available and easily accessible.
- Make sure phones are easily accessible to volunteer workers and staff and emergency numbers are clearly posted.
- Inspect classrooms for potential dangers, such as exposed electrical outlets.
- Avoid letting adults into the classrooms. Drop-off and pick-up should occur at the doorway.
- Observe room capacity limits and adult-to-child ratios. Check with your state and local government agencies for recommendations and regulations concerning these areas.
If possible, provide a secure children's wing with limited adult access. A separate wing provides better security and centralized check-in.
There is always the possibility of a fire on your campus. Danger can be minimized by ensuring that:
- Fire extinguishers are readily available and their inspections are up to date
- Evacuation plans are posted throughout the campus, especially in children's classrooms
- Your staff members, volunteers, and leaders have been trained on the evacuation plan and their roles in case of a fire
- Emergency exits are clearly marked and pass their battery backup test
- Your staff knows where the main fire alarm panel is located and understands the alarm codes it provides
- You have your data backed up and a copy stored at an off-site location
Screening Employees and Volunteers
Protecting children is a primary concern for parents and churches. Screen your workers and keep organized, up-to-date information on all volunteer and paid workers that serve in your congregation.
A few suggestions to consider when screening workers:
- Don't give any volunteer worker the opportunity to be involved in nursery, children, or youth programs until he or she has been associated with your congregation for at least six months.
- Create a screening application that includes a list of references (at least two) and verify the references before approving the applicant for volunteer work.
- Investigate applicants' prior volunteer involvement as an important part of the screening process.
- Choose a reliable criminal background check service and rescreen all volunteers and staff regularly.
ACS has partnered with Secure Search to provide you with the tools to conduct effective and thorough background checks.
Supervising and Training Workers
When it comes to overseeing workers, standard procedures are crucial. Standard procedures ensure that each worker is supervised effectively. Procedures should be instructed to workers when they are trained. Refresher courses should be provided throughout the year to restate the procedures. A few suggestions to consider for supervising and training workers:
- Consider assigning a roaming adult who can drop in on children classes and activities, and who can keep an eye on unsupervised children in the hallways.
- The two-adult rule is best for all classes or events where children are involved. The two-adult rule is that there must be two adults, over the age of 18, present in the room at all times. Never leave one adult alone in a room with children.
- A restroom policy is important. This policy states how workers will supervise children when they have to use the restroom.
- Provide doorways with glass windows so that outsiders can view into all classrooms.
- Make sure volunteers clearly understand the check-out process. If you print security badges, make sure the workers always compare the child's and parent's badges. Otherwise, the integrity of your security system is compromised.
- Staff should be familiar with state and federal regulations, as well as your own policies, regarding registered sex offenders and what to do in the event that one comes on the campus.
- Make sure all the staff, not just the children's ministry staff, are familiar with your procedures so that everyone can respond quickly and effectively should a crisis arise.
Without policies in place, there is a high risk of possible abuse or false accusations of abuse. Protect your workers and the children that attend your activities. Create policies and procedures for your congregation that cover these areas. If you already have policies in place, you should review them on a regular basis and update them as necessary.
Security with Checkpoint
Using a registration method that ensures the security of every child helps keep kids safe, parents content, and your congregation protected. An ideal system provides an organized approach to checking children in and out and a way to identify parents with confidence when they pick up children. This way, an unauthorized person cannot take a child. ACS Checkpoint provides this solution for you.