Signs that Should Indicate an Increased Awareness

All to often, we hear about what an active shooter was doing before they committed their crime. Houses of worship often see these signs, but yet they are oblivious to them. It’s time to quit missing these signs, and start paying more attention to what is going on in their lives. Sometimes domestic problems spill over into the sanctuary, and even if the congregation is not shot up, at least one person dies. I remember several over the years about instances where a husband and wife were splitting up, or having marital difficulties, and it turned into a church shooting. In one instances,I can remember the wife went to church, and the husband showed up at church and shot their spouse. In most instances, the shooter commits suicide, but not always. The only reason I am mentioning this is so you have a reminder that it is not always about the entire congregation. Sometimes it is about a domestic issue at home, and it spills over into the church.

As I did on Thursday, I am sharing some more information from handouts that I provide when I teach Surviving and Preventing Active Shooters and Bombers in Houses of Worship. For the safety of yourself and all those in your house of worship, PLEASE think about these signs and think about anyone that might be having these issues.


Signs that should Indicate an Increased Awareness

Past active shooters had common attributes. For these attributes to be included in this list, it had to be present in at least 25% of the active shooters life history. While these signs may not indicate they will become an active shooter, they should cause individuals that may become victims to have a raised awareness.

  • Hostility or conflicts at work or home
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Domestic problems
  • Currently using drugs or alcohol
  • Poor job performance evaluation
  • History of violence against others
  • History of being abused or neglected
  • Disciplinary action or job termination
  • Involuntary job changes – different roles, responsibilities or work groups
  • May exhibit recent signs of mental illness with outbursts

These are similar to the first list that I published, but still a little different. If there are indications on the first list and the second list, then you should have substantial heightened awareness around these individuals.

Later in the week, I will release a blog that will tell you how to identify when the police should be called before the potential active shooter can ever harm someone in your church. Be on the watch for that blog post, … Mark

Active Shooter – What should we do?

I have many church leaders ask “What should I do if an active shooter gets into my church”.  While it is a horrible thing to imagine, there are things you can do to increase your chances of surviving. The first thing that I would like to do is refer you to the Run, Hide, Fight video. This video was created by the City of Houston, and the Department of Homeland Security. It provides some very good basic tips on how to survive an active shooter situation. I strongly urge you to watch this video before you continue reading this blog.

Hopefully, you have now seen the basics of what to do in an active shooter situation, I want you to imagine, or look at, your church and ask yourself a few questions. How can I escape? Where could I run to? Where is the appropriate place to go if you do escape? You should begin considering areas that will physically hide you, and an area that will put a barrier between you and any projectiles coming your way.

While there are many self-proclaimed ballistics experts out there that may say that I am wrong, I am a firm believer that even if it only slows the projectile down, it gives you a better chance of surviving. This will depend on the caliber and ammunition they are using, but if someones shooting at me, I am not going to stand in the open when I could be behind cover.

Having said this, hiding behind objects that offer no stopping or slowing power will not work. Plain sheet-rock walls,  hollow-core doors, paneling walls, and other easily penetrable construction materials will provide little cover. An easy way to guesstimate if an object is potentially sound enough to stop a bullet, is to imagine what a hammer with a full swing would do to that object. If it will smash and go through the object you’re considering, then that is not a good place. If it would cause very little damage, then you probably found the right place!

So back to considering your church: Do you have a dumpster to hide behind? The steel in a dumpster should slow or stop a bullet, depending on the caliber used. What about an brick or block wall? Most bullets will not penetrate brick or block walls! Are there cars in the parking lot to hide behind? Hide behind them.  Do you have large rocks or boulders outside? Hide behind them. A church bus, a church van, even a church garage or shed might work. Sitting at my computer, I cannot tell you where your best places to hide are, so you are going to have to make that decision.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be better to fall to the floor, and then use those solid wooden pews as cover. Anything that puts a substantial barrier between you and the shooter is a “good thing”! If the shooter is moving up the aisle, there is always the option of crawling under the pews and working your way to the back of the church, or towards an exit door. If you do get to the back of the church, or an exit door, you might be able to escape behind the shooter, or hide behind them. I have attached a video to this blog. This is a scene from the instructional video that Saving Lives and Souls is creating and this instructional video should be out in July of 2018. This should give you a better idea about crawling under pews and how to possibly get close to an exit.

It is important to note that you will have to make the decision what to do. In order to make that decision quickly, you have to be in a situational awareness mindset. Know your surroundings, and regularly play scenarios out in your mind. Remember, there is no guarantee what will work as cover after you escape, and what will not.  I am only providing these tips so you might realize that you have more options than when you started thinking about surviving an active shooter.

Once you run from the area, and you are safe, call 911! Even if you saw someone else on their phone, it does not mean they were calling 911. They may have been calling loved ones. Perhaps they called 911, and  the call may not have connected. As someone that served in public safety for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the dispatcher tells us there are multiple calls coming in, it lets first responders know that it isn’t a hoax or prank call. While we may be en route with the first call, multiple calls add even more urgency to the response.

I could go on and on, but then I would not get this information out on schedule. In the near future, I will be sharing more information on how to survive an active shooter. Remember, in this blog, I only can give you options that you may not have thought of. Now it is time for you to do the work and come up with a game plan. Do you think that your favorite sports team goes into a game without planning strategy? Then why would you ignore keeping your church safe from an active shooter? If you work at it now, you may be able to save yours, and many other peoples lives in such a situation. Thanks for reading, … Mark

Situational Awareness

One of the keys to surviving an active shooting is to have situational awareness. Situational awareness is being aware of what is going on around you. We have to keep our eyes wide open and observe what is going on, and we need to follow our gut feelings. If something doesn’t seem right, if someone gives you a creepy feeling, or if someone makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, we should not ignore it! We need to be aware of that person, and depending on the situation, make others aware of this individual while not letting them know that they are being watched.

Even those that are not part of an organized safety and security team in a church should be aware of behaviors that might be concerning. As the Department of Homeland Security says, “If you see something, say something.” That an important factor in preventing church violence.

Shootings happen so quickly! If you do not have situational awareness prior to gunfire, it may be too late already. Many have said one second everything was fine, and the next second they heard gunfire. Try this exercise, snap your fingers and then see how long it takes you to escape the room you are in. Even if you gain two additional seconds through your situational awareness, those two seconds can save yours ,and possibly many other lives.

In my home church, we took it several steps further. We installed security camera’s that can see anyone trying to come in. These cameras also have day and night vision, so the time of day will not matter. The sound engineer monitors the cameras, and where I sit, I can also monitor them from across the room.

Our Pastor wanted the church to feel inviting, and was worried about someone possibly coming late to church, only to find a locked door. For that reason, we installed an electromagnetic door lock on the front door. With a flip of the switch, the doors can be locked before the shooter ever gets to the door. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get in, but it sure gives us a fighting chance.

While the cameras and electromagnetic door locks were donated to the church, the total cost was less than $500.00. In my opinion, $500 is a minimal expenditure to prevent an active shooter from having free reign in our sanctuary.  I will post other tips to increase situational awareness  in future blogs, … Mark

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