What will the cops do?

When an attack does occur, the actions we take can affect how those who are called on to respond will act. Our actions can put us at risk for being mistakenly shot, or our actions can help public safety to quickly identify and take down those who mean us harm.

It reminds me of the joke about a church gossip who kept sticking her nose in everyone’s private life. Church members were not normally happy with these gossip activities, but they feared her enough to not confront her. One Sunday, she made a serious mistake when she accused a new member, named George, of being an alcoholic. She boldly told everyone that she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town’s only bar the previous afternoon. George was a man of few words, and when he was confronted by the church gossip, from a distance, he stared at her for a  brief moment, then just walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny the allegations; he said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of the gossips house, and left it there all night! The implication he made sent a message.

Whenever an active shooting occurs, law enforcement will be called upon to respond. Much like the way George dealt with the church gossip, we can send a message to public safety, simply by the actions we take. When they arrive, there are things you can do to help protect yourself, and to help police to do their job more quickly and effectively.

In years past, law enforcement would wait for additional officers and equipment to arrive before making entry into the building. All of this changed after the 1999 Columbine Colorado High School shooting. Law enforcement learned important lessons from Columbine. One of those lessons was the longer an active shooter is allowed to go (without be confronted by law enforcement), the more damage they will do.

In most instances, law enforcement will engage the shooter as soon as possible, even if only one officer arrives on scene.  By taking the proper actions, you not only reduce your chances of being mistaken for the shooter, but you also assist the police by making it less confusing and threatening for them.

The police have predetermined procedures in place to help protect you, and then separate actions to protect the police, in an active shooting situation. It is important to note that the police have a primary objective; stop the killing. This means they will usually bypass the injured and dead, and only focus on the shooter. In most instances, this means that help for the victims of the shooting will not come until the shooter is under arrest or neutralized.

On the other hand, most people believe that fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will come to help victims while the incident is still active. This couldn’t be further from the truth. National, state, and local protocols prevent fire and EMS from going to a scene until the scene is safe. In fact, in order to pass their test as EMS providers, they literally have to ask the question “Is the scene safe” to their evaluator.

While fire and EMS may be called at the same time as law enforcement is, they will stage themselves out of harm’s way until law enforcement tells them that there is no danger to the firefighters and EMS workers. They may stage at an area a mile away, or depending on the circumstances, they may stage even further away than a mile. This revelation makes your cooperation with law enforcement even more important. The longer it takes them to get the incident under control, the longer it will take for medical help to arrive on scene.

Over the next few days, I will be discussing ways to help law enforcement, and the “Do’s and Don’ts” of what to do when they arrive on scene. Until tomorrow, … Mark

Choosing the church media representative

We all watched in horror when the shooting happened at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. Much like waiting for a train wreck, many of us were glued to the television.  I found myself desperately hoping a spokesperson for the church would come forward and tell the media that God was still in power, and to not give glory or recognition to the evil person who committed this crime.  Perhaps this was not the perfect train of thought, but they were my thoughts nonetheless.

As I mentioned yesterday, a media relations person can help send the churches message, rather than the media’s message. In the public safety world, we call this person a Public Information Officer, or PIO.  This term and acronym can also be attached to the church. When choosing a PIO, you want to carefully choose the person (or persons) who will best represent the church.  Let me plainly state, you should avoid using the Pastor as the PIO for multiple reasons! One key reason is that in the event of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, they will have their hands full dealing with those that were affected by the incident. They will likely be needed elsewhere, rather than standing in front of microphones, appeasing the general public. They will probably be busy providing compassion, solace, and direction to those in the church. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be accompanying law enforcement to the homes of family members to provide notification of death. As I said, there are numerous reasons the Pastor should not be the PIO, and I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. This is not to say that they cannot give a statement (eventually), but their first priority is taking care of the flock!

When looking for a PIO, some attributes that you may want to look for include:

  • Someone who speaks well
  • Someone who dresses appropriately
  • Someone who can stay calm under pressure
  • Someone who is familiar with the congregants
  • Some who can speak with authority
  • Someone familiar with the Bible

While most of these are common sense, I still want to discuss the reasoning behind each. When you choose someone who speaks well and dresses appropriately, you are making sure that you portray your church in a positive light. If it is going to be a national news story, this is extremely important that we represent God in a positive light! In choosing someone who stays calm under pressure, it will be important that the person representing your church is not hysterical or babbling nonsense. They should in all likelihood be able to remain calm and focused even in the worst of situations. In knowing the congregants, you want someone who can give effectively generalizations (e.g. three people of a family of four, the parents of two children, the only child), but they can also provide specific details without releasing names or violating privacy. You also want someone who speaks with authority because you do not want the message being given to sound wishy-washy or weak; you want the information being given to sound like the person, and the church, stand firm on Gods healing, love, and promises. Finally, you want someone who knows the Bible so they can provide scripture that meets the situation.

Imagine a church PIO on national television that gave a press release that started like this:

“Hello, my name is Joe Davies, and I am the public relations representative for ABC Church. Let me start by quoting scripture: In  Matthew 10:28, Jesus told his disciples “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ” Today, several bodies were destroyed in this act of violence, but we are sure their souls are in heaven! …” Another fine example is this YouTube video of the Pastor and his wife speaking in Sutherland Springs.

Let me close today’s blog by saying the information I shared with you today is basic information. I will get more in-depth in the coming days. Of course, I will discuss what happens if the PIO is not capable of doing their job, where to learn how to be an effective PIO, and a whole host of other issues, as I said, in the coming days. Until then, please make sure that you keep Gods flock safe, … Mark

Ya’ll shoulda see’d it!

