Your role if a shooter or bomber gets in!

Layer four of layered security (or layer one, if you have not taken my advice), is you the parishioner. You may be asking what can I do? There is a lot you can do. Next time you sit down for church service, look around and see what you may have that could be used as an improvised weapon. Think about this, you are someone that is planning evil in the church, you make entry into the sanctuary, only to be hit in the face with thrown hymnals and the Word of God (the Bible). How much damage do you think you are going to do if you are dodging the heavy books that keep hitting you in the face?

While hymnals and Bibles are readily available, there are some other things that may be used as an improvised weapon. They include:

  • Laptops
  • Cell phones
  • Hot Coffee
  • Thermos or thermos cups
  • Coffee cups
  • Light furniture
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Keys
  • Much more

When I teach my seminars on Preventing and Surviving an Active Shooter in Houses of Worship at churches, I allow the attendees to see how effective throwing items can be. I give them a mix of bean bags and the plastic balls (the type used in kids fun centers), then ask for a volunteer to be our gunman. I give the volunteer safety glasses and a semiautomatic rubber band gun that shoots 20 rubber bands as quick as they can pull the trigger.

In most instances, they are too busy trying to get away from the annoying things being thrown at them, than they are trying to shoot me with rubber bands. In fact, in most situations (not all), they only get one or two rubber bands coming my direction. The rest of their shots are way off to the side or they are not even shooting as they try to dodge the bean bags and balls coming at their face.

You should fight the shooter ONLY as a last resort. If you have no other choice but to fight the shooter, fight as if your life depends on it, because it does/! Try to avoid hitting others as you fight the shooter. As the items are flying, one or two other parishioners should be rushing to tackle the individual, and take the gun away. Whenever taking a gun away from a shooter, or when trying to stop a shooter, you should try to avoid just pulling it from their hand. This might allow them to get shots off at people. Whenever possible, force the barrel of the gun towards the ceiling or floor, then pry it from their hand(s).

Once again, this is a last resort. If the other layers of your security is working, then it should, in most instances, never come to this stage. On a side note, whomever is in the pulpit should be the early warning person. They will see the shooter or bomber before most people. They should announce “Gun, gun, gun!” as quick as possible.

In my next post,  will discuss one of the most contentious areas when it comes to church safety. I will touch on guns in the sanctuary. Some churches believe that guns should be in the sanctuary, while others believe they should be gun-free zones. Until then, may God Bless you, … Mark

Layer No. 3 of Layered Security

Layered security is inexpensive, and it protects more than one area. To this point, we’ve talked about the first and second layers of security. The first layer includes security cameras, and electromagnetic locks. The second layer is security film on glass doors and posting trained security, ushers, or greeters at the front door. The third level of security could be a group of individuals that are either follow suspicious individuals into the Sunday School classroom and/or the sanctuary, which we will explain today. I should mention that I am of the opinion that if there are enough able bodied people in a church, then creating a security team is preferable to hiring one. The reason? Hired security usually changes who they have in place (different person every week), and they have no more knowledge on security than the average person when it comes to church security. In most instances, they also do not know the building layout well, nor do they know the regular congregants versus visitors, but I digress.

Most churches want to portray a welcoming atmosphere, but by the same token, they want their parishioners safe at the same time. The third level of security addresses the visitor that you are not sure about. In most instances, there is nothing to worry about. You don’t want to drive the new visitor away, or even the troubled person that may need God’s divine intervention. The third level of security is more of a clandestine level of security, so that you do not drive these individuals away.

Before service (or Sunday School) ever starts, you should have an individual or a group of individuals that will sit next to, or behind, the individual in question. This holds true in Sunday School rooms or in the sanctuary during service. In most instances, behind them is the best place to sit, if possible. In the event they do pull a gun, or start acting out in any way, this security team member is within striking distance.

Let me say VERY PLAINLY that I am not telling you that these methods will always work. I am only providing ideas that may work, which will be dependent on the circumstances. One method that can be very effective in this situation is to pull them backwards, over the pew (or seat).

Another method that can also be very effective is to grab the arm with the gun, and pull it straight up, or pull it backwards behind the pew. The arm method is more difficult to do without the shooter getting off a round or two, but at least they will not accomplish their entire mission, and hopefully nobody will be shot.

If the visitor or person in question sits in the back row, the security team member may have to sit in a folding chair behind them, or sit next to them in the pew. If sitting next to them, they could grab their arm straight up (unless there are rooms with people above the sanctuary), or shove them sideways and/or trip them to make them go off-balance and force them to the floor. If they do go to the floor, and they still have the gun in their hand,  stomp on their hand until they let go, then kick the gun away. If two people are trying to do this, one can kneel on their neck or small of their back, while the other stomps on their hand.

Whenever possible, force them face down and kneel on their neck if it is only one security person/ parishioner. If more people are available to help, they can kneel on the spine, legs, and arms. There are multiple ways to hold someone, and this blog should not be considered proper training to take these actions. These methods are only being shared to show you that more can be done. It is also provided to give you ideas on what can be done until you receive professional training.

Tomorrow, I will discuss what every congregant can do to help everyone to survive an active shooter in church. Until then, may God Bless you, … Mark

Hardening Glass Door Security

Many times we think as security teams as the total package for security. Let me plainly say that relying on one thing (such as cameras, a security team, or individuals in church carrying firearms) is a serious mistake that many churches make. Layered security allows the church to have three or more layers in place. If one does not stop them, then perhaps the other two (or more) will.

Just like the cameras and the automatic door locks, posting someone at the door is another method of keeping evil people out. This would be the first layer of a security team.  Access points should be limited to one or two doors. While parishioners may have become accustom to coming into whatever door the found convenient, the overall safety of the church should be a priority over someones convenience.

After you limit access to one or two doors, you can have greeters, ushers, or a whole host of other individuals fill the job of door security, but they need to be trained. It is up to your church if the should be armed or not. No matter what the decision on arming them, teaching them to call out for locking the doors and/or evacuation is critical. In smaller churches, this can be accomplished by yelling “Gun, gun, gun!” In larger churches, it might be a call over a radio that says “Gun at the front door”. With the call, the area by that access point should be evacuated, and the security member should hide and position themselves to either run, or to hide and engage the shooter. It should be noted that if your churches plan is to engage the shooter, then the security team should all be trained by local law enforcement, or if the church allows the carrying of firearms, then they should be trained by local law enforcement and a  tactical training course at a gun range. Also, it is important to make sure the church is covered by insurance if individuals are carrying.

We need to remember that just by putting guns in our church does not ensure that we can stop shooters from entering. Guns are not always the answer, and neither are outsourced security teams. Thinking about hiring a security team? Let me discuss those tomorrow, because I have a few things we need to talk about. Thanks, … Mark