Another Active Shooter Last Week

We saw last week that an active shooter, a 15-year-old boy, caused more death and destruction in a school in Kentucky. According to the Kentucky State Police, the teachers and several students had recently undergone active shooter training. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if the entire school received the training.

Looking at this from my perspective, the lack of training to every student is a downfall in many school (and church) active shooter plans. Every person should be trained in what to do when an active shooter (or bomber) makes it to the parking lot or crosses the threshold of the doors. If one person does not know what to do, they become more vulnerable than those that have had the training.

It is for this reason that I implore churches and schools to make plans, to train everyone, and to practice that plan. The more it is trained and practiced, the more likely that those involved will not only act, but they will take the proper actions that will save not only themselves, but others too.
I think I hear some voices out there saying “We have layered security and a security team: Do we really need to disturb people with what to do, and then practice it?” The answer is YES you do! Why? When you practice something, you build up muscle memory and brain memory. If you have trained their brains and muscles to do something under calm conditions, it is more likely that they will do the right thing when trouble comes through the doors. Secondly, are you 100% confident that your layered security and security team can keep a shooter or bomber outside? I have known some of the best public safety officers and soldiers that have been surprised by active shooters and bombers! What makes you think that your team is superior to all active shooters or bombers?

The same principles we teach for churches, can be used in schools. Let me plainly state that if you do not prepare for an active shooter or bomber, and revisit your plans regularly, you are setting yourself (and all those you protect) up for failure. Do you want the next headline to be “20 dead, 18 Injured in Church Shooting” or do you want it to be “Would be Shooter Taken Down and Detained Before Hurting Anyone”? The decision is yours, and complacency and/or procrastination will not help you if, and when, the time comes, … Mark

What will it take??????

Over the years of teaching how to prevent and survive active shooters in houses of worship, the one thing I have noticed is that many churches do not want to prepare. They take a haphazard or complacent response to protecting the church. I have heard a myriad of reasons, with almost all of them being what I consider “bad excuses”. This has led me to wonder “What it will take for them to understand the importance of protecting their flock?”

Historically, scholars and public safety has seen if it happens in the rest of the world, it eventually comes to the United States. We have seen terror attacks in various places, especially Middle Eastern countries, and we say, “That’s horrible” or “What a shame”, only for it to happen on U.S. soil a year or two later.

We only need to think about the car and knife attacks that started in Middle Eastern countries, then it moved to France and England, only to eventually come to fruition in the United States a year or so later. If we think about it, we saw the terror attacks in foreign countries in the 1990’s, and then we saw these attacks come to fruition on September 11, 2001. Looking at this from a historical perspective, it doesn’t even need to be the same type of perpetrator. We have seen the same types of attacks come from radical Muslims, eco-terrorists, domestic terrorists (think Timothy McVeigh), and people that have evil in their heart.

ISIL inspired attacks cut the throat of a French Priest, bombings in Egyptian Mosques and Nigerian Mosques soon led to the bombing of a Minnesota Mosque and the church shooting in Texas. The perpetrators of these crimes were not from the same religion, or even have the same beliefs. Their hearts are hard, and they want to cause death and destruction. It sounds like Satan’s plan to me. As a professional in emergency management and homeland security, I often say “As it happens in the rest of the world, so will it happen in our country.”

Whether it is a mental issue, or a heart filled with evil, our places of worship are under attack! In looking at Carl Chinn’s deadly force statistics (in houses of worship), it is easy to see that deadly force incidents are on the rise. In 1999, there were 22 deaths reported in churches from a deadly incident, and in 2000, there were nine, followed by four in 2001. The number of deadly force statistics stayed under 50 deaths in churches per year, until 2008. Since 2008, we have seen a steady incline in deaths in church at the hands of others. The year 2017 was the deadliest ever recorded, at 177 deaths occurring at houses of worship. Since 1999, there have been 477 deaths that have occurred in houses of worship, stemming from 1691 total potentially deadly force incidents.

So, I ask you, what is it going to take to get your church to prepare? We have scriptural mandates to protect our flocks. We have seen a huge increase in deaths in houses of worship. We have seen mass killings in churches. We have seen mass bombings in houses of worship, in other countries (Prediction: coming soon to the U.S. like never seen before). Is it going to take a shooting or bombing at a church in your state? Perhaps it will take a shooting or bombing in your county? Of course, there are some that will wait until it comes to their doorstep! I tend to believe that there are those that won’t even take action then!

Many stand on “God will take care of us”. God does take care of His children, but He also expects us to help Him. If we are to rely solely on God’s protection, then why does Nehemiah 4:15-16 say: “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah.”

