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

Evaluating response

I should start out by saying that the information I have been sharing is a quick guide, and should not be considered a comprehensive teaching. For more in-depth understanding, talk with a professional, or contact us and we can help you go through the entire process with a fine tooth comb.

So up till this point, we have discussed creating a plan, creating policies and procedures, equipping the church, training the church, undertaking exercises, and evaluating what you have done. Today, we will discuss improving the plan.

If you undertook exercises right, your evaluation should have found things that need fine tuning. The process of improving the plan is as critical as creating the plan in the first place. When you find gaps in your plan and/or your response,  you need to make adjustments to mitigate those gaps so there are none.

Mitigation is the process of reducing the risk that those gaps will show up again in a real incident. The real issue is how to overcome those gaps. This is a task that is best served by a collaborative effort between the Safety and Security Committee and the Safety and Security Team. It is important to note that one person should not come up with the mitigation measures themselves. Why? Because they will look at it one way, while someone else may have a different (better) idea.

Overcoming and mitigating these gaps could require a multitude of different measures, or only one or two new adjustment.  No matter how good or bad the exercise turned out, this is where the Safety and Security Committee and the Safety and Security team needs to be critical. They need to ask the tough questions, then come up with viable solutions. Mitigating these gaps can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Changing the initial plan
  • Changing or creating new policies and procedures
  • Obtaining new equipment
  • Changing or getting new or different training
  • Creating a larger safety and security team
  • Hiring a consultant
  • Hiring individuals to fill some of the gaps (this should be a last resort).

Of course, there could be a multitude of other ways, but these are the most common. After deciding what needs to be done to improve the safety and security of the church, then it should be implemented. This does not mean that the work is done by far.

After the plan and implementing these changes, it is time to start the Preparedness Cycle all over again! How long should the process take? The entire process should take a year, from beginning to end. When should it end? The planning process in continuous and should be done indefinitely. Part of our responsibility to those that trust us with taking care of their spiritual care is to keep them safe from those that choose to harm or destroy us. We should never stop trying to keep Gods flock safe!

For the readers that always read this blog, I will be out of pocket for the next few days. I have six or so (former) students that are graduating with their Master’s in Public Safety from Tennessee Tech University. This is always a proud moment for me. Pastor Thomas Black will be taking over until  I get back. May the Lord keep you and your congregation safe and bless you, … Mark (AKA Dr. W.)

Planning the exercise

When we plan exercises, we want to make them as realistic as possible. That is why choosing which person should play the  perpetrator (or patient) is so important. You want someone that is imaginative, and who can think on their feet. With this, you should give them the basic scenario (man with a gun, robbing the church, heart attack, etc.), then let them do their thing. You should tell them the basics of what you want to test, but you should not tell the team what is coming. You don’t want the actor to follow exactly what you tell them to do, you want them to do the unexpected so that you can get a firm grasp on how your team will respond to surprise situations. You will find that if you pick the right person, they will push your team to the limits.

Even better, try using multiple people who could be the perpetrator or patient. If you have four or more people willing to play the bad guy or patient, then it tests you even more. Let them come in a sit down in different spots. Behaviorally profile them to see who is acting strange, or who is showing signs of carrying a weapon. If it is a medical issue you are testing, then the patient can be ill, and the person next to them is panicked or ill. Perhaps they become enraged and pull a weapon. Perhaps one is a perpetrator, and they injured (stabbed or shot) someone so you have to neutralize the situation, then treat the patient. You could even go with less probable situations, such as one active shooter that stands up and draws a firearm, and when the team responds, a second shooter engages the security team.

If approached properly, these exercises can be a lot of fun. In fact, several people I know have said “We need to do another exercise day soon! That was fun!” While it may be fun, it also allows the security team to look and act on different scenarios. Additionally, if and when the time actually comes, they will most likely not have to think about what to do, they will fall back on their training.

Finally, when all is said and done, then everyone should meet and talk about what went right and what went wrong. If the church has cameras, or someone is recording the exercises, you can even go back and look at the video. Make sure you incorporate the evaluators’ feedback, because they are a totally neutral party.

Tomorrow, I will discuss what to do with the feedback. May God bless you and keep you safe, … Mark