Churches Seek Security Advice for Holiday Season

National insurer Congregational and General have linked up with a firm of bouncers to offer churches advice on how to deal with troublesome visitors.

With churches opening their doors to even more visitors over the Christmas and New Year period, the Bradford-based firm - an insurer of homes and churches - has called on Protex Security to help draw up simple guidelines telling churches how to handle unruly individuals in a calm and collective manner.

Margaret Slater, marketing manager at Congregational and General said, "[While] we don't want to be alarmist, it is important to be aware that occasionally incidents can occur in places of worship, putting people - often volunteers - in a compromising position. With little or no guidance provided for church volunteers, we wanted to highlight this by drawing on the experience of another organization more familiar with dealing with such scenarios."

Mick Taylor, managing director of Pontex Security, said it was important that church leaders refrain from the use of force as a response to confrontation.

"The most important thing for anyone to remember when put in a potentially uncomfortable situation is to think rationally and avoid physical contact where possible."

He advised church leaders to assess the situation and the aggressor's emotional state in order to determine the level of risk to themselves and innocent bystanders.

"Working on the doors on a Saturday night may well be a more extreme environment than carrying out duties inside a church, but the basic principles remain the same," he said.

"By using non-aggressive behavior like showing the intruder open hands, or using empathy, you stand a good chance of diffusing the situation in a quick and safe way."

The guidelines advise churches and their staff or volunteers to always make sure someone knows where they are, to carry a mobile phone with them, and to avoid being in the church building alone, particularly at night.

If an incident occurs, the guidelines advise church workers to keep their voice tone low and calm, to be empathetic, to avoid sudden movements, maintain eye contact, and to not be afraid of walking away from the situation or calling the police.

"The tips we are offering are aimed at diffusing the situation without causing distress," said Slater. "There may be underlying emotional reasons for an individual's actions, not necessarily drink-related, so we advise taking a calm approach to visitors who display signs of agitation or aggression."

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