Train, train, train!!!

I was in church one Sunday, when an incident happened. A con man (not an active shooter) came into our church, just as the Pastor was asking for prayer requests, and he hobbled with his cane to the front row. Most knew he was a con man, because about a year before, he came in telling how he had recently had a heart attack and needed money to get back to Alabama from Illinois. The church took up a collection and helped the man. A few days later, our Pastor was at the Ministerial Alliance meeting, and found out that this person had been making the rounds and collecting money from churches, but I digress.

So this man comes in, hobbling with a cane, and sits in the front row. When the Pastor asked for prayer requests, the man raised his hand, and the Pastor called him out. Suddenly, the man ran out of the sanctuary; he had no limp and his cane never hit the floor. The Pastor was running behind him saying “Repent! Repent I tell you!”. As the man ran out the door, the Pastor (and pretty much all of the unofficial security team) ran out the door and confronted the man and his accomplice at their truck. The first mistake was chasing them to their truck. The second issue was confronting them. The third issue, they left the church, and pretty much everyone in it, unprotected. After everyone returned, and after the service was over, several of us discussed how foolish those actions were. While they were outside, the could have been shot, run over, or a whole host of other things. Additionally, if the con man had put together a more sinister plan, an accomplice could have gone into the church with a gun after the Pastor and others ran out of the church. The door was behind everyone that followed the man out, and another person could have run in and robbed the whole church.  While not likely, it is still possible.

As a trained public safety official, and an emergency manager, I have the responsibility to think of the “worst case” scenario, and figure out how to mitigate that worst case scenario. The same should hold true for you and your church! Many times, security teams focus on the known threat, but fail to realize there may be an unknown or even a secondary threat. By having assigned duties, and training on those assigned duties, and overlapping responsibilities,you can reduce your risk even more.

As an example, lets say that prior to the church service that the person that monitors the security cameras decides to go to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, the greeters see someone get out of their car with a long gun, and they are walking towards the front door. They give the signal to secure the door, and to activate church security, but nobody is at the controls of the door lock. Has anyone else been trained in how to remotely lock the doors? Was a temporary replacement assigned to monitor the cameras and the locks? This is why we train (and exercise) our plans, so that we have a complete plan and contingency plans.

What do we do about the perpetrator that gets past the first and second layers of security? How will security engage them? Will concealed carry parishioners draw their weapons and shoot? What if another member of the security team is rushing the perpetrator from behind? Will they be caught in gun fire? Does the person rushing the shooter know where the concealed carry holders are? Do the concealed carry holders know where the rusher is?

Have you considered a perpetrator that comes in carrying multiple (hidden) guns? Just because they expend a magazine, it does not mean they have finished and need to take a few seconds to reload, they may have multiple weapons ready to go! What if security wasn’t trained to check for other weapons, and the perpetrator pulls out another firearm or even a knife?

These are just a few reasons why we train. Proper training is essential to making good decisions. When you train like you respond, then when respond, you will respond like you trained. This holds especially true when behaviorally profiling a potential perpetrator.

It is also important that the church documents ALL training that the safety and security team undertakes. Training records should always be kept up-to-date, and kept safe, in both written and computer documents. This is critical in protecting the church, especially if someone gets hurt or injured by the safety and security team, or if an active shooter does make it into the church and hurts or kills those attending. Both instances could potentially lead to litigation against the church. In the end, it save the church in a court case.

Tomorrow, I will discuss undertaking exercises to look for gaps in the safety and security plan. In conducting exercises, there are multiple safety measures that should be taken. I will also discuss ways to properly evaluate the exercise so that potential improvements can be identified. Until tomorrow, … Mark

To test, … or not to test?

I thought about many different titles for today’s post, but feared that many of you would not read this post thinking it was a test blog post.  Considering I am talking about testing, that would be very possible. I thought about “Testing” and “Test, Test”, I even thought about titling this post “Test, 123, Test, 123”. While it may seem silly, there is a major reason to push testing of a church safety team.

If you have been reading my blogs, you may have already identified the risk, recognized any vulnerabilities, created a church safety plan, and implemented policies and procedures. You might have even created a viable church safety plan, but your work is still not finished (by far).  Over the next few days, I will be sharing information that will strengthen your church security even more. Today I will start with the basics.

