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Resources to Protect Your House of Worship

At-a-Glance Guide for Protecting Faith-Based Venues


Across the United States, Americans congregate in faith-based venues to worship, learn, play, and bond as a community. However, public gatherings are vulnerable, and adversaries may perceive houses of worship as attractive targets where they can inflict mass casualties, cause substantial psychological impacts, and draw extensive media coverage.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers numerous resources to assist faith-based and community organizations with their efforts to prepare for all types of hazards, whether natural or man-made. Technical assistance is provided through presentations, workshops, training, webinars, tabletop exercises, and training.

In coordination with interagency partners, the DHS Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a website for faith-based organizations that serves as a “one-stop shop” for information on available Federal tools, resources, and assistance: www.fema.gov/faith-resources.

Additionally, DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) offers a wide range of security and resilience tools, training, and resources. Through its Hometown Security initiative, these resources are made available to communities, including faith-based organizations.  Many of these resources were created in collaboration with private sector partners to ensure they are useful and reflect the evolving security landscape. The list of resources below was created to help the private sector with their security planning, and many of these practices can also be used more broadly in local venues visited by large numbers of people, such as faith-based organizations.

As part of the DHS Hometown Security initiative (www.dhs.gov/hometown-security), DHS asks communities to Connect, Plan, Train, and Report. Applying these four steps to prepare for an incident or attack can help businesses and their employees to plan for their role in the safety and security of their businesses and communities.

Planning and Preparing for Active Shooters

DHS established a comprehensive program focused on active shooter preparedness in order to position public and private sector stakeholders to more effectively plan and prepare against this threat. Following the “run, hide, fight” concept, the program delivers online and in-person training.

  • Active Shooter Resources
    DHS maintains an online repository of active shooter products and resources, including outreach materials to better prepare individuals and organizations against a potential active shooter situation. These products include a desk reference guide, a reference poster, and a pocket-size reference card. Issues covered in the active shooter materials include profile of an active shooter, responding to an active shooter, training for active shooter, creating an emergency action plan, and tips for recognizing signs of workplace violence.  In additional to English, we have some resources available in Spanish, Punjabi, Arabic, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese.  www.dhs.gov/activeshooter
  • Active Shooter: What You Can Do
    This online training is an independent study course available through FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/IS907.asp
  • Options for Consideration: Active Shooter Preparedness Video
    This video demonstrates possible actions to take if confronted with an active shooter scenario and shows how to assist authorities once law enforcement arrives. www.dhs.gov/video/options-consideration-active-shooter-training-video
  • Active Shooter Workshops
    Workshop participants gain an understanding of fundamental aspects of how to develop an emergency action plan. The curriculum incorporates interactive breakout sessions, hands-on planning activities, first-hand accounts from active shooter survivors and responders, and planning for individuals with disabilities. To learn about upcoming workshops, please contact ASworkshop@hq.dhs.gov.
  • Planning and Response to an Active Shooter: An Interagency Security Committee (ISC) Policy and Best Practices Guide
    ISC first released this guide in July 2015 as a resource for government agencies. The ISC subsequently released a public version suitable for private sector use. The Guide draws on the experience of over 50 agencies to provide best practices and guidance on active shooter situations for law enforcement agencies, facility tenants, and the public. www.dhs.gov/publication/isc-planning-and-response-active-shooter-guide

Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Training

The Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP) develops and delivers a diverse portfolio of no cost counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) awareness solutions and training courses. Training is taught around the United States through direct delivery in a traditional classroom setting or online through a virtual instructor-led training platform, and through computer-based training. Training courses available to faith-based communities include:

  • Bomb Threat Management Planning (MGT-451)
  • Protective Measures (PER-336)
  • IED Search Procedures (PER-339)
  • Vehicle-Borne IED Detection (PER-312)
  • Bomb Prevention Awareness (AWR-348)
  • Explosive Effects and Mitigation (AWR-337)
  • Protective Measures Awareness (AWR-340)
  • Response to Suspicious Behaviors & Items (AWR-335)

Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Awareness Products   

OBP provides a wide array of awareness products—including cards, posters, checklists, brochures, videos, briefings, and applications—designed to share counter-IED awareness information with the general public and across the public and private sectors to prevent, protect against, respond to, and mitigate bombing incidents.  Products available to faith-based communities include:

  • Suicide Bomber Awareness/Active Shooter Card
  • DHS-DOJ Bomb Threat Guidance
  • DHS-DOJ Bomb Threat Stand-Off Card
  • DHS Bomb Threat Procedures/Checklist

What to Do – Bomb Threat Video

It's important to know what steps everyday citizens can and should take in the event of a bomb threat. This video, developed in conjunction with the University of Central Florida, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), educates viewers on the best practices and procedures when receiving a bomb threat. The video demonstrates step-by-step how to respond to a bomb threat and uses the DHS Bomb Threat Procedures Checklist. The video is available at https://www.dhs.gov/what-to-do-bomb-threat.

