Church Security Upgrade

June 22, 2024
In the face of increased threats, an Austin, Texas, church steps up its security

On Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, an active shooter entered Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston, Texas. The shooter, Genesse Ivonne Moreno, wounded one man before two off-duty officers killed her. Additionally, Moreno walked into the church with her 7-year-old son, who was shot in the head and critically injured.

 This was not the first time there had been an act of violence at a place of worship in Texas. In 2019, two people were killed by a man with a shotgun at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement. The man was then killed by two church security team volunteers. In 2017, the nation’s deadliest church shooting occurred at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, when 26 people (including eight children) died and another 20 were wounded.

 Just as the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which happened in 2022, led to an increase in school security, February’s megachurch shooting has led to more churches wanting to incorporate added safety features.

Two weeks after the shooting in Houston, Cothron’s Security Professionals was called into a new church outside of Austin, Texas,  to complete two particular projects.

The church actually holds its services in a multi-use building’s event space, and the first task was to add exit alarms on doors in the “sanctuary” that lead into a storage hallway. Since the building is home to over a dozen different tenants, areas like this are shared and used for storage. The church wanted to make it clear which doorway should be used for entering and exiting services. If someone were to try and come in through the hallway, an alarm would sound. For this application, the Detex EAX-500 exit alarm was utilized because of its reliability, extensive mortise cylinder compatibility, and ease of use.


A Solution for Aluminum/Glass Double Doors

A more involved job came next: installing an Adams Rite MS1850S swing bolt with a 4016 header bolt add-on on two double-door aluminum/glass openings that were previously devoid of any locking hardware. With this combination of hardware, both doors in each opening can be secured simultaneously with a single turn of a key or interior thumbturn. When locked, the header bolt forces the active door to become stationary while the nearly three-inch swing bolt projects into the strike cutout on the inactive door. This locking system provides an elegant, easy-to-use method of quickly securing a double-door opening.

For a fresh installation of commercial locking hardware, step one is choosing an installation height that will fall within Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. After marking this height, a Cothron’s technician removed existing straight pulls from the door and mounted Cothron’s Aluminum Glass Mortise Lock Installation Jig to the door with two #8 flat self-tapping screws. This jig is designed in such a way that its mounting holes perfectly align with the Adams Rite 91-0965 universal mounting tabs, used later in the installation to secure the lock body in the stile of the door. With the jig properly fastened, half-inch holes were drilled into the center of each space so that a router could be used to create factory-like prep for the lock body, faceplate, and cylinder holes.

The next step was mounting the lock body. The holes left by the fasteners used to mount the jig could then be modified to accept the fasteners provided with the mounting tab kit. The technician drilled through the existing holes with a 3/16” drill bit then countersunk these holes to ensure the mounting screws would be flush with the edge of the door once installed. 

 NOTE: When adding a header bolt to this installation, the 12-24 mounting screws supplied with the 91-065 kit were long enough to prevent the upper arm of the header bolt assembly from situating properly inside of the locking stile. The mounting screw for the top tab had to be shortened for the installation to proceed. 

The technician was able to position and fasten the lock body within the stile. Next, the header bolt and upper arm assembly were installed. After carefully lowering the bolt assembly into the stile from the top of the door, the tech adjusted its total length so that it would sit flush with the top edge of the door in the unlocked position. After the length adjustment, the packaged attachment pin was used to affix the header bolt assembly to the swing bolt body, and the bolt guide was installed ¼” below the top edge of the door in line with the backset of the lock body; mounting screws for the bolt guide were countersunk on the interior face of the door. 

 With all locking hardware installed, the technician installed the thumbturn and exterior cylinder, along with cylinder guards, to improve the look and security of both. The final step was to create the prep in the header and inactive door to accept both the swing bolt and header bolt. For the header bolt, the tech applied a dab of synthetic grease to the top of the header bolt then proceeded to actuate the lock mechanism through multiple cycles with the door in the closed position. This created a distinct mark, which was then drilled out to accept the header bolt.

 With the swing bolt in the unlocked position, the technician marked the top and bottom of the swing bolt (plus an additional 1/16”) on the active door then transferred this to the inactive door using a combination square. The strike cutout width was defined with a simple measurement of the swing bolt itself. Centered on the edge of the inactive door, the tech marked the height and width of the strike cutout in pencil, then utilized a dremel, jigsaw, and metal file to cut and finish this prep. Before proceeding with the function testing, the straight pulls that had initially been removed from the door were reinstalled, and then the doors were closed and locked several times to ensure proper function and ease of use.

 These installations are just two examples of what the industry is seeing, as churches – along with schools, homes, apartments, commercial spaces, and more – are looking to make properties more secure. Hopefully, with these additional safety features, security professionals can continue to help keep their communities safe.