Please forgive my title, but how many times have you seen the news reporter interviewing someone, and thought to yourself “Couldn’t they find anyone better to talk to?”. Think of the person standing in front of the camera that has a (not so nice) saying, or someone that swears when they get excited. Well, that is something that the church needs to consider as well. No matter what the size of the church, an incident can happen at any time, and you need to consider what image you want your church to have prior to an incident ever happening.

A media relations person is a positive for any church, and should not only be considered useful for times of crisis. If they can develop media contacts, they can l help the church to share God’s message and to create a positive message for your house of worship. After developing relationships with individuals in the media, they have an inside source that can help the church for in outreach for a special event. By simply asking, they may be able to advertise for the event, or even get the news agency to possibly cover it. How encouraging would it be when the church is having a revival, for it to be standing room only? How wonderful would it be to have Vacation Bible school so packed that you had to ask for more help? How exciting would it be to have hundreds, or even thousands (depending on the market), of people show up for your next fundraiser or food drive? A media relations person, if they are good, may be able to help your church do this, and it can help provide you with direct contact to people that need the Lord!

Similarly, should there be an active shooting in your church, the media relations person will already have a relationship with the media, and in most instances by simply asking, they may be able to convince the media not to show certain things. Some of those “things”  could be body bags being removed, people being loaded into an ambulance, talking with already stunned parishioners, or showing children. They may also be able to reduce false rumors just by having a working relationship with the media person. The media relations person can do more for your church than you can imagine.

Active shootings are not the only crisis that a church could face. They could face a fire, a flood, sexual misconduct, theft or armed robbery, or other types of violence in the church. Your media relations person will be there to guide the way the church is presented and viewed. This can be very important! There are some (albeit few), media outlets that will spread rumors that are not verified, and in some instances, they may even make up stories. While these instances are rare, they do happen.

Over the next few days, I will provide guidance of on how to choose a media relations person, who should be the media relations person (hint, normally not the Pastor), when there should be an assistant for the media relations person, where to get training (some of it free) and much more. Until then, may God bless you, … Mark

Medical supplies needed

When an active shooter comes into your church, most people think that the police, fire department, and ambulances will arrive in just a few seconds. That assumption would, in most instances, be wrong. Depending on which statistics you read, the arrival of police will take 8-10 minutes. Fire and ambulances will not arrive until the police have secured the church. Securing the church means removing, or neutralizing, the threat.

From the first day of training, firefighters and EMT’s are taught that the should not enter a situation (such as an active shooter) until the scene is safe. In their practical test for their license, they will fail to become an EMT if they do not ask “Is the scene is safe?”. While I hate to burst peoples bubble when it comes to response times, this means that the church will likely be on their own for 10-20 minutes. Of course, some of this will depend on how rural or urban the geographical area is, whether they rely on local law enforcement (city police) or county law enforcement, and how much funding is provided to law enforcement in that area. More funding typically means more officers are available to respond, while smaller budgets mean fewer officers are available to respond.

In order to be better prepared, the church should implement a medical response team, and keep supplies on hand. You could purchase one or more ready-made trauma bags (such as this) for your medical response team, or you could build your own. Most medically trained personnel should know what supplies are needed, however I have included this basic list to make it a little easier for you:

  • 10-12 pairs of Nitrile gloves
  • 1 pair of trauma shears
  • 1 pair of bandage scissors
  • 1 Stethoscope
  • 1 blood pressure cuff
  • 1 disposable penlight
  • 1 splinter forceps
  • 1 quick reading ear or forehead thermometer
  • 1-2 C-Collar, adjustable, adult size
  • 1-2 C-Collar, adjustable child size
  • 2-4 pair of safety goggles
  • 1-2 CPR  barrier devices
  • 1 Alcohol Hand Sanitizer
  • 60-80 Adhesive bandages
  • 10-15 butterfly bandages
  • 10 -15 2″x2″ gauze pads
  • 20-30 4″x4″ gauze pads
  • 5 -10 5 x 9 gauze dressings
  • 2 trauma dressings  (10″x30″)
  • 4-8 gauze rolls (3″ wide)
  • 4-6 triangular bandages
  • 2-4 elastic bandages (2″ wide)
  • 2-3 Mylar Survival Blanket
    1-4 rolls of 1″ wide plastic medical tape
  • 1-4 rolls of 2″ wide porous medical tape
  • 1-4 roll of 2″ wide cloth medical tape
  • 3-4 roll of self-adhesive Wrap (Coban)
  • 10-12 triple antibiotic ointments
  • 4-6 instant cold packs, large
  • 2 eyewash solutions, 4 oz.
  • 15 antiseptic wipes
  • 20 alcohol preps
  • 2 resealable plastic bags
  • 2-4 red bio-hazard bags
  • 2 Ink Pens
  • 2 permanent markers

Another item that you may want to consider in your house of worship is an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).  Should someone have a heart attack, an AED combined with CPR may be the only hope of reviving someone before brain damage or permanent death happens. These can be a little pricey for smaller churches ($1,000-$2,500), but you have to ask yourself, what is a life worth? I am assuming that if you are in a church, you know where you are going when you die, but you don’t want to rush that process when you can provide a longer life. While the picture shows a Phillips brand, they are not the only brand available, so do some shopping before purchasing an AED. Some important considerations include battery life, maintenance requirements, and ease of use. You will also need to determine if you want to be prepared for an adult that may need this, or if you want to have the capability of helping a child as well.

Tomorrow, we will talk about other, (non-medical) supplies that you might want to have on hand. Until then, … Mark