Similarly, in Acts 20:28-30, we are told “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Even Jesus provided guidance that we may need to protect ourselves. In Luke 22:36 Jesus spoke to his disciples “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”

These are but a few verses that support protecting Gods people and the church. Think of all the words of David about how God prepared him to prevail against those that would attack Israel. Think of all the times God the Father helped his people prepare for war. Make no mistake, this is a war. This is Satan’s assault on the church, and he has changed it from a spiritual war to a combination of a spiritual and physical war. Food for thought, … how many people do you think have quit attending church because of the recent violence against churches? This is part of Satan’s plan!

People, I am shouting from the mountain top, as are many of my colleagues who teach church safety! I beg you, start preparing! I also beg you to look at the statistics that Carl provides. They can be very eye opening! Pastors, individuals in public safety, and the general public are begging for church protection. PLEASE, quit being complacent and do something! … Mark

Personal thoughts-Cleo Warnick

I asked my wife to write down her personal thoughts about filming the active shooter video we are producing. I have also asked others to do the same, so you will likely see more of these in the near future. I find it amazing that even though this was a bunch of simulated scenes, with specific breaks between shots, it still brought about some serious emotions. Please ponder this account, and enjoy it, … Mark

Cleo Warnick’s thoughts and feelings-

As the day of videotaping began, I tried to bring myself back mentally to the days of secondary school drama club when I tried to imagine to be in a real situation we were about to act in.  There, the similarities between the two end.  On the day of filming, we were about to try and show what may happen, how we may feel and react, based on being unprepared and uninformed on what to do or expect, while hoping to maintain some safety…

…It seemed like a normal day as part of the congregation; a few greetings were exchanged; a little light-heartedness in quick chats before settling into the pews.  Everything was as it usually is.  Aware that cameras were already rolling, it occurred to me this sameness was how many disastrous and tragic days often begin when an active shooter situation occurs.  Empathy for those who have suffered a active shooter or bomber situation engulfed my thoughts.  Unremarkable, indistinct beginnings of a day, can turn to horror and terror at the blink of an eye, lives never to be the same, or worse, lost.

While listening to the opening of the morning’s messages, I felt vulnerable, because I clearly knew why we were all gathered.  The speaker continued, and we listened to his words. It was a pleasant day, and the weather was good.  Good friends had joined us, which is always a blessing.  Suddenly, a commotion broke behind me and was increasing; I, in the middle pews, I became aware of an individual storming past me down the narrow aisle towards the pastor, strangely holding his arm up with something in his hand!

Shock; disbelief; unreal; people screaming.  What do I do? What do I do? In church; he has a gun! Everyone was scattering in different directions.  Do we try to get out?  We are helpless.  Fear; overwhelming fear was my primary response. I told myself that I needed to remove myself, yet I felt frozen to the spot. Not asleep. This is my worst nightmare.

Okay, cut!

Dr. Warnick who was directing, stopped us and explained all that we could have done to lessen the impact of this individual on the church, and its people.  We needed to work together, identify our available resources, and have select people be prepared in the ways he suggested.  We needed to be more vigilant, or observant, of unusual behavior, and its implications.  Dr. W surprised us by showing us how many ways to exit, and made me realize the importance of uniting in our efforts to prepare ourselves and in so doing, strengthen our defenses.  There are actions people can take, as opposed to being sitting frozen to the spot, that can help them and others stand a greater chance of survival.  To be honest, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about crawling under the pews for protection, or as a way to escape.

Someone knowledgeable in emergency preparedness can work with the regulars to pinpoint all that can be done with greater safety, in the face of adversity to facilitate a better outcome.  We can understand inner turmoil and horror while witnessing horrible events, but would we not sooner have had some training and instruction on improving the situation?

An example is where we would not go out in pouring rain without a waterproof coat, and are therefore more likely to stay dry.  A raincoat helps to keep us dry and avoid colds.  At work, in the event of a fire or other emergency, we look to the trained individual(s) who have been prepared to work with employees in such difficulty.  Usually, there are practice fire drills.  It makes sense to know what to do.  The ‘its not going to happen around here’ is an ideal, not a guarantee.  Preparation strengthens the individual and the group.  Not knowing what options there are, or what to do for the best under the circumstances, creates fear in itself.

The above are some thoughts, feelings and visualizations that I experienced during filming an instructional video under the guidance of Dr. Mark Warnick, emergency management specialist.  He has spearheaded and is producing this video to help others be better prepared for the purpose of saving lives.

 

Cleo Warnick

Master’s degree learner in Clinical Psychology