Federal, state agencies to hold public forum in Caribou to strengthen the security of Maine’s houses of worship

8 months ago

Tuesday event to be held at the Caribou Performing Arts Center

Multiple federal and state agencies are collaborating to host a Protecting Houses of Worship event series aimed at helping Maine’s faith-based organizations identify vulnerabilities and strengthen security. The next event will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at the Caribou Performing Arts Center. 

The Protecting Houses of Worship event is open to all Maine faith-based organizations. Local and county law enforcement as well as community leaders are also welcome to attend. Registration is required, and a registration form can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-me/PHOW. There is no cost to attend. 

The goal of the event series is to provide practical information, tools and resources (including information on available federal grants) to help bolster emergency preparedness efforts and foster best practices to keep Maine’s faith-based events and houses of worship safe. Topics discussed during the event will include:

  • Security, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments
  • Active Shooter Preparedness, Response & Resources
  • Building Your Own Emergency Operations Plan
  • Grant Opportunities to Fund Security Enhancements
  • Faith-Based Experiences with Public Safety Issues

The Protecting Houses of Worship event is a collaboration of the Maine Emergency Management Agency; Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division, Portland Resident Agency; U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service; and U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Maine, with input from local and county law enforcement, emergency management agencies and faith-based partners. Aroostook County Emergency Management has provided invaluable assistance in planning the Caribou event. 

“We are thrilled that Aroostook County houses of worship will have the opportunity to participate in a Protecting Houses of Worship event,” said Darren R. Woods, director of Aroostook County Emergency Management. “A place of worship should be somewhere that people feel safe without fear of becoming a victim of violence. This event will bring together experts from multiple federal, state and local agencies to share practical information and resources that can be used by area houses of worship of all sizes and denominations to reduce risks while maintaining their open and welcoming nature. I encourage Aroostook area faith-based organizations to attend the event to learn how to bolster emergency preparedness.” 

Bringing the forum to Aroostook County was a key part of the strategy to bring federal resources to Maine. Previous events have been held in Westbrook and Augusta.

“Faith-based events and houses of worship – churches, synagogues, mosques – are inherently welcoming, with open access and publicly-available services. That is a way of life we are very familiar with in Maine,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee, a Caribou native. “As seen around the country, sadly, that openness can leave religious organizations vulnerable. The purpose of this forum is to provide information and access to resources to protect against the threats facing our communities and houses of worship.”