Risk Alerts

Security teams — what is the best option for you?

Violence at organizations of all shapes and sizes – including shootings at faith-based organizations — has policyholders across the country struggling with the question of the best way to protect their people. In some cases, organizations have turned to weapons and armed security teams as a method of protection.

Before your organization decides to incorporate weapons into your security strategies, careful consideration and planning must occur to ensure your people are not only safe from violence, but also protected from the additional risk exposure weapons inherently create.

As you and your organization evaluate options to protect your people in the best way possible, consider these important steps:

  1. Decide if you need armed security

  2. Determine how to proceed

  3. Develop plans and procedures

1. Decide if you need armed security

Armed security and weapons may seem like an obvious, simple security solution. However, there are many other steps you can take to protect your people. Weapons should only be used as a supplement to other basic security measures such as locking doors, and only if you are willing to carefully manage and control the risk exposure weapons create.

It is also important to have a thorough understanding of state and local laws regarding concealed carry and armed security. Consult with local legal counsel and local law enforcement regarding your plans before proceeding.

Finally, consider if your organization is willing to accept the risk and exposure to liability that weapons create. It is possible that your organization could be held liable for any incidents that arise from the use of weapons on behalf of your organization.

2. Determine how to proceed

Security teams can come in many forms. As you proceed with implementing a formal security team, carefully consider the best option for your organization.

Unarmed Security Team: Organizing an unarmed security team can be an effective way to protect your people while also minimizing your exposure to risk and liability. Asking team members to simply be observant for suspicious behavior, deescalate non-violent incidents, and alert the people gathering in your facilities to danger can go a long way toward protecting people.

Armed Security Team: It is important to note that, anytime people are asked to carry a weapon on behalf of your organization, your organization may be exposed to additional liability. It is required to contact Church Mutual to discuss your armed security plans to ensure the appropriate insurance coverages are in place. Reach us at customerservice@churchmutual.com.

Organizations generally have three main options to consider when electing to establish an armed security team:

  • Partner with local law enforcement: The best way to introduce armed security into your organization is to hire active duty, local law enforcement officers to oversee your premise. This method ensures the people protecting your organization with weapons are highly trained and experienced in handling a weapon in high-intensity situations. They will also be familiar with reasonable force standards and will often assume liability for their actions.

  • Hire a private security contractor: Hiring a professional security firm can also be a good means to implement armed security. When an appropriate contract is in place, security contractors will likely assume liability for their actions and hold your organization harmless should an incident arise. Work with legal counsel to ensure your partnership adequately transfers risk to the contractor. Also, thoroughly vet the contractor to verify that training standards comply with applicable laws and result in highly-competent security guards.

  • Establish a volunteer security team: Some organizations assume that organizing a team of volunteers to serve as a security force is the simplest means to implement armed security. However, this method typically results in the greatest exposure to risk and a significant amount of planning, training, and management. Untrained volunteers are typically less familiar with their weapons, applicable laws, and functioning in high-intensity situations, thus putting people and your organization at risk. Volunteers should only be allowed to serve on an armed security team if they are highly trained and well managed.

General Concealed Carry: In some cases, organizations choose to allow people to legally carry concealed weapons, but choose not to organize these individuals as part of a security team. In many cases, individuals who carry concealed weapons on their own behalf and NOT as part of a security team are responsible and liable for their own actions. It should be noted, however, that individuals carrying a concealed weapon while serving in a non-security related function such as an usher, teacher, etc. may inadvertently expose your organization to liability.

Whether or not your organization chooses to allow for concealed carry by those NOT serving your organization, it is recommended to implement formal policies and procedures regarding your stance and expectations for concealed carry. Individuals carrying a weapon while serving your organization in any capacity should be considered armed security and thus managed accordingly. Work with local legal counsel to ensure your policies and procedures align with state and local laws.

3. Develop plans and procedures

Once your organization has determined your preferred security measures, the next step is to formalize your plans within written policies and procedures. Comprehensive policies and procedures are the foundation to effective security measures and help to protect your team and membership from liability and harm.

Basic plans for all security teams: Whether or not your security measures involve weapons, the same basic principles apply to nearly all organizations. Document the following:

  • Facility Design and Layout: Determine risk factors, average attendance, staffing needs, access controls, evacuation / lockdown capabilities, communication tools, nearby rally points, and more.

  • Local Partnerships: Define how your organization will interact with local law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire departments, media, and community partners (such as emergency gathering places)

  • Team Formation: Identify eligibility requirements to serve on the team such as outside experience, availability, physical requirements, mental / emotional state, clean background checks, and more.

  • Training: Describe minimum training expectations including initial training, ongoing training, and topics to be covered.

  • Standard Operating Procedures: State basic expectations for team members such as chain of command, sign-in procedures, communication, location assignments, patrolling, incident response, incident reporting, and more.

Additional planning for armed security teams: For organizations incorporating weapons into their security measures, additional plans and considerations must be made:

  • For security carried out by law enforcement or contracted security: Document and define the mutual expectations between your organization and the outside security force. State when and where security guards will be positioned, how they will interact with your organization, and more. Ensure your plans correspond with your contractual agreement.

  • For security teams comprised of armed volunteers: Document and define the additional expectations for your team. State your expanded requirements for armed security members including:

    • Additional Qualifications: Determine any additional requirements including licensure, weapon type and ownership, personal insurance, and more.

    • Training: Members carrying weapons should undergo initial and refresher scenario based training similar to that which is completed by law enforcement officers. Certifications and training documentation should be retained in personnel files. Note: a concealed carry license is not a guarantee that adequate training was received.

    • Responsibilities: Members should understand expectations including when it acceptable to draw or use their weapon and appropriate use of force standards.

    • Incident Response: Coordinate with local law enforcement and determine how armed security team members should act once law enforcement arrives on-scene.

Remember to emphasize to your team the importance of consistently following your policies and procedures. Should an incident occur regarding your security force, it is likely that policies and procedures will be analyzed and compared to the action taken by security team members should the incident result in a lawsuit.

Tools and resources

An assortment of free tools and resources are available to assist in evaluating security practices and/or developing plans and procedures.

Contact Church Mutual’s Risk Control Central at riskconsulting@churchmutual.com or (800) 554-2642, option 4, x5213 with questions.

For a complete collection of the Risk Alert series, click here.

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Church Mutual Insurance Company
P.O. Box 357 | 3000 Schuster Lane | Merrill, WI 54452-0357
Telephone (800) 554-2642 or (715) 536-5577

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