A Funny Outtake, LOL!

We began filming Preventing and Surviving Active Shooter and Bombers in Houses of Worship in late October of 2017. Currently we are in post production, but this single outtake should make you laugh! Make sure to share it with friends who need a good laugh!

Until Monday, stay safe and share the Word of God, … Mark

Suspicious packages-Part 2

As you might have guessed, covering the potential for bombings in houses of worship is an extensive subject. While I am trying to provide you with information on how to prevent a bombing, I am essentially just touching the tip of the iceberg in this blog. If you, or your church are interested in learning more, I strongly suggest that you hire a professional to provide an on-sight class.

Continuing from yesterdays blog, I wanted to continue by starting with delivered packages. Delivered packages could include a package, or multiple packages, being delivered to the church by the postal service, FedEx, or UPS. These devices can be just as deadly as the larger devices discussed yesterday. Signs that should raise concern that the package may be a potential IED include:

  • Excessive Postage
  • Handwritten or poorly typed addresses
  • Strange return address or no return address
  • Incorrect titles or title without a name
  • Not addressed to a specific person

These package may also be:

  • Marked with threatening language
  • Postmarked from a city or state that does not match the return address
  • Marked with exceptions, such as “Personal”, “Confidential”, or “Do Not X-Ray”
  • Heavy on one side of the package
  • May have a wire  imprint in the package
  • May have a stain similar to oil leaking

If a package seems suspicious there are several precautions that should be taken.

If you have the package in your hands, you should gently and carefully placed on a flat level surface such as a desk or chair. If it is already sitting on a table, chair, or the mailbox, leave it there! You should then evacuate making sure not to use any electrical devices until everyone is a safe distance away from the potential device. Do not pull the fire alarm, turn lights on (or off), or use a cell phone while still in the area of the package. It is best to use a hard phone line, if at all possible, because a cell phone could be at a frequency that detonates the device. However, if the package and the phone are both in the building, you should evacuate the building, go a safe distance away from the building, and use a cellphone.

In the first blog of the week, we discussed ways to tell that someone may be carrying carried explosive device based on the behavioral mannerisms.

In looking at someone that have these mannerisms, you should also be aware of ways to better identify potential explosives in soft packages. You should be smelling for strange smells as well as looking for bumps or outlines. Things that should raise a red flag include:

Smells to watch for:

  • Diesel fuel
  • Gasoline
  • Fertilizer
  • Oil type odor
  • Tar
  • Bitter almonds
  • No smell at all

Bumps or outlines associated with explosive

  • Pieces of pipe
  • Propane cylinders (especially small canisters)
  • Rectangular or square blocks
  • Dynamite taped together
  • Grenade shapes
  • Leaking oil, or oil type stains

There could be other shapes as well, but these are the most common. In most instances the carried device is going to be a suicide bomber. They may be wearing it in a backpack, a suicide vest (under their coat) , or some other method that is typically hidden. These types of devices tend to have a greater rate of killing people because it is hidden, and typically they are not detonated until it can do the most damage.

The exception to killing many people, is if the bomber is caught, confronted, or otherwise disrupted before reaching their target. When this happens, more often than not, they blow themselves up where they have been confronted.

As was mentioned in previous previous blogs this week, identification of explosive devices may be difficult. The bomber may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it, or they may keep a hand on the bag or backpack at all times. It may take a keen eye to identify wires that might be seen going from the backpack, or wires that go back into their clothes. These wires  are often hard to see, if they can be seen at all.

Typically, the reason they will keep their hand in their pocket (or the delivery device), is so they can keep their hand on the detonator at all times. Trained security or church personnel may be able to identify these individuals, and then isolate them from others.

Only those with specialized training should consider undertaking this task, and they should check with local law enforcement to identify where, and how, they can find this training in their area.

NEVER, under any circumstances should individuals who are not trained in explosives devices try to attack the bomber. The bomber may have what is known as a “dead-man” switch being held down by their thumb. If that pressure is released, the explosives will detonate. The act of attacking this individual may cause the explosive to detonate. Even physically detaining them (grabbing an arm or pushing them against a wall) could be lethal to all.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing a video that was unexpected while we were filming and the police department was using it as a training. The video I share should make you laugh, because it made us laugh! I will resume talking about bombs and bombings on Monday. May the Lord keep you safe until then, … Mark

Suspicious packages-Part 1

Church bombings are on the rise, especially in countries outside of the United States. While the chances of a bombing are less likely than a church shooting (in the United States), we need to realize that the media is providing in-depth coverage into every aspect of recent bombings throughout the world. The media coverage itself  might inspire certain individuals in the U.S. to do the same, so it is possible that we will see more church bombings in the near future.

