We have assembled a variety of links on various subjects and hope you will find them useful and convenient.
Darkness to Light
Darkness to Light's public awareness campaign seeks to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse.
Solutions that improve child security, streamline the check-in process, and create a positive parent and visitor experience; all at an exceptional value.
Church Law and Tax
Christian Ministry Resources presents legal, tax, and risk management resources.
Victims of Crime
The National Center for Victims of Crime.
National Children's Alliance
The National Center for Victims of Crime.
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Child Welfare Information Gateway .
Groups Church Volunteer Central
The Association that helps you accomplish big things in your ministry by developing great volunteers.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Georgia Sex Offender Registry
Kentucky State Police
Kentucky Sex Offender Registry
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation
North Carolina Sex Offender Registry
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division
South Carolina Sex Offender Registry
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Tennessee Sex Offender Registry
Virginia State Police
Virginia Sex Offender Registry
National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Preparedness and Alerts
S.C. Dept. of Transportation
N.C. Dept. of Transportation
Georgia Dept. of Transportation
S.C. Emergency Management Division
Motor Vehicle Report
Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company strongly believes that preventing losses before they happen benefits not only our policyholders, but more importantly, it protects the members and visitors of your church. We are committed to protecting your property by providing on-site inspections, by our trained personnel, at no cost to the church.
From a safety standpoint SMCI believes having more than 8 drivers per vehicle is an increased risk due to a lack of training for a large number of drivers. Also, it is cost-prohibitive for us to run MVRs for a list of more than 8 drivers per vehicle. However, we understand there are times when churches feel they must exceed this limit, and we want to give those churches a tool they can use to provide us with additional MVRs at their own cost. As a part of our loss control procedures when insuring your church bus or van, we obtain Motor Vehicle Reports (MVRs) for the drivers list you provide to us, again at no cost to the church.
SMCI is pleased to expand our relationship with IntellicorpRecords, Inc. Intellicorp has agreed to offer discounted MVRs to churches who mention their affiliation with SMCI. Since each state handles MVR requests differently, each church will need to call Intellicorp directly for procedures and pricing. Please call them toll-free at 1-800-539-3717, and mention to them you are affiliated with Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company.
Our GateKeeper Newsletter is just one more way SMCI reaches out to our customers to provide timely information about topics that are important to you, as well as information about our company and employees.
Routine Maintenance Reduces Risk and Losses
Spring has sprung! Now is a good time to do some Spring maintenance around your church campus that can not only make your church cleaner, but it will make it safer, too. Start by identifying one individual who will be responsible for replacing the batteries in all smoke detectors and testing their function. This same person should also be responsible for checking that all fire extinguishers are fully charged and their inspection tags are up-to-date. If your church has gutters, be sure they are clean in order to prevent trapped moisture and water backup, which can result in damage to your buildings. You should also trim back overhanging tree limbs as needed, as well as inspect all walking surfaces and grounds for debris and trip hazards. Doing these things may not seem important at first, but you could prevent an accident that causes injury to a church member or visitor.
Child & Youth Protection Plan
Protecting the Children - Protecting the Church - Protecting Yourself
Unfortunately, sexual misconduct against children is a growing problem in our country, and yes, even in the Church. Southern Mutual Church Insurance offers liability coverage to protect churches after an incident has occurred. However, we want to help churches prevent the abuse from happening in the first place. We have committed to providing this help in several ways.
First, download the Child Youth Protection Manual, or click the link at the bottom. This manual is full of useful tips your church can use as safeguards for your children. There are also several ready-to-use forms, such as an evaluation checklist and a volunteer worker application. This manual is free and we encourage you to save it and print as many copies as you need.
Second, we have several representatives ready to present our Child and Youth Protection Workshop to your church leaders and volunteers. This hour long workshop will equip you with the information you need to start a prevention program at your church or enhance the one you already have in place. Please contact Matthew Quinton at 803-776-9365 to make an appointment.
We are pleased to recommend Intellicorp as a resource for purchasing background checks on volunteers, employees and staff members at a discounted price. For more information on services available, pricing, and ordering instructions, please visit the link below.
Intellicorp Child Youth Protection Manual
Learning The Facts
- Experts estimate that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.
- The average age for reported sexual abuse is nine years old.
- Twenty-two percent of victims are under the age of eight, and Only one in ten child victims report the abuse.