For more information on the OBP C-IED training, please visit www.dhs.gov/obp.

Tabletop Exercises

  • Communities can create an Exercise Toolkit Account in the Preparedness Toolkit portal. The Toolkit is an online portal that provides the whole community with tools to aid in implementing all six areas of the National Preparedness System, including exercises. To create an Exercise Toolkit account, please visit www.preptoolkit.org.
  • FEMA EMI offers Virtual Table Top Exercises in which faith-based organizations may be members within the organizations and communities participating. EMI also implements the Master Exercise Practitioner Program which offers training to officials in planning, designing, and implementing exercises under the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. www.training.fema.gov/mepp/
  • NPPD’s IP Sector-Specific Tabletop Exercise Program (SSTEP) allows houses of worship to develop interactive, discussion-based exercises by leveraging pre-built exercise templates.
  • FEMA has developed a suite of tabletop exercises in partnership with the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships via PrepareAthon. www.community.fema.gov/
  • FEMA and the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships are collaboratively working on an exercise series that engages the faith community that helps test capabilities for all hazards, including active shooter incidents.

Know What to Look For and What to Report

  • If You See Something, Say Something” Campaign
    This simple and effective program helps raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism, crime, and other threats, and emphasizes the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities. For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something.
  • Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship Webinar
    This webinar helps participants learn the importance of conducting a security assessment of their facility, how to find the right support in conducting that assessment, applicable security measures, and how to create a security culture that engages and involves all the members of their respective academic or faith community.
    rems.ed.gov/OverviewEmergencyOperationsPlans.aspx

Additional Resources

  • FEMA offers an online course to train the faith-based community on disaster and/or incident planning, “IS-360: Preparing for Mass Casualty Incidents: A Guide for Schools, Higher Education and Houses of Worship.” https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-360
  • FEMA's National Integration Center and the DHS Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives released the guide, Engaging Faith-based and Community Organizations. Emergency managers can view this guide as a starting point for expanding existing engagement practices with faith and community-based organizations as well as strategize how to further implement whole community principles into emergency management activities. NPPD drafted and released an Infrastructure Protection Report Series for Houses of Worship and continues to provide this document to the faith-based community.

DHS Grant Funding Opportunities

  • The DHS Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) provides funding support opportunities for target-hardening and other physical security enhancements and activities to eligible nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack and which are located with the geographic footprint of an urban area designated as an Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) jurisdiction under DHS’s UASI Grant Program.
  • The NSGP also promotes coordination and collaboration in emergency preparedness activities among public and private community representatives, as well as state and local government agencies.
  • For organizations that are not located within a designated UASI site, funding for similar security enhancements is available through the states and territories under the Department’s State Homeland Security Grant Program.
  • FEMA’s Grant Programs Directorate staff are ready to work with them to re-program dollars to allowable expenses. For more information visit www.fema.gov/grants.

Protective Security Advisors

The Protective Security Advisors (PSAs) are IP’s field-based representatives who work with Federal, State, and local government partners and the private sector to assess the local needs for information, training, and technical assistance.  PSAs can also help with more in-depth activities, such as vulnerability assessments and security surveys.

Regardless of whether an organization would like the level of hands-on technical assistance that a PSA can provide, or they just want to learn at their own pace through online resources, DHS offers free tools and resources to help faith-based and other community organizations plan the best way to reduce the likelihood or minimize the impact of a successful attack on local venues. Get started today by contacting NICC@hq.dhs.gov for help connecting with your local PSA. For more information, please visit www.dhs.gov/protective-security-advisors.

The no-cost resources are designed to provide faith and community leaders and employers resources to prepare for and mitigate against a natural or man made emergency or disaster, including an active shooter incident.

The following resources are designed to provide you with an approach to test and think through how to respond to a natural or man-made emergency or disaster.

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseReligious and Cultural Literacy and Competency in Disasters

Last Updated: 
08/21/2018 - 15:53