Open Doors: Safety Measures for Nonprofit Facilities

As the recent horrific deaths in churches and schools have shown, we are all vulnerable to violence. For nonprofits that regularly keep their facilities open to people in need and other members of the public, how can they keep such facilities as safe as possible? Responsible nonprofits should adopt and follow well-developed security protocols that include the following guidelines. Additional and more specific safety measures should be adopted by every nonprofit based on its own circumstances. security and student

First, keep in mind that nonprofits, particularly religious institutions, generally conduct their operations on private property. Accordingly, while such organizations may welcome the public generally, they also, as a matter of law, may refuse entry to certain people. Disruptive behavior should not be tolerated, and disruptive persons should be removed when necessary to protect others’ safety. 

Second, security staffing is key. If a nonprofit opens its doors for programs, services, or other meetings, then designated security personnel should be in place to act as an entry point (or barrier) for all attendees. Appropriate measures may include having a security desk, door buzzer for letting people into facilities, and properly trained ushers at membership or public gatherings. Using video cameras may be very helpful as well.

Third, the organization’s security personnel – whether employees or volunteers – should be well trained and well equipped to handle difficult situations, particularly with respect to the use of force. Generally speaking, a disruptive person should first be asked to cease their disruptive behavior, then be asked to leave if he or she is uncooperative. If such a person refuses to leave, the police should be called. All security personnel should exercise restraint, using only such force that is reasonably necessary to prevent the harm threatened. Force that may result in serious bodily injury or death is never considered “reasonable,” as a legal matter, with respect to protection of property. Nonprofits should also work cooperatively with the local police, as appropriate, to protect the safety of the people who come into their facilities.

Finally, maintain and practice emergency plans tailored to specific hazards. The U.S. government’s fema.org website and several religious denominations maintain sample templates that can help in developing plans. In addition, local police departments are often able to help.

Originally published in the Mosher & Associates newsletter.

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