What will the cops do?

When an attack does occur, the actions we take can affect how those who are called on to respond will act. Our actions can put us at risk for being mistakenly shot, or our actions can help public safety to quickly identify and take down those who mean us harm.

It reminds me of the joke about a church gossip who kept sticking her nose in everyone’s private life. Church members were not normally happy with these gossip activities, but they feared her enough to not confront her. One Sunday, she made a serious mistake when she accused a new member, named George, of being an alcoholic. She boldly told everyone that she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town’s only bar the previous afternoon. George was a man of few words, and when he was confronted by the church gossip, from a distance, he stared at her for a  brief moment, then just walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny the allegations; he said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of the gossips house, and left it there all night! The implication he made sent a message.

Whenever an active shooting occurs, law enforcement will be called upon to respond. Much like the way George dealt with the church gossip, we can send a message to public safety, simply by the actions we take. When they arrive, there are things you can do to help protect yourself, and to help police to do their job more quickly and effectively.

In years past, law enforcement would wait for additional officers and equipment to arrive before making entry into the building. All of this changed after the 1999 Columbine Colorado High School shooting. Law enforcement learned important lessons from Columbine. One of those lessons was the longer an active shooter is allowed to go (without be confronted by law enforcement), the more damage they will do.

In most instances, law enforcement will engage the shooter as soon as possible, even if only one officer arrives on scene.  By taking the proper actions, you not only reduce your chances of being mistaken for the shooter, but you also assist the police by making it less confusing and threatening for them.

The police have predetermined procedures in place to help protect you, and then separate actions to protect the police, in an active shooting situation. It is important to note that the police have a primary objective; stop the killing. This means they will usually bypass the injured and dead, and only focus on the shooter. In most instances, this means that help for the victims of the shooting will not come until the shooter is under arrest or neutralized.

On the other hand, most people believe that fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will come to help victims while the incident is still active. This couldn’t be further from the truth. National, state, and local protocols prevent fire and EMS from going to a scene until the scene is safe. In fact, in order to pass their test as EMS providers, they literally have to ask the question “Is the scene safe” to their evaluator.

While fire and EMS may be called at the same time as law enforcement is, they will stage themselves out of harm’s way until law enforcement tells them that there is no danger to the firefighters and EMS workers. They may stage at an area a mile away, or depending on the circumstances, they may stage even further away than a mile. This revelation makes your cooperation with law enforcement even more important. The longer it takes them to get the incident under control, the longer it will take for medical help to arrive on scene.

Over the next few days, I will be discussing ways to help law enforcement, and the “Do’s and Don’ts” of what to do when they arrive on scene. Until tomorrow, … Mark

Tips to survive bombings

First, let me say that I am no expert in surviving bombings. The information I am providing came from research, and discussions with people who work with bombs. To be honest, I do not want to be an expert in bombs!

When looking at explosives, there are two major factors. Are they intended to only blow up, or are they intended to cause as much physical damage to people at the same time? Some explosives, especially those placed or worn, have metal attached to them. This shrapnel will usually be in the form of nuts, bolts, and nails, but almost anything may be used. The reason some bombers attach metal to explosive devices is to cause more damage to people. As the bomb explodes, it sends these metal projectiles flying at a high rate of speed, causing more damage, even beyond the initial blast zone. This is one reason why a thick heavy object might be a good place to hide (if you can’t escape). 

In order to survive an explosive device, there are some specific strategies that may increase your ability to survive. First, do your best to not panic. In most bombing incidents, you are the only one who can take the needed action to survive. Panicking will only cause you to make a mistake, possibly a fatal mistake. If there is time and opportunity, you can:

  • Create distance between you and the explosive
  • Lay flat on the ground as far as you can from the explosive.

Most explosives are designed to blow up or out. Very few explosives will take a downward angle, unless they are specifically designed to. While the explosive force will typically go up, shrapnel and debris from the explosion will be heavier, and they may head towards the floor. If you do lie on the ground, try to find a heavy item to hide under, or behind. This could include, church pews, desks, and behind vehicles (except in the case of a vehicle explosive).

If you are near the bomb and it hasn’t exploded, you could  crawl away from the bomb under pews. This would provide you protection, and it would help to create distance between you and the bomber. If your church has chairs instead of pews, you may want to determine (before an incident) if they are substantial enough to prevent shrapnel and bullets from coming through, or would they add to the shrapnel that could harm you.

If the bomb is noticed, but has not yet exploded, you should begin taking short shallow breaths (some even say to pant). Research has shown that blast over-pressure is the primary cause of deaths in an explosion, especially in confined spaces (indoors). Air moving at supersonic speed can rupture lungs if they are full of air. As might be expected, the most severe damage is done in close proximity to the blast, and the damage and over-pressure injuries diminish as the distance increases.

A list of areas to stay away from include:

  • Windows
  • Mirrors,
  • Lightweight furniture
  • Electrical equipment (especially hanging lights or fans)
  • Gas operated equipment (such as stoves and furnaces)
  • Anything that might move or fly easily

It is also important to realize that you shouldn’t use elevators or wheel chair lifts if there is an explosive threat. The explosion may disable them, or worse yet, it may cause them to fail completely.