- Children who are sexually abused and do not “tell” are at a far greater risk than the general population for a host of psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood.
Minimize opportunity for abuse by eliminating one-adult/one-child situations. Talk about it. Understand why children often keep abuse a secret. Stay alert to signs of possible sexual abuse.
Reducing The Risk
Here are some simple ideas your church can implement to help reduce the risk of sexual abuse in your congregation:
- Establish screening procedures for all volunteers.
- Run background checks on employees and volunteers.
- Institute a minimum six-month waiting period for volunteers.
- Provide periodic and continuous training for staff and volunteers.
- Maintain proper student/teacher ratios.
- Be sure all rooms where children and youth meet have windows in the doors.
- Eliminate one child-one adult interaction at all children/youth.
- Provide counseling only in rooms where the door has a window or the door can be kept open at all times.
- Never counsel or meet one-on-one at someone’s home.
Where do we start?
A sanctuary is a welcoming place of refuge and safety. In today's increasingly violent world, however, even our churches have come under attack. We no longer live in a time when we can ignore this fact and we must now find ways to protect our church families. This has led many church leaders to ask the question, "Where do we start?"
First and foremost, you must HAVE A PLAN. Southern Mutual Church Insurance Company is responding by partnering with local law enforcement officials and key security consultants to provide our churches with the comprehensive information you need to create a security program suited to your church's specific needs. We will continue to update our website with information and links to resources to help guide you as you provide a more secure church campus, without losing the welcoming environment your church is called to be in the community.
The way to secure peace is to be prepared. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked, than the negligent. - Benjamin Franklin
SMCI is receiving many questions and concerns from our churches, with the most frequently asked question being, "Can church members with a concealed carry permit bring their firearms onto the church premises?" This is a question that is becoming more common with the increase in violence. The final decision on allowing firearms on the premises rests with state law and the church leadership. However, if the church leadership decides to allow certain members to carry a concealed firearm, the church should be sure the person has a valid license/permit, along with firearms/security/safety training that goes well beyond what most states require to obtain a license/permit. Please note that just because someone has a license/permit doesn’t mean they should be allowed to carry a firearm on church premises, as some people are not suited to handle this responsibility. Obviously, this is a difficult issue and one that should be addressed in the church’s security plan. Be sure to enlist the expertise of local law enforcement and those in the legal field when developing your security plan
Download Our Sample Church Security Policies & Procedures Manual
More links to security and medical resources
Start With The Basics
Build your Church Security Program on a solid foundation. There are three pillars of security on which you should base your program.
TRAINING - PROTOCOLS - EQUIPMENT
While you may be tempted to run out and purchase cameras for every corner of your buildings, without the proper protocols and training in place those cameras become an investigative tool after an incident.
Your initial focus should be on protocols and training, then add equipment as tools to enhance the capabilities of your Security Team. Listed below are several suggestions to get your Security Program started.
- Know your vulnerabilities. Contact your local Sheriff's Department and ask if they have someone who specializes in security assessments. Alternatively, search for a security consulting firm in your area and have them come to your property to conduct a security assessment of your entire campus.
- Recruit volunteers. Form a Security Committee by first identifying a key member of the church to head the committee, someone who will be vigilant and passionate about their new role in the church, and then add as many other volunteers as you think is necessary to secure your church campus. Be sure to include any members of the church who are in the law enforcement or medical communities.
- Begin immediately. Do not wait. Once you have your security assessment in hand and a committee in place, immediately begin the process of building your Security Program. Immediately address the most vulnerable areas of your church campus.
- Build on the basics. Once the Security Committee has built a comprehensive security program, including training requirements, protocols, and incident response guidelines, have a church-wide meeting of all members to go over the program and the role of the average church member - child, youth, or adult - in the case of an incident.
- Medical response. All too often so much attention is placed on putting a security program into action, the medical response to a mass casualty incident is overlooked. You should also identify and recruit church members with a medical background to be a part of your Security Committee. They should be responsible for assessing the church's ability to respond in the case of one or more severe bleeding casualties. Every church should have multiple trauma kits staged throughout the church campus, along with several volunteers trained in the proper use of these kits.
security and medical resources
Church Security Articles/Blogs
Strategos International Blog
Articles on Church Security from Strategos International.
The KidCheck Blog is a great resource for all things related to the safety of the children in our churches.
