Houses of worship such as synagogues. mosques and churches are pillars of the community where people congregate and find peace and fellowship with like-minded peers. However, in today’s rising political, economic and cultural tensions, even houses of worship come with their own set of risks.
Just like businesses, houses of worship assume risks related to property, their assets and patrons. When it comes to insurance, houses of worship require a wide range of coverage, often on limited budgets. To protect their communities and take proper steps towards risk mitigation, leadership within churches and other houses of worship should understand what risks they face daily.
- Slip, trip & fall: Between various rituals and moments of prayer, congregants are often on the move across the facilities of these houses of worship. Some include altars, elevated platforms, carpets and group seating, creating navigation issues for those of all ages. Slippery floors, rugs, power cords and other various obstacles pose significant slip, trip & fall risks to patrons and employees alike. Ensuring diligent maintenance of the property, clear signage, strategic placement of cords complete with covers for those that must be in walkways and securing any raised edges of rugs are all simple ways to mitigate slip, trip & fall risks. Additionally, if the facility is unable to improve any existing dim lighting, they should consider installing lights along aisles and walkways to safely guide people.
- Theft & burglary: Even houses of worship are subject to the risk of theft. Such risks include physical risk including metal theft such as religious symbols and even copper wiring or pipes, as well as internal theft which includes misappropriation of funds. To manage internal theft, leadership should ensure there are proper checks and balances of the organization’s funds, and that all personnel handling funds are trusted to report discrepancies. When it comes to securing the property, houses of worship should have a security system to alert authorities and proper personnel of any break-ins or breaches of certain areas where high value metals or items are kept.
- Active shooters: Historically seen as a safe space for the community, houses of worship have more recently become one of the many public spaces targeted in the growing number of active shooter events. To better protect these places of worship and maintain a sense of safety for the community, leadership should create a plan of action, complete with a response protocol to employ if an active shooter event occurs. Other ways leaders can prepare for such incidents include training personnel, implementing safe evacuation or lock-down practices and utilizing proper signage throughout the facility to help guide congregants to exits in situations where it is easy to become disoriented amid chaos. Those looking to implement such strategies can find resources for training and related information on the FBI’s website.
Not every accident or threatening situation can be avoided. As such, houses of worship need to be equipped with risk mitigation practices and insurance coverage that reflects their unique needs, including general liability, professional/counsel acts liability and volunteer liability. As an agent, consult with leadership to discuss their insurance policies and evaluate where they may be open to risk as well as a potential claim.