Just like church security is different for every church, the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) can take many different forms, based on the mind of the bomber. IED’s are generally divided into four main categories: .

  • Package Devices
  • Carried by Individual Devices
  • Placed Devices
  • Car/truck Devices

There are no hard and fast rules in the type of explosive or the composition used to make them. Some of these categories could even be classified as multiple methods. As an example, a suicide bomber may be carrying a package so this individual would be using the package device and the individual device category at the same time.

Package devices can be in the form of a backpack, a briefcase, a suitcase, a mailed box or envelope or a whole host of other types of packages.

  • Someone wearing a backpack
  • A suitcase in the corner of the room
  • Someone carrying a briefcase
  • Boxes, possibly even wrapped as gift
  • Mailman delivering a package

Because there are so many possibilities, it may be difficult to identify what is a threat and what is not a threat. In most instances, if it seems odd or out of place, it may be an IED device. If there is backpack, suitcase, or some other package, and nobody claims this suspicious package as theirs, it might be time to take precautions. If a “never seen before visitor” comes to your church, and they have a package, backpack, suitcase, briefcase, or other items that could contain a bomb, it may be advisable to take precautions.

If an unfamiliar and unsolicited package arrives by mail, it might be time to take precautions. In fact, even mailed items can provide evidence that you should proceed with caution.

Identifying which packages should receive scrutiny is difficult. A good rule of thumb is to keep a watchful eye, and if something seems suspicious or out of place, it should be investigated by someone that knows what they are doing. Should you be fortunate enough to see a person leaving something suspicious, from a distance speak loudly and tell them they left the item behind. If they do not respond in an appropriate way, you should evacuate the building or area and immediately contact law enforcement.

 It is important to note that you should not turn any lights on or off, and you should not use radio’s or phones until you are clear of the area. If you were not fortunate enough to see the backpack, briefcase, suitcase, or other package being placed, you should quickly try to see if you can find an owner. If no owner can be found,  then the area should be evacuated and law enforcement should be called (from a safe distance).

 If the suspicious package is inside a building, then the entire building should be evacuated and go a safe distance from the building. If the package is outdoors, then an area of 200 feet or more should be cleared, depending on the size of the package and where it is placed. Under no circumstances should the package be touched or moved, and under no circumstances should you use any device that uses any form of electricity, including lights, cell phones and telephones, at least until you are well clear of the potential device.

Tomorrow, we will continue to discuss what you should look for in Part 2 of Suspicious Packages. Stay safe and grounded in the Lord, … Mark

Identifying potential bombers

Bombers, just like those carrying other weapons, will usually do things that indicate they may be up to no good. In most instances, a bomber in a house of worship is much easier to spot if you know what to look for. The key to spotting someone carrying an IED into a house of worship is to have situational awareness.

Similar to active shooters, bombers have specific psychological behaviors that tell us that the individual may have bad intentions. This can include nervousness, twitching, fidgeting, and profusely sweating. They may have no facial expression, they don’t smile or laugh when most people would, and/or something may not seem quite right. These are all behaviors that can be linked to a “fear of discovery” by criminals or terrorists

We can sometimes identify the physical behaviors of those carrying an IED or someone that might be a suicide bomber. In most instances suicide bombers  have certain looks and mannerisms. One or more people with a keen eye can in many instances spot these individuals in the parking lot, or as they enter your church.

Signs that someone may be wearing a suicide vest include wearing clothing that is uncommon for the season, such as a large jacket on a warm day, or they may be wearing a coat, suit jacket or windbreaker that appears to be too large to match their face and legs. As can be seen in the picture below, the person is wearing a large coat, much bigger than his frame. He is also wearing shorts, which is unusual.  He may be a homeless person, or he may be a bomber, but this is an uncommon behavior. No matter what the uncommon behavior is, it should raise red flags with the safety team and be investigated.

Another sign of explosives is that they may be walking uncharacteristically gentle, walking in a robotic manner, or they may be acting nervous and/or sweating. They may have controlled or shallow breathing, and in most instances they will not look anyone in the eye. They will usually stare straight ahead, sometimes as if they are looking right through you.

