Medical emergencies

Last week, I touched on the mitigation of medical emergencies. This is an important factor whether you someone is having a heart attack, or if an active shooter got past you defenses. Having a medical response team is an important part of being prepared, no matter what the emergency.

Nearly every church in the United States has some type of first responder that attends their church. I know in my small country church, with a weekly total of congregants of less than 60 per week, we have several first responders, or former first responders/medical staff. Even though two of them moved away (a CNA and a firefighter), we still have a former respiratory therapist (with ER experience), a nurse, and a former firefighter/EMT. We also have an EMT-I that occasionally attends. If needed, we also have multiple veterans from the Vietnam and Cold War era who have had some basic medical training. If you think about it, these veterans could be very helpful in the aftermath of an active shooter in church.

Every church should, at the very least, consider forming a medical response team. This team should be created not only to respond to active shooters, but nearly every type of emergencies. These are the members that will be able to stabilize someone that has fallen, to help someone that has suffered a stroke, and even do CPR, potentially saving their life.  They might be the one that might be able to save a child that was hit by a car, or the elderly person who has fallen down the stairs.

When looking for people within the congregation that might be suitable for an medical response team, there are a handful of individuals who would likely be willing to help in this capacity. They include:

  • Nurses
  • Medical doctors
  • EMT’s and Paramedics
  • DOT Medical first responder’s
  • Firefighter
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Former military medics
  • Anyone trained in medicine
  • People trained to American Red Cross first aid standards
  • People trained in CPR and AED’s
  • Trained veterans

There may also be others that are also trained in first aid who might be able to help in an emergency, such as Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, work safety teams, and more. These people are already somewhat trained in what to do in a medical emergency. Because they already have the knowledge of what to do, why not utilize them to keep Gods flock healthy and safe.

Beyond responding to a medical emergency, this medical response team could also be used to  identify early medical problems. I know of several churches that use nurse volunteers to do blood pressure checks, and who give church goers advice on what to ask their doctor when they next visit them.

Tomorrow, I will discuss some basic tools and/or supplies that should be collected to help make the medical response team more effective. Until tomorrow, may God bless you, … Mark

Sample policy

To close out the week, I wanted to share some basic policies and procedures to give you an idea of how simple this can be. You can modify these examples to fit your needs, or your can create your own. The policies and procedures that I am sharing with you are from a church that I have worked with, so these are actually policies and protocols that are in place. This first one deals with ushers as a part of the security team.


(Insert Name) Church Active Shooter Protocol for Ushers

            These protocols are not intended to be all inclusive, but rather to provide guidance in the event that an active shooter situation occurs at (Insert name) Church. An active shooter is an armed person(s) whose actions are immediately causing death or great bodily injury. In order to reduce death and injury, there are actions that can be taken to reduce the death and/or injury.

Basic protocols;

  • -Identify the general location of the threat and alert others
  • -Call 911
  • -Evacuate others or advise them to seek shelter in a safe place (based on the situation)
  • -Lock the door or blockade with any furniture if possible (Sunday school rooms)
  • -Turn lights off when beneficial
  • -Lead people to hide between or behind furniture
  • -Ask congregation/others not to huddle together

If evacuation is necessary;

  • -Ushers and key staff should guide people to exits and assembly point(s)
  • -After the threat is contained, assist with headcount
  • -Do not let any members leave unless medically required to do so

If there is no time or exit to evacuate people;

  • -Physically capable people who typically sit along the aisle should be asked (in advance) to be part of a team to assist should an event ever happen
  • -If an usher has face to face (close) contact, go for the weapon (if possible)
  • -The closest usher should attempt to tackle the active shooter while others further away should provide cover by throwing books, hymnals, or a Bible
  • -If taken down, hold the active shooter until law enforcement arrives

Final consideration

Be mindful that certain members in the congregation have a CCW permit, and may take it upon themselves to take action. Make sure you are not in the line of fire of a potential concealed weapon carrier if they decide to become involved. (Insert name) Church does not advocate carrying a firearm, but recognizes an individuals’ Constitutional right to do so. For that reason, the church does not forbid the carrying of firearms on church premises.


As you can see, it is pretty simple and pretty straightforward. The absolute worst thing to do when writing these policies and procedures is to make them complicated or confusing. This could render the individuals tasked with doing these job somewhat ineffective because they will have too much to remember.

Below is another example of policies and procedures, but this one is for mitigation measures undertaken by the audio technician (in that same church). The audio technician in the church that uses this protocol has the responsibility of watching the motion detectors, security cameras, and the electromagnetic door locks.


“Denial of Active Shooter” Protocol for Audio Technicians

Audio technicians are the first line of defense against active shooters that may want to cause death and destruction at (Insert name) Church. This guidance is provided to assist audio technicians in making decisions that may affect the life and safety of the congregation for active shooters or any other risk that may present itself while congregants are present in the building.