Jeff Kowell's FaithShield
Jeff Kowell retired from the U.S. Army as a First Sergeant in 2004 with 20 years of service. In 2017 he retired as the Director of Life Safety at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Through the outreach of his blog, Jeff would like to raise awareness in churches of the need for a Security or Safety Ministry. You will find much wisdom in the words of this servant leader and the many years of experience he has in the area of Church Security.
The Nehemiah Concept
The Nehemiah Concept is a comprehensive biblical-based program around church security. It’s foundation and purpose are centered around the scriptures. The program provides congregations with a turn-key method for assembling, training and implementing their own security teams. Based in Waynesville, NC, The Nehemiah Concept serves all of the states in the SMCIC region.
De Angelis and Associates
Drawing upon nearly a decade of experience in counterterrorism and homeland security consulting, De Angelis & Associates is a dynamic and continually expanding company headquartered in Lexington, South Carolina. With top-level partners from civil and military sectors, a global network and skills gained from years of study and in-field operations, we provide risk management planning, law enforcement training courses, counterterrorism tactics and security analysis for the government, armed forces, organizations and private citizens.
National Organization of Church Security & Safety Management
We provide our members with educational resources to help them in their security efforts. Resources include our website, which includes written policy and procedure templates, best practices for church security, and training videos from some of our national conference sessions of special interest to church security teams. [Based in Texas]
Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy
GAFASTA is a provider of the highest level of firearms training and awareness presentations throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Gainesville, Athens, Rome and Savannah. GAFASTA develops tailor-made programs for groups, businesses and individuals that want the best training available to meet their specific needs.
Located in Franklin, TN, AGAPE Tactical strives to provide superior training to individuals, families, churches, and businesses in the art of self-protection. We provide Security Planning/Assessments, firearms training, Active Shooter Response training, as well as other training and services.
DRACO GROUP began in 2006 as a dedicated provider of elite security training and services. Our methodology was forged in the Israeli Special Operations community and this is the “no-nonsense” flavor we bring to the table. Our techniques are proven. We specialize in the recognition, mitigation, and defense against man-made threats to human life, property, and assets – everything you hold dear. DRACO GROUP is based in Atlanta, GA.
DHS Active Shooter Preparedness
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) aims to enhance preparedness through a "whole community" approach by providing products, tools, and resources to help you prepare for and respond to an active shooter incident.
Resources to Protect Your House of Worship (FEMA)
In coordination with interagency partners, the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a website for faith-based organizations that serves as a “one-stop shop” for information on available Federal tools, resources, and assistance.
Guide for Developing Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship
This guide provides houses of worship with information regarding emergency operations planning for the spectrum of threats and hazards they may face. It discusses actions that may be taken before, during, and after an incident in order to reduce the impact on property and any loss of life and it encourages every house of worship to develop an EOP.
Non-Disaster Preparedness Grants (FEMA)
FEMA provides state and local governments with preparedness program funding in the form of Preparedness (non-disaster) Grants to enhance the capacity of state, local, tribal and territorial emergency responders to prevent, respond to, and recover from a weapons of mass destruction terrorism incident involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and other explosive devices, and cyber-attacks.
Praise & Preparedness
Faith-based organizations play an integral role in local readiness and recovery efforts. To support these efforts, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security is introducing a new initiative, Praise & Preparedness.
Medical Trauma Kits/Training
Tactical Medical Solutions
Years ago, the term first responder only applied to law enforcement officers, fire rescue personnel, and emergency medical professionals. Recent events have shown us that the term first responder also includes bystanders, involved participants, and concerned citizens who happen to be present. Here at TacMed™ Solutions, we understand that being an untrained provider doesn't diminish the first responder's willingness to help those in need. TacMed™ brings proven life-saving medical gear and instructions together so that anyone can become a first responder.
North American Rescue
North American Rescue is dedicated to decreasing preventable death by providing the most effective and highest quality mission critical products to our military, federal agencies, civilian law enforcement, EMS, and pre-hospital life savers.
Medical Gear Outfitters
Medical Gear Outfitters, LLC is a family run business. We want to help you with your individual needs or your department needs! We have first aid kits and supplies ready for those who want to be more prepared. We are also able to provide our services to your company or department!
Rapha Group, LLC is a veteran-owned, small business in the Charleston, SC area that provides medical training and consulting to civilians, military service members, law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS providers, and medical professionals who serve in all capacities.