In cases of radical terrorists, you may see light skin on their face where they recently shaved a beard, or they may be mumbling prayers . They may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it.

There may be wires that can be seen running from the backpack or jacket back into their clothes. In many instances they will keep their hand their pocket or the bag, so they can keep their hand on the detonator. In some instances, they may keep the detonator outside of the pocket, especially if it is a dead man switch that triggers the IED when they let go of the trigger (see the second image).

 

While the vast majority of suicide bombers are male, it should be noted that there are female suicide bombers too. This holds especially true with religious zealots. If your church has trained safety and security personnel, there is an increased chance that they may be able to identify these individuals and isolate them from others, or exclude them from the church altogether. Either action will save lives!

Over the next few days, I will be blogging about the types of IED’s and how they may be delivered. As much as I dislike doing this, some of these posts may be discussing the same subject over multiple days, simply because there is so much information to share so we can keep you, and your church, safe. Until then, … Mark

Bombings: Could they be coming to a U.S. church?

Some of you are looking at the title of today’s blog and asking “Is he nuts, that isn’t a problem!”. Well, it may not be a problem in the United States yet, but I firmly believe it will be in the near future. Much like I predicted in 2004 that active shootings in churches would increase, I am predicting that we will see active bombers in the churches sometime in the near future.

We only need to look at the trends of the past to see some aspects of the future.  Specifically, I am look at the bombings in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Egypt (each a separate link) to understand how these bombings could be in our future. I also looked at the most recent attempt to bomb the New York City subway system. With the availability of how to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) being easy to find online, it also leads me to believe that this type of escalation is not far-fetched.

It is important to note that not only Christian Churches may be subject to these bombings. We need to also consider the possibility of bombing attacks on Jewish Synagogues, Muslim Mosques, Sihk Gurdwara’s, and many other types of houses of worship. To be quite honest, no house of worship should be excluded from the possibility that an IED may be used to cause death and destruction.

The individuals who will commit bombings in houses of worship (in my opinion) will be religious zealots. Several have come to mind when using this term. On both sides of the Muslim religion (Shiite and Sunni), radicals have caused death and destruction using IED’s in the name of Allah. They have instigated bombings and shootings against what they perceive to be infidels. If they did it in other countries, what makes us think that they wouldn’t also do the same to houses of worship in the United States?

Let me PLAINLY state Not all Muslims are radicalized!!! 

Only a small amount of Muslims have violent tendencies, and in almost every case they have been radicalized by specific groups, or they are supporting those groups by “Helping them out”. We should not judge all Muslims based on the actions of a few: this would be prejudicial, and it would not be based on the Word of God (love thy neighbor)

Zealots come in all types of religions. Think about the church bombing (and many others types of bombings) in Birmingham, AL during August of 1963. This was a zealot group causing death and destruction against a race, and based on zealot religious beliefs. In most of those bombings, the KKK and their religious followers were thought to be responsible for most, or all, of the bombings. As we look at zealots, we could see the potential for bombings coming from other groups that hold religious, racist, or governmental beliefs (e.g. Timothy McVeigh and the OKC bombing).

The point I am trying to make is that there are a large group of zealot organizations that are escalating their rhetoric. Data suggests that not only will active shootings will continue to increase, but also bombings. Instructions to create IED’s are a dime-a-dozen, and houses of worship are soft targets. Often, they can walk in and nobody will confront or question them.

While the aforementioned zealots are the most likely to commit bombings, we also cannot discount those with mental or psychiatric disorders. They too can cause death and destruction using IED’s, and more than a few individuals with these conditions can be capable of building bombs. In fact, the list of individuals who could cause death and destruction could go on, and on. Almost anyone can be the bad guy, even that nice man at the grocery store.

As I close for today, I wanted to let you know that throughout this week, I will be sharing how you can protect yourselves from bombings and bombers. I will also share strategies on how to increase your chances of survival should they get past you defenses. As we head to the New Year, this information may come in handy. Until tomorrow, … Mark

Share, share, share!

