Securing the building

It is a sad fact that many places of worship are a target for thieves.

It is therefore important that consideration is given to how criminals might enter the buildings, and security measures are then put in place to reduce this from happening.


Windows are the most common points of entry for criminals and are often the target of malicious damage by vandals and accidental damage.

It is especially important, to protect windows:

  • of a high value;
  • where the church is close to a public road;
  • that are damaged regularly;
  • where the church is obscured from public view;
  • where there is high value of property inside the building.

This list is not exhaustive and considerable thought should be given to whether you need to protect all or some of the windows in your building.

A way to do this is to use additional external barriers of laminated or toughened glass or polycarbonate sheeting set in well-secured frames. As well as being effective barriers in themselves they do not spoil the aesthetic appearance of stained glass.

In some cases, the only solution may be to fit external weld mesh grilles welded to a strong metal frame and securely fixed to the structure of the building.

It is very important to consider whether security measures may have an adverse effect on the safety of the building and impede any escape in an emergency.

Other considerations

As the natural entrances to your building, doors offer the preferred means of entry to many criminals. Doors should be viewed as the second line of defence, after the perimeter.

The effectiveness of a door does not stop at preventing unlawful entry. Large items stolen from places of worship are invariably removed via a door. It is equally important, therefore, to ensure that when locked, doors cannot be opened from the inside. Mortise deadlocks are the most effective means of achieving this.
All doors should be substantially constructed with strong hinges and effective frames. The strength of a door is only as good as its frame and hinges. Any slight movement in the door structure or in the hinge fittings renders the door insecure and should be immediately repaired. Good maintenance not only improves physical security but also acts as a deterrent.
Locks should, wherever possible, be mortise deadlocks to a minimum of BS3621. Many old locks currently fitted to doors are inadequate, with relatively simple internal mechanisms and are easily defeated by the professional criminal. If older locks are to be kept, additional secure mortise locks should be added.

Ensure heavy external doors are secured when open

Keys should never be left in locks, even while the building is occupied. Keys should not be hidden on the premises as this may allow access by those “in the know”. The best approach is to have as few keys and keyholders as possible and to ensure that keys are always kept in the possession of a named responsible person and a register of holders is maintained.

Wherever possible access to cellars should be via one entrance located within the building.  All other entrances should be permanently sealed, either bricked up or covered with metal plates fixed internally.

Where this is not possible, flaps and doors should be secured internally by means of bars and padlocks. Any retained entrance to a cellar should be given special attention with good quality frames and five lever deadlocks.

It is advisable to ensure that cellars are risk assessed to ensure that security measures do not hamper or obstruct safety, especially means of escape.

The boiler house is often out of sight and accessed from outside. If accessed from outside the building, it can be neglected.

The construction can sometimes be insubstantial, and it must be looked at carefully. If necessary, the door should be replaced or strengthened to provide a significant barrier. Remember, considerable damage can be done to the structure of the building if the central heating system is made unusable by vandals particularly during the winter months.

If tools or ladders are kept within the boiler house, or, if it gives access to the main building, extra care must be taken. The lock on the door should conform to at least BS3621 and, if outward opening, be fitted with hinge bolts.

Never store combustible materials within the boiler room as these can be used as fuel.

The boiler house is often accessed from outside the building and can be neglected.

If your place of worship has outbuildings or sheds in the grounds consideration should be given to the following:

  • Wooden sheds should not be used to store items of value such as power tools, lawnmowers or heaters;
  • Outbuildings should always be kept locked and windows boarded up. If boarding up is not possible, obscure windows to conceal the contents;
  • Other tools such as spades and ladders can often be used by the criminal. A spade makes an effective lever for prising off doors or lids from chests and ladders can provide access to roofs. These items should always be kept locked away. Where ladders can’t be locked away, they should be stored on their side, locked to secure fixtures or raw bolted to a solid wall, using close-shackled padlocks or heavy-duty chains with good quality padlocks.