Dark Angel Medical
Direct Action Response Training fills a niche between military self-aid/buddy care training and civilian EMS training and is geared towards those with little to no medical training or background. It provides the student with critical, need-to-know information, which can be utilized in a myriad of situations and stresses the ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ principle as well as our own principle of “Simplicity Under Stress”.
Chinook Medical Gear
Chinook is a veteran-owned, minority-owned small business that provides custom medical solutions for the harshest environments. Since 1990, Chinook Medical Gear has specialized in outfitting government agencies, military units, contractors, corporations, adventure companies, and individuals with the latest medical gear.
Is Your Church Prepared?
Hurricane Season is upon us once again, lasting from June 1 until November 30. While many of our churches are not on the coast, we know from past experience that damage from wind, hail, and tornadoes can happen many miles inland during a hurricane. Is your church prepared? Southern Mutual Church has prepared a list of steps you can take to protect your church from storm related damage, which you can download by clicking this link: Hurricane Tips. If you suffer damage due to a storm, Click Here to get valuable information on what to do next. If you are near the coast, you can also go to our Resources page in the Helpful Links of our site to get weather information and traffic/evacuation information. While there is nothing we can do to stop a hurricane, we can definitely be prepared before we see one coming.
Here is how to protect your church from cyber threats
In today’s electronically connected world, anyone with a computer is vulnerable to cyber attacks. That is true for churches as much as for any private business or government agency.
When hackers can break into Target, Home Depot, Sony, Citibank, the NSA, the IRS and even Facebook, how can you keep your church and the personal information of your congregation safe?
Churches are particularly vulnerable because their systems tend to have a diverse set of users – staff, volunteers, members, and visitors with their own devices that might connect to the church network while they are in the building.
Cyber crooks are not trying to get a sneak peek at next week’s sermon. They are after user names, passwords, and personally identifiable information such as names, addresses, dates and places of birth, and Social Security numbers.
So how do you protect all that?
First, accept that you are at risk. Do not succumb to the temptation to believe no one would bother with your church’s data. There is always someone out there who will.
Then, make sure you understand the threat. Here are some of the threats you need to learn about:
Phishing - Phishing emails can take many forms, including alerts that look as though they are from legitimate sources. Their objective is to trick the recipient to click on a link or attachment that opens the door for hackers to steal data or infect systems with malware. It only takes one employee or volunteer to make one mistake to compromise an entire network and cause a data breach. Make sure everyone who uses your system understands the threat.
Malware - This is malicious software installed without a user’s knowledge. It typically occurs when a user clicks on a link in a phishing email or visits an infected website. The ways malware can get into your system increase every day. Points of vulnerability can include the growing number of Internet of Things devices such as thermostats, alarms, cameras, and appliances that connect to the Internet.
Technical Vulnerabilities - There can be holes in software code that allow cyber criminals to gain unauthorized access to a system. These can exist in all sorts of applications and operating systems. An astounding number of vulnerabilities are discovered every day. They can be closed by applying patches and updates, but the only defense is to have multiple controls in place.
Create a culture of cybersecurity at your church. Here are some tips:
- Use strong passwords. It is easier to remember a simple password – but also easy for thieves to guess. Avoid letter combinations that would be obvious for a church to use. “God” and “Jesus” will be some of the first things the hackers will try.
- Do not leave passwords written out in the open. You may find it helpful to keep yours written on a sticky note, but a thief will love you for it.
- Never reuse passwords. Again, that is the easy route, and the easier it is, the more vulnerable to a hack.
- Use antivirus protection. This is basic, but it needs to be said: Make sure you have a state-of-the-art antivirus program running on your system at all times.
- Keep software updated. Not just your security software, although that is critical: The threats are always changing, and you need to keep up with those changes. You need to make sure you keep up with updates for ALL your software, including such basics as Microsoft Office.
- Train staff and volunteers. It is not enough for the pastor and church secretary to be security-conscious. Anyone who connects to your network needs to be on guard.
- Make sure you have a working firewall. It can be as important as the lock on your church office door.
- Employ encryption. If you store personally identifiable information, such as banking information for electronic tithing, you must make sure your database stores that information in an encrypted format.
- Employ dual authentication procedures. A two-step login procedure makes you more than twice as secure.
- Develop a response plan. No matter how careful or smart you are, breaches can occur. You need a plan in place to react and minimize the damage when intruders get into your system.
For a printable cybersecurity checklist poster Click here.