In emergency management, we use a process known as the Preparedness Cycle to ensure that we are better prepared. The preparedness cycle, in its simplest form takes the plan (that you built) and tests it for flaws, then corrects any flaws. While it seems simple, my explanation is an oversimplification of what needs the preparedness cycle really is. The graphic below provides a basic idea of how this continuous cycle works, and I want to give credit for the graphic to FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The preparedness cycle starts with creating a written plan. Once the plan is completed, then the church should organize for the implementation of the plan. This includes policies and procedures and creating the church safety team. The trustees, or whomever is responsible for purchasing should gather the needed equipment. This can be anything from security clothing, medical supplies, security cameras, electromagnetic door locks, or a whole host of other equipment. When that equipment is in place, then the safety team should train. That training should focus on what they should do in a variety of situations, as well as how to use any equipment that may require training (e.g. security camera’s, electromagnetic locks, and other equipment). If the plan calls for purchasing equipment over time, then you may consider training each time a new piece of equipment is installed. Once all of this is done, then it is time to hold an exercise (a test run) to test everything in place. After completing the exercise, then it is time to pick apart what went right, and what went wrong. You then start the planning process over again by taking corrective action to address what went wrong.

As I mentioned previously, over the next few days I will get more in-depth about this process. I will discuss how often this should be done, and even how it should be done. Preventing death and destruction in your church will be more than planning it once and forgetting about it. It is a continuous process, but if it saves lives, it is well worth it … Mark

Active shooting-medical training

So you are in the church, and a shooter comes in and shoots members of your church family. You see the shooter has been taken down, and they are being held by several people, but you look around at those that were injured by this person. Here is the question: are you just going to sit there and look at all of the injured people, or are you going to jump in and try to save some lives?

In order to save lives, you need to know what to do. If you do the wrong thing, you may injure someone worse, or you may even kill them. Your not a nurse, a doctor, or even an EMT, but you can get training that WILL teach you what you need to do. In most instances, the training you need and will get, is not expensive, it will just take a little time to complete.

So where can you get this type of training? Let’s start with the obvious and the cheapest way to start. Talk with your local ambulance provider. In most instances, they will send someone to your church for a basic class at no charge. No, this is not a certified class, but who cares? As long as you are taught what to do, that is all that matters! If your worried about lawsuits, … DON”T!!! There is a thing called the Good Samaritan Law. How fitting, considering the setting.  This law protects people who do not have a “duty to act” from being sued. Who has a duty to act? EMT’s, Doctors, nurses, and others in the medical field. The only exception is if you do something that you knew would have caused more death and injury, then you can be sued, but who is going to do that?

So, if you can get enough people together who want to take a basic knowledge first aid class, then contact the local ambulance service. Most of them love the PR that this builds, and they also like the fact that there is a better chance for a patient to be alive when they arrive on scene.

The second way to get some basic training is to take a basic first aid course is online. If after taking a basic course, you find you would like to learn more, then you could always take an advanced course. Where can you find these courses? There are multitudes of them!  You can learn some basic principles for free at First Aid for Free  and  First Aid Web. There is also some sites that sell online training which are very good too. One that I find exceptionally good is ProTrainings. Of course, I am sure that there are plenty of other companies out there that provide this type of training, and a simple Google search should help you identify them.

Of course, there are paid classes that are put on locally by the American Red Cross, as well as other organizations. A simple search in your local area should provide on or two agencies that provide basic first aid training. The point being made in this blog is that you can do something, providing you are willing to pull yourself away from the TV, the computer, or your cell phone long enough to take a class.

More blogs will be coming your way tomorrow! May God bless you, … Mark

Highly Recommended

“We had Mark present this seminar in our church, and it was amazingly informative and thorough. He not only has the information, but he makes it accessible and gives easily actionable fixes in the process.”

Highly Recommended.

Let’s do this!

Yesterday we discussed identifying which risks your church might be most vulnerable to, and how we should look into mitigation measures. Unfortunately, we need to realize that mitigation measures will often be based on a budget that the church has set. In some instances, the church may set large budgets, while in other cases, there may be no budget at all. Even when there is no budget, mitigation measures can still be implemented.

When looking at mitigation measures, you should look at the cost effectiveness of that measure. To describe this, I will use mitigation measures for church security against an active shooter as an example.  In this example, the church will have under 100 people that attend service every Sunday, and 20-30 people attend on Wednesday night. Mitigation measures identified could include locking all but the main door, trained greeters at the main door, security cameras, security film on the front door (glass window), locking all doors after the service starts, electromagnetic door locks, an unarmed Safety and Security Team, concealed carry card holders in the congregation, a hired security team, and hired law enforcement. These were all of the mitigation suggestions made by the sub-committee, who also gathered the price of each, and they are bringing this information to a full committee meeting.

