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At a time when the need for tightened security at local churches grows increasingly apparent, First Christian Church in Athens is installing extensive safety measures through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grant.

The $100,000 Nonprofit Security Grant is part of the $1.7 million allocation designated to Texas for the program. In February 2020, the church security committee, chaired by Ann Sissson, met to discuss church shootings. 

Pastor Kern Railback said members of the security committee traveled to a regional meeting on the subject in Tyler, where they learned about the available grant. The church board met and authorized going for the grant and Kelley Townsend agreed to write it.

I think it’s tremendous,” Pastor Kern Railsback said of the award. “They saw the need for it and did the work.”

Railsback said the application process for a grant of this type is extensive and detailed.

Fiscal Year 2020 NSGP applications were reviewed through a two-phase state and Federal review process for completeness, adherence to programmatic guidelines, feasibility, and how well the applicant addresses the identified risks. 

“it’s a pretty sizable amount,” Railsback said. “It will pay for things like door security, video surveillance and keeping an officer at our services.”

According to Townsend, with the funds, First Christian Church will make improvements to church’s exterior entrances, children’s playground, and parking lots, including doors, windows, and gates, in the form of physical security enhancement equipment. 

To provide stronger entrances, 25 impact resistant doors with panic bars will be installed at all church entrances, three impact resistant gates will be installed for security of the three entrances to the children’s playground. Another addition is a sensor and alarm system, which will be installed for daily and after hours security.

Another measure is a physical access control system which will be equipped with magnetic door locks, buzzers and twelve card access locks to selected interior and exterior doors. Stand-alone video equipment and security system with 40 cameras will be installed to monitor both inside and outside. 

Finally, contracted security personnel for scheduled church services and activities to patrol and secure the church building will be implemented.

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