Mitigating Attacks on Houses of Worship Security Guide

Acts of targeted violence against houses of worship are a real—and potentially growing—problem in the United States and a top priority for CISA. CISA prepared this comprehensive security guide based on original analysis to help houses of worship develop a comprehensive security strategy to mitigate future incidents. 

In this security guide, CISA analyzed ten years of targeted attacks on houses of worship to provide context to the enterprise-wide security recommendations outlined in the previous chapters. The case studies reviewed are examples of the breadth of threats a house of worship faces daily. From physical attacks such as active shooter incidents, arsons, or bombings to less visible cyberattacks, a house of worship should be vigilant in its security practices. 

The best way to mitigate a potential attack is to take a holistic approach to security. This requires assigning clear roles and responsibilities for making security decisions, planning, and implementing the procedures and capabilities across the organization. A robust security plan should be tailored to the specific needs and priorities of the house of worship. 

To develop and implement sound security practices, CISA recommends the following options for consideration: 

  • Establish a multi-layered plan for security, identifying clear roles and responsibilities for developing and implementing security measures. 
  • Create emergency action plans, business continuity plans, and incident response plans that are well communicated and exercised with the Safety Team for complete understanding. 
  • Conduct a vulnerability assessment to understand the risks to the house of worship from which you may prioritize implementing any subsequent safety measures. 
  • Build community readiness and resilience by establishing an organizational culture of caring where all members and visitors are properly supported, and credible threats are reported through previously identified channels. 
  • Apply physical security measures to monitor and protect the outer, middle, and inner perimeters, while respecting the purpose of each area of the house of worship. 
  • Focus on the safety of children by implementing safety measures around childcare, daycare, and schools. 
  • Implement cybersecurity best practices to safeguard important information and prevent a potential cyberattack. 

These security options will not deter every threat to a house of worship, but a comprehensive security approach offers the best solution to protect people and property from an attack. Houses of worship should tailor this knowledge to account for their unique security needs while ensuring the inherent open and welcoming values are maintained.

This guide is also available in Chinese and Spanish translations, visit our Protecting Houses of Worship Translated Resources Page.