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

“We don’t need no stinking paperwork!”

Yesterday, I discussed how to choose which mitigation measures are best for your specific circumstances. Today, we will discuss implementing those measures. Too often, the committee gets to the point of choosing mitigation measures, and they think that they have completed their tasks. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once the measures are in place, some type of policy or procedures should be written. Without some form of written guidance, everyone will do their job they way they think it should be done (rather than way the committee thinks it should be done). As an example, after the church has installed electromagnetic locks and security cameras, if the person managing those items does not have direction of what they should do, they may quickly lock a gunman out, but fail to alert everyone that there was a threat at the door. Similarly, if a policy is not in place, some security members may lock all doors but the main entrance, while another individuals does not lock any of the doors, and yet another locks all doors, including the front door. There is also the possibility that  one door greeter may use behavioral profiling (to look for threats), while the next greeter may want to check everyone for guns (through a pat-down) and to check everyone’s purses and backpacks.

When writing policy, it does not need to be complicated, however it needs to be in place before the mitigation measure is fully implemented. An important part of writing policy and protocols is to be cautious when writing policy, to make sure that the policy does not violate any insurance provisions, thereby voiding their insurance policy. This would not be in the best interest of the church, or those that attend it.

Some may ask what would violate an insurance policy. One example that may violate your church’s insurance policy is an armed security team, or perhaps a group of organized concealed carry holders. Before putting a policy or procedure in writing, the committee should probably check with their insurance company to better understand what is and is not allowed. In some instances insurance companies may deny an organized concealed carry group, while in other instances the insurance company may want them trained to their specifications.

One church I am familiar with worried about the insurance implications, and wrote a policy that did not form a concealed carry team, but rather discussed carrying a concealed weapon in church. The policy stated:

As you can see from this statement in their policy, the church did not officially form a team, but they covered the issue. They also covered themselves legally. By inserting this statement, they put the responsibility on the person carrying a concealed weapon.

When writing policy and procedures, it is important to realize that it does not need to be complicated, but, it needs to spell out what should be done and who should do it. It is preferable to address every job that requires human intervention. There should be a job specific policy for each different group or area of responsibility. In other words, there should be a policy and protocols for the greeters, the security team, the person monitoring the security camera’s, and any other job that may be required to mitigate risks. These policies should be put in a binder , then everyone who commits to keeping the church safe and secure knows what their role is. Each person that is tasked with doing a job that mitigates risk should also be given a copy of the policy and procedures that directly affect the job they will be doing.

Many times committees will go overboard when creating policy and protocols. An acronym to remember is KISS. In the fire service we were taught this regularly. For those that don’t know the meaning of this acronym, it is “Keep It Simple Stupid”.  Keeping it simple allows everyone to easily understand their role.

Tomorrow, I will share a template of simple policy that could be easily adapted to your church. Take care and God Bless, … Mark

 

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

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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