Should there be an explosion and you survive, you should exit the building immediately. Don’t look for others, don’t look for any of your belongings, just get clear of the area. As you exit the bombed area, be aware of electrical lines and treat all of them as if they are energized. Also, avoid walls that may be unstable, and avoid any falling debris (as it is possible).

As I close this information on bombings, I should note that in most instances, it is highly unlikely that your church will suffer an attack using explosives (at this point and time). It is still important that you work to identify strategies that may help you to be better prepared for an explosive device brought to your church. It is important to remember that if there actually were an explosives attack on your church, there is no guarantee that the information provided will save you. I will say the information I have provided  should, at the very least, increase your chances of survival.

Tomorrow, we will hear from one of the actors who was in our instructional video (my lovely wife). She will share her thoughts and experience while we were filming the video. On Thursday, we will be discussing what will happen, and how you should react, when the police arrive. Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you safe, … Mark

Suspicious Packages-Part 3

Good morning and Happy New Year. Most of us make New Years resolutions, and I hope you and/or your church will make the resolution to use the information I (and other credible consultants) provide, to help make your church more safe and resilient against active shooters and bombers. Today, I am going to continue to share information on placed devices for active bombings.

Placed devices can be a package device or an explosive device that has no package, or is encased in something that creates a package. A placed device can have multiple types of triggers, including wired to a light switch, telephone, door, or fire alarm. It could have a trip wire, a hand contact, or a cell phone which detonates it.

Placed devices can be in mailboxes, out in the open, hidden in closets or under chairs or pews, or they can be in plain sight. The best way to prevent, and perhaps even mitigate, a placed explosive is good surveillance and situational awareness.

Bombers prefer the path of least resistance, what individuals in the homeland security and public safety field identify as soft targets. The church should try to deter bombers through hardening, or at least giving the appearance hardening to their church.  Something as simple as signs posted which say “All backpacks, briefcases, suitcases, and other packages are subject to inspection” might deter a bomber, especially if they have never been to your church before. This signage itself may, or may not help, nobody really knows for sure. It could be compared to a bluff in poker; can you fool the bomber into thinking they will get caught before they ignite the explosive? If so, they may choose an easier target.

If inspecting packages is an avenue your church wants to pursue, you should have a plan, and individuals who are trained to inspect items that are considered suspicious. It is important to note that inspecting packages without proper training is a recipe for disaster.

Also, should the church decide to inspect packages, those inspections should be in an area where it is less likely to harm others or cause damage to the church. It is at the churches discretion whether they want to post signage, or even inspect packages. There is no research that conclusively identifies or disputes signage or inspection of packages in a church as a deterrent, although there is data in war zones which indicates that this does work. While there is no evidence that it is a deterrent in churches, common sense tells us that the inspection of packages and individuals outside of the building will reduce the death over letting that explosive device into the building, where people are congregated.

The final, and perhaps the most difficult placed explosive to identify, is a car or truck bomb. It is however the least likely type of bomb delivery method. If a vehicle is placed in close proximity to the church, this may provide a clue that it may have explosives in it. If you come to church, and there is a strange car or truck parked in close proximity to the building, then it could potentially be a vehicle loaded with explosives. The first thing you should do is to keep individuals away from the vehicle and contact law enforcement from a safe distance, immediately!

If the rear end of the vehicle appears to be heavy (like it is loaded [based on the fact that it sits lower than the front]),  this too could be a sign of potentially being loaded with explosives. While some may say that this car (or truck) may be loaded with Bibles, or even books, you need to ask yourself “When was the last time someone delivered a truck load of Bibles or books to the church?”

Of course, you also need to use common sense. Are you expecting a new pastor and this might be their moving truck? Are you expecting a load of blankets to pass out to homeless individuals? Are you expecting a load of tracts and/or Bibles? If any of these fit, then you should probably not call the police unless there is something else suspicious.

If a suicide bomber is using a vehicle as a delivery device, then there are some precautions that could be taken. Of course, just like all of my recommendations, these are left to the discretion of the church as to whether they want to take security to this level. Gates could be put up to prevent someone from placing the vehicle when nobody is there. When people are at the church, rather than let any vehicle pull up to the front door, a safety and security team member could be placed at a portion of the driveway to allow only those that meet the churches protocols, to drive to the door. Those protocols would be regular members, elderly individuals, disabled individuals, known individuals, or something similar.

Again, this is up to the church, and should be based on the potential risk of a vehicle bombing. While it is unlikely that a security team could stop a car bombing, it may be a deterrent for someone with evil intentions. Seeing this type of security may cause them to never consider your church as a target, or they may detonate the explosives further from the building, which could result in less people getting injured.

As with any other explosive incident, law enforcement should be called as soon as possible if it is believed that there is a threat. Tomorrow,  I will discuss little known facts about how to survive an explosive device, should it get into your house of worship. Until then, … Mark