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

Work your plan!

Jumping jacks, and one, and two, and three … Yeah, … no! No, we do not mean exercising like that. The type of exercise this post is about relates to testing your plans for church safety and security. What better way is there to make sure that all of that hard work you did, with planning and training, will work.

Let me first start with safety. Here at Saving Lives and Souls, we are neutral on whether security teams should have firearms in church. It isn’t that we don’t have an opinion, because we do! Each church is different, and laws vary from place to place. If your church decides to arm, or allow armed individuals with firearms, then there needs to be some consideration for safety when it comes to exercising your plan.

The first and foremost safety issue is that real weapons should NEVER be used when undertaking exercises, … NEVER!!!!  Using real weapons is a recipe for disaster! As a consultant, if a church is armed, and they want to test their plan, I encourage them to buy Airsoft guns and safety glasses.

These spring-loaded guns shoot small plastic balls, and can be extremely inexpensive. At one job I worked at, the majority of the office workers had an airsoft gun, some even carrying them in a holster.  