Work your plan!

Jumping jacks, and one, and two, and three … Yeah, … no! No, we do not mean exercising like that. The type of exercise this post is about relates to testing your plans for church safety and security. What better way is there to make sure that all of that hard work you did, with planning and training, will work.

Let me first start with safety. Here at Saving Lives and Souls, we are neutral on whether security teams should have firearms in church. It isn’t that we don’t have an opinion, because we do! Each church is different, and laws vary from place to place. If your church decides to arm, or allow armed individuals with firearms, then there needs to be some consideration for safety when it comes to exercising your plan.

The first and foremost safety issue is that real weapons should NEVER be used when undertaking exercises, … NEVER!!!!  Using real weapons is a recipe for disaster! As a consultant, if a church is armed, and they want to test their plan, I encourage them to buy Airsoft guns and safety glasses.

These spring-loaded guns shoot small plastic balls, and can be extremely inexpensive. At one job I worked at, the majority of the office workers had an airsoft gun, some even carrying them in a holster.  Sometimes the boss would jump around the corner shooting, and you would respond in kind. To be honest, this was probably something that heightened situational awareness more than anything. If you got hit with one of the plastic balls, it stung a little bit (if it hit bare skin), but it was less painful than a mosquito bite. He even got to the point of sending friends in to test mess with us. Perhaps I am strange (no perhaps about it), but I thought it was fun to have to defend yourself in a non-lethal way.

For as little as $5 per replica handgun (plus shipping), you could add realism to your exercise while not having the potential for lethality. If you wanted to spend a little extra on the bad guys weapon, you can purchase a replica AR-15 for around $20. I should mention that the links to these replica weapons are no way an endorsement for this company, they are only used to demonstrate how reasonable the prices can be. Don’t forget the safety glasses!

I should also mention that whenever undertaking an exercise, nothing should be done that is unsafe. Think through everything and look for the potential someone could get hurt. If there is even the slightest possibility that someone could get hurt, then that danger must either be mitigated, or that part of the exercise should not be undertaken.

In the public safety arena, preparing for a full scale exercise is a long process. They can include:

  • Seminars
  • Workshop
  • Tabletop Exercise (TTX)
  • Games
  • Drills
  • Functional Exercise (FE)
  • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE)

I could get more detailed about all of this, but it would serve no purpose. When it comes to churches (especially smaller churches), the long process of preparing for a full-scale exercise will likely “burn out” volunteers. For that reason, it is suggested that the capability of the safety and security teams, as well as their protocols, are tested. This would involve creating as close to real-life incidents as possible.

When undertaking these exercises, there will need to be an evaluation. Evaluating the safety teams response could be done by a member of the church, however it would be better to have someone from public safety present to evaluate the response. More specifically, if testing security response, then either law enforcement or emergency management officials might be the best evaluator. If testing fire response, then a fire official or emergency manager might be best, and if testing a medical emergency, then an EMS or fire official might be best. This also allows these agencies to integrate with your team, and it helps them to know what your team will do. With that, they can create a more integrated response with your team should an incident actually occur.

Tomorrow,  I will discuss who to choose to be your “bad guy”, the types of scenarios to consider, and whether or not you should also have victims in your exercise. While my guidance may seem long and drawn out, it is important to note that by taking the extra steps, your church will be better prepared than most. Remember:

If we fail to plan, … then we plan to fail, … Mark