  • -Monitor motion detectors for activity
  • -Monitor video feed from security cameras for threats
  • -Possibly engage electromagnetic door lock at any sign of a threat
  • -Warn ushers and all others present about the threat

Visual Signs that May Indicate a Threat:

  • -Unknown teenager or adult wearing a backpack
  • -Teenager or adult wearing a long coat
  • -Presence of a gun
  • -Someone carrying unusual objects (propane tanks, gas cans, Molotov cocktail, etc.)
  • -An individual you’re unfamiliar with and who appears to be focused on getting in the door
  • -Any other suspicious activity


  • -Prior to service (or other event) check with ushers to make sure all but front doors are locked.
  • -Upon motion detectors alerting, check cameras for activity
  • -If a potential threat is seen, activate the electromagnetic front door lock
  • -If unsure about a threat, lock the doors and alert ushers who will evaluate the situation
  • -If there is no doubt that this is an active shooter, alert everyone by yelling “Gun”-three times.
  • -Call 911 and provide as many details as possible. It may be necessary to pass the phone off to another individual if the incident escalates
  • -Do not unlock doors unless told to do so by the ushers or police

Ushers Actions:

  • -Upon announcement of a potential (but not positive) threat, the ushers will investigate to determine if it is an actual threat. You may be required to temporarily unlock the doors to allow two of the ushers to walk outside and investigate. Under no circumstances should you to allow entry of the suspicious individual(s) until they have been cleared by the ushers.
  • -Upon a real threat being identified, ushers and the safety and security team will evacuate or secure all members of the congregation in a safe area. If some ushers are outside, they may engage the shooter; do not open the door if they have engaged them, except to let other ushers out to assist.
  • -You will be responsible for viewing the video cameras and identifying the location of the threat to the best of your ability.­-Some individuals with CCW’s may engage the shooter. If they do engage the shooter, do as instructed in regards to door locks and identifying the location of the shooter.


As you can see, these are simple, easy to understand, protocols. In both instances, they fit on a single page of an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. This is not to say that it always needs to fit on a single page, but the committee needs to make sure that they are not complicated or confusing. I cannot stress this enough! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Saving Lives and Souls. Until next week, … Mark

“We don’t need no stinking paperwork!”

Yesterday, I discussed how to choose which mitigation measures are best for your specific circumstances. Today, we will discuss implementing those measures. Too often, the committee gets to the point of choosing mitigation measures, and they think that they have completed their tasks. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once the measures are in place, some type of policy or procedures should be written. Without some form of written guidance, everyone will do their job they way they think it should be done (rather than way the committee thinks it should be done). As an example, after the church has installed electromagnetic locks and security cameras, if the person managing those items does not have direction of what they should do, they may quickly lock a gunman out, but fail to alert everyone that there was a threat at the door. Similarly, if a policy is not in place, some security members may lock all doors but the main entrance, while another individuals does not lock any of the doors, and yet another locks all doors, including the front door. There is also the possibility that  one door greeter may use behavioral profiling (to look for threats), while the next greeter may want to check everyone for guns (through a pat-down) and to check everyone’s purses and backpacks.

When writing policy, it does not need to be complicated, however it needs to be in place before the mitigation measure is fully implemented. An important part of writing policy and protocols is to be cautious when writing policy, to make sure that the policy does not violate any insurance provisions, thereby voiding their insurance policy. This would not be in the best interest of the church, or those that attend it.

Some may ask what would violate an insurance policy. One example that may violate your church’s insurance policy is an armed security team, or perhaps a group of organized concealed carry holders. Before putting a policy or procedure in writing, the committee should probably check with their insurance company to better understand what is and is not allowed. In some instances insurance companies may deny an organized concealed carry group, while in other instances the insurance company may want them trained to their specifications.

One church I am familiar with worried about the insurance implications, and wrote a policy that did not form a concealed carry team, but rather discussed carrying a concealed weapon in church. The policy stated:

As you can see from this statement in their policy, the church did not officially form a team, but they covered the issue. They also covered themselves legally. By inserting this statement, they put the responsibility on the person carrying a concealed weapon.

When writing policy and procedures, it is important to realize that it does not need to be complicated, but, it needs to spell out what should be done and who should do it. It is preferable to address every job that requires human intervention. There should be a job specific policy for each different group or area of responsibility. In other words, there should be a policy and protocols for the greeters, the security team, the person monitoring the security camera’s, and any other job that may be required to mitigate risks. These policies should be put in a binder , then everyone who commits to keeping the church safe and secure knows what their role is. Each person that is tasked with doing a job that mitigates risk should also be given a copy of the policy and procedures that directly affect the job they will be doing.

Many times committees will go overboard when creating policy and protocols. An acronym to remember is KISS. In the fire service we were taught this regularly. For those that don’t know the meaning of this acronym, it is “Keep It Simple Stupid”.  Keeping it simple allows everyone to easily understand their role.

Tomorrow, I will share a template of simple policy that could be easily adapted to your church. Take care and God Bless, … Mark