Merry Christmas! As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I am reminded that some of the best gifts are free. We can share the free

message of how Christ died for our sins to give us eternal life, and we should give this gift all year long. We can also share the knowledge that will help keep his children safe. Both of these gifts can be worth more than any other gift you can have. I am reminded of several verses that apply to this mentality.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

Of course, John 3:16 refers to saving souls. There are many verses in the Bible that talk about the saving grace of our Lord! There are also verses that talk about saving God’s children. One that comes to mind is:

“With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape.” Proverbs 11:9 (NIV)

Saving Lives and Souls is the name of our charity, and it is our mission in life. You can give the gift of eternal salvation through sharing God’s word, and you can give the gift of living on this earth by sharing our message about  church safety. By sharing the gift of Jesus, you help to ensure that someone’s soul is written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life”. By sharing this blog, you could save the lives of many who may benefit from the information. It is important to remember that almost anyone can benefit from this blog, even businesses, other houses of worship, and government and non-governmental entities. Similar to the analogy that Christians should not hide their light under a bushel, the information shared in this blog should not be hidden from others, it should be shared!

Because this is the celebration of our Lord’s birth, this blog was short today. For the remainder of the week, I will focus on surviving church bombings. Until tomorrow, … Mark

 

Active Shooting Psychology

It seems that the incidents of active shooters are becoming more common.  After each tragic occurrence, people ask themselves and each other what motivates the perpetrators to go on a rampage killing.  They might also consider what they need to do or how they will cope with the distress of such traumatic events.  The American Psychological Association (APA) describes the multitude of feelings that may overwhelm people, including sorrow, numbness, shock, anger, fear disillusionment, grief and yet more (APA, 2017).  After a time, difficulties experienced in engaging in our basic drives (sleeping, eating, for example) start to settle, and thoughts begin to regain their former clarity.  No sooner has the initial grief started to wane somewhat, but disaster strikes again, and the cycle repeats itself.  The APA advocates for resilience strengthening, that is, to be able to adapt in the face of adversity.  This is sound advice; and anyone can visit their website to read their tips on distress management (http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/gun-violence-report.pdf).  It is important to seek out a professional therapist if you need help, sooner is better than later.

However, something else can be done: it is possible, to not only be reactive and help each other better cope with the aftermath of mass shooting trauma, but to be proactive and be more guarded as an individual, or as a group, specifically in our different places of worship.  Places such as churches, schools, and hospitals once thought to be community sanctuaries have had to formulate safety plans and undertake emergency trainings to proactively strengthen their resilience (Palestis, 2016). Taking a proactive stance does not mean making the congregation in constant fear; if done correctly, it is a reassurance that others are looking out for them.

It is very difficult to understand the different reasons that may trigger active shooter behavior; and sometimes these may be inaccurately described in the literature.  For example, according to Dutton, White and Fogarty (2013) diaries and web sites inspected from a subset of mass shooters contradicts the commonly-held belief of their psychopathic nature or reacting because of rage from being bullied.  Third-party peers described these individuals as over-exaggerating the negativity of their treatment (Dutton et al., 2013).   The APA state that many possible risk factors may be precursors to the use of a firearm on other people; it is not possible to create a profile of who is likely to commit gun violence, and it is unfair, and stigmatizes the mentally ill to say most active or mass shooters are mentally ill.  The APA (2017) says that the most consistent factor seems to be a history of violence.  Unless the behavior attached to the violent history has been observed, it is not easy to identify such an individual.  It is possible to be prepared in advance and follow recommendation to stay as safe as possible in highly traumatic situations.

There may never be satisfactory answers to what triggers active shooter behavior; preparing ourselves to lessen impact on us, to be safer in such situations, is something that can be proactively sought, specifically in places like churches, schools, and so forth.  Consider reaching out and building yourself up with resilience training as an individual and specifically as a group for your establishment.

Cleo Warnick

(Master’s Degree Learner, Clinical Psychology)

 

References

APA. (2017). APA Resources for Coping with Mass Shootings, Understanding Gun Violence. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/10/mass-shootings.aspx

Dutton, D. G., White, K. R., & Fogarty, D. (2013). Paranoid thinking in mass shooters. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18(5), 548-553. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2013.07.012

Palestis, K. (2016). Active shooters: What emergency nurses need to know. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 12(2), 74.

 

Initial training for Church PIO

Today, I want to share a 45 minute long video created by the Christian Emergency Network. Let me plainly state that this is a resource, not information that Saving Lives and Souls produced or created. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we thought we would share this vital information. For that reason, today’s blog will only be the link for the PIO Basic (free) online course. You, and your team, can learn much of what you need to know about the PIO duties and responsibilities from this video. Thanks, … Mark

 

PIO Team or Individual?