  • Locking doors- $0.00
  • Trained greeters at the main door-Training of 10 people-$200 (one time expense)
  • Security cameras-Four cameras and DVD drive to record-$375 (one time expense)
  • Security film on the door windows-$385 (one time expense)
  • An electromagnetic door lock-$125 (one time expense)
  • Unarmed safety and security team-Training for 15 people- $500
  • Concealed carry card holders in the congregation-$0.00 (volunteers)
  • Hired security-$50 per hour (per person)
  • Hired law enforcement-$85 per hour (per person)

While the costs are made up, they should be close to what would be actually charged. Looking at these costs, the church needs to look at their budget, and do a cost-benefit analysis. Many of these costs are a one time expense, or one time per year cost. Secondly, they need to determine what their budget is, and compare it with an analysis of what their return on investment might be. Finally, they must evaluate what is needed, based on how probable the risk is. So if there is a high probability of an active shooter, then they may want to hire two or three police officers (if they can afford it). If the probability is low, then they may want to stick with in-house mitigation measures.

It is also important to note that mitigation measures can also be implemented over a period of time. Still using the example above, they may determine to lock all of the doors, to implement the Safety and Security Team, and integrate the Concealed Carry card holders into that team as a first step. They could then choose to spend a certain amount per year (over 5 years) for security mitigation measures, or they could be implemented as the money comes available. In both of these instances, it is important that future purchases for mitigation measures are prioritized based on what is most needed first, rather than choosing what you can afford as time goes on. By prioritizing them based on the most effective, then the Safety and Security Committee will not be lulled into a false sense of security.

Of course, the committee will need to discuss all of these measures and determine which will be most applicable to their situation. Once it all the measures has been discussed, then a vote should be taken. Even after deciding which mitigation measure to implement, the Safety and Security Committee is not finished, there is still more work to do! We will discuss the next step tomorrow; implementing the plan. Until then, stay safe, … Mark

Identifying Risks

Identifying risks is an extremely important part of keeping your congregation safe.  Looking back to yesterday, I talked about letting the Safety and Security Committee contemplate what specific risks might affect your church and congregation.  As I like to say “How can you protect a congregation if you don’t know what might hurt them?” Today, we will discuss what to do with everyone’s thoughts on risk.

After some time to contemplate over what risks might affect your church, there should be another committee meeting. At that meeting, everyone should provide a list of what risks might affect the church. Everyone’s list should be compiled into a “master list” that documents every risk mentioned. After the Master list has been compiled, then there should be a discussion that rates every risk in numerical order based on the input of committee members. That order should be based on the likelihood that the risk identified will actually happen. The easiest way to do this is to list the first risk that is most probable of happening and come to a consensus. If a tornado is the most likely risk to happen, then it should be number one. If a medical emergency is the second most likely risk to happen, then it should be labelled number two, and so on. Once the risks are prioritized, then the committee can go on to figuring ways to mitigate the risks.

Mitigation measures are actions the committee can take to reduce the severity of the risk, or in totally making a risk non-existent.  As an example, a mitigation measure for a medical emergency may be to implement a church medical team. This could be nurses, doctors, EMT’s, and firefighters that attend the church, who can help stabilize any medical emergencies until more help arrives. The purchase of an AED may help mitigate the effects of a heart attack in the church, while a first aid kit may help mitigate the affects of someone bleeding. This is done by putting gauze on the wound and applying direct pressure. All of these are mitigation measures.

When it comes to ways to mitigate the risks, there are several methods that have proven successful. The first is forming several subcommittees and assign each of the subcommittees two risks that they will research and make recommendations. Research is an important part of mitigating these risks.

It is not hard to research mitigation measures. FEMA provides some basic mitigation measures, and just about any search engine will provide some good results if you type the name of the risk (tornado, flood, severe weather, etc.) and the words “mitigation techniques” or “mitigation strategies”. Additionally, you can talk with local public safety people and see if they might have suggestions, especially emergency managers. You can also call safety consulting companies and non-profits that specialize in church safety (such as Saving Lives and Souls, Warnick and Associates, and Sheepdog Seminars).

When coming up with mitigation measures, three things are commonly forgotten about:

  • Considerations for disabled and elderly
  • Considerations for children
  • The need to train the entire church

Failure to address these issues will bring about an incomplete mitigation plan. This incomplete plan will put some or all of your congregation at risk. Every effort should be made to identify all types of mitigation possible, including new and fresh ideas.

Tomorrow, I will discuss how to determine what mitigation measures the church should adapt, long-term goals to adapt others, and which mitigation measures should be scrapped. As always, stay safe and may God bless you, … Mark



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