- Susan Schneider, Office of Security Programs, Infrastructure Security Division, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
- Mark Silveira, FEMA Grants Program Directorate, Senior Advisor & Branch Chief
- Marcus Coleman, Director, DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Whether you are preparing for disasters or keeping your church and related facilities safe from acts of violence, it is important to be ready at any moment. The below resources and recommendations can help your church improve the safety and security of the places congregants worship, fellowship and serve.
Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP)
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides funding support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations, including churches, that are at high risk of terrorist attack. For fiscal year 2022, more than $250 million was made available for grantees. The grant’s intent is to integrate nonprofit preparedness activities with broader state and local preparedness efforts as well as coordination and collaboration in emergency preparedness activities.
This funding can help your organization implement physical security enhancements and activities.
These grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations to fund activities such as:
- Safety and security planning, training and exercises
- Contract security guards
- Access/entry controls
- Closed circuit security cameras
- External lighting
- Security fences/gates and bollards
Before applying, it’s recommended to review all previous year materials at Nonprofit Security Grant Program | FEMA.gov.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program web page provides information on the grant, step-by-step instructions on how to apply, a schedule of webinars for additional information and an opportunity to sign up for the program’s mailing list.
Preparing Through Partnerships
Building partnerships is a critical aspect of preparedness for your church and adjacent facilities. It’s also an important step to take before applying for NSGP. Partnership is essential for the development of clear, actionable and inclusive guidance to enhance the safety and security of your facility.
Key partners for your church include, but are not limited to:
- Local first responders (fire fighters, law enforcement, emergency medical service)
- Local emergency managers
- Your insurance agent
- Your Federal Bureau of Investigations field office
- Your S. Attorney Office
- Your Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Protective Security Advisor
Although some of the partners may be familiar with your church, it is important to touch-base, as a minimum, with those listed above. For example, the CISA Protective Security Advisors (PSAs) are security subject-matter experts located across the country. They provide access to a range of capabilities — including vulnerability assessments — to identify areas that may be exploited by a nefarious actor and corresponding protective measures, training, exercises and best practices. If you are not aware of who the PSA for your area is, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Understanding the Risk to Your Facility
Today’s threat environment requires awareness and planning to respond to natural, cyber and man-made hazards. In addition to working with the partners mentioned above, the Mitigating Attacks on Houses of Worship Security Guide provides an analysis of 10 years of targeted attacks against houses of worship and potential risk mitigation solutions designed to achieve a robust and layered approach to physical and cyber security.
CISA’s Faith-Based Organizations – Houses of Worship web presence provides guidance and resources to help maintain safe and secure houses of worship and related facilities while sustaining an open and welcoming environment. CISA developed a baseline security self-assessment that is designed to assist non-security personnel through the assessment process with the Houses of Worship Security Self-Assessment tool. The report generated from this self-assessment will facilitate the process to identify and prioritize security-enhancement projects for the church and can be used for nonprofit security grant applications. Additionally, FEMA’s Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) training resources can help identify specific actions for your unique situation. Taking these steps are helpful for drafting an investment justification, an important aspect of the NSGP application.
Develop and Implement Plans
There are practical ways everyone in your congregation can prepare for knowing what to do in the event of an unforeseen incident like a flood or an attack in a crowded or public space. FEMA’s Ready Campaign includes preparedness tips to help anyone be prepared for disasters that may occur where they live. You can visit Ready.gov, or the Spanish version, Listo.gov to begin making an emergency preparedness plan today.
Other items that can help include taking free trainings like You are the Help Until Help Arrives, STOP THE BLEED®, and developing a plan for how you will communicate with loved ones in case of an emergency. During an incident, it is important to know how to contact one another and reconnect family and community members if separated. Practice your communication plan to ensure your loved ones know what to do and update your plan regularly.
Everyone with a smart phone can also download the FEMA App. This is a personalized disaster resource to help you and your congregation feel empowered and take charge of any disaster thrown your way. The FEMA App was updated recently — in English and Spanish — to give users increased personalization and notification options by location.
You can download the FEMA App on Google Play and on the Apple App Store. You can also download the app via text messaging. On an Android device, text ANDROID to 43362 (4FEMA); On an Apple Device, text APPLE to 43362 (4FEMA).
Always Ask for Help
There are many federal partners that want to support you at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial level. Many of these partners are looking for opportunities to provide you with the resources and support you need. Collaborating with law enforcement or connecting with your DHS Protective Security Advisor makes a big difference.
The DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is another federal entity that helps faith and community leaders improve the safety and security of their facilities. It connects organizations to the resources they need to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. It also recognizes the important role your organization has in emergency response and the ways that it can help protect the whole community and help them on the road to recovery.
The work you do today helps to protect not just your church or your community, but the entire country. Start preparing now to keep your place of worship or community space safe and secure.