We have been talking about the Public Information Officer (PIO) in a church this week. One thing that most churches do not realize is that while there is usually one individual that deals with the media, who gives interviews, and who essentially is the face of the church, a whole team should be incorporated to handle the Public Information as a whole. The reason is the same as why we have a public safety committee, many heads are better than one.

In day to day PIO duties, everyone can take care of a little piece of the overall pie, then come together once per week, or even once per month, to plan what should be released (and when) and review what is planned to be released. They can look at editing, finding things that may be offensive and might drive away non-Christians, or something that might make the church a target.

In a crisis situation (active shooter, sexual misconduct, etc.), the team can share the work so that the face of the church appears to be frazzled. They can help write the script, help stay on point, provide press releases and more. While I hate to state this, a team also provides several back-ups in  instances where the person that would normally take the lead is a victim.

When looking at the PIO Team, you will want to choose the criteria that would provide similar types of people that was used to choose the PIO. To some churches, especially the small country church, this may seem like overkill, or they may be even think that they do not have the people to have a committee. I say, you can’t afford to not have a PIO committee. It only takes three to five people. Please strongly consider implementing a PIO Team in your church.

Tomorrow we will provide a link to some amazing free training that every church PIO and their committee, and many church members should watch. Until then, … Mark

Choosing the church media representative

We all watched in horror when the shooting happened at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. Much like waiting for a train wreck, many of us were glued to the television.  I found myself desperately hoping a spokesperson for the church would come forward and tell the media that God was still in power, and to not give glory or recognition to the evil person who committed this crime.  Perhaps this was not the perfect train of thought, but they were my thoughts nonetheless.

As I mentioned yesterday, a media relations person can help send the churches message, rather than the media’s message. In the public safety world, we call this person a Public Information Officer, or PIO.  This term and acronym can also be attached to the church. When choosing a PIO, you want to carefully choose the person (or persons) who will best represent the church.  Let me plainly state, you should avoid using the Pastor as the PIO for multiple reasons! One key reason is that in the event of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, they will have their hands full dealing with those that were affected by the incident. They will likely be needed elsewhere, rather than standing in front of microphones, appeasing the general public. They will probably be busy providing compassion, solace, and direction to those in the church. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be accompanying law enforcement to the homes of family members to provide notification of death. As I said, there are numerous reasons the Pastor should not be the PIO, and I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. This is not to say that they cannot give a statement (eventually), but their first priority is taking care of the flock!

When looking for a PIO, some attributes that you may want to look for include:

  • Someone who speaks well
  • Someone who dresses appropriately
  • Someone who can stay calm under pressure
  • Someone who is familiar with the congregants
  • Some who can speak with authority
  • Someone familiar with the Bible

While most of these are common sense, I still want to discuss the reasoning behind each. When you choose someone who speaks well and dresses appropriately, you are making sure that you portray your church in a positive light. If it is going to be a national news story, this is extremely important that we represent God in a positive light! In choosing someone who stays calm under pressure, it will be important that the person representing your church is not hysterical or babbling nonsense. They should in all likelihood be able to remain calm and focused even in the worst of situations. In knowing the congregants, you want someone who can give effectively generalizations (e.g. three people of a family of four, the parents of two children, the only child), but they can also provide specific details without releasing names or violating privacy. You also want someone who speaks with authority because you do not want the message being given to sound wishy-washy or weak; you want the information being given to sound like the person, and the church, stand firm on Gods healing, love, and promises. Finally, you want someone who knows the Bible so they can provide scripture that meets the situation.

Imagine a church PIO on national television that gave a press release that started like this:

“Hello, my name is Joe Davies, and I am the public relations representative for ABC Church. Let me start by quoting scripture: In  Matthew 10:28, Jesus told his disciples “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ” Today, several bodies were destroyed in this act of violence, but we are sure their souls are in heaven! …” Another fine example is this YouTube video of the Pastor and his wife speaking in Sutherland Springs.

Let me close today’s blog by saying the information I shared with you today is basic information. I will get more in-depth in the coming days. Of course, I will discuss what happens if the PIO is not capable of doing their job, where to learn how to be an effective PIO, and a whole host of other issues, as I said, in the coming days. Until then, please make sure that you keep Gods flock safe, … Mark