LocalGov To Do: Life Safety Audits at Houses of Worship

Houses of worship are predictable mass gatherings that would benefit from life safety audits and emergency planning.


There is likely to be elevated discussion and media attention about security procedures at the houses of worship in your community after the recent Pittsburgh shooting. President Trump started the conversation a few hours after it occurred:

“This is a case where, if they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately,” Trump said. “Maybe there would have been nobody killed, except for him, frankly. So it’s a very, very -- a very difficult situation.”

Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship, like schools, large businesses, music festivals or races, are pre-planned and predictable mass gatherings. They deserve and require the same pre-planning with special attention to religious holidays and special events.

Mass gathering planning needs to consider the range of risks, possible injuries and ailments based on the size of the gathering, the organization type, past threats and incidents and the demographics of the attendees. Patients may range from syncope to myocardial infarction to cardiac arrest to severe hemorrhage.

An armed guard, pastor, parishioner or janitor should not be the extent of the conversation about life safety. Public officials can look for opportunities to lead and facilitate discussions on life safety at houses of worship, including:

  • CPR training
  • AED availability
  • Severe hemorrhage control
  • Fire and smoke alarms, along with sprinklers
  • Marked and accessible exits
  • Access control, 24/7 video surveillance, visitor screening and identification requirements

A life safety audit should also include recommendations for equipment, initial and ongoing training and creation of an enduring partnership between the organization, its members and local and state public safety agencies.

About the Author

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic and marathon runner. Greg is a two-time Jesse H. Neal award winner and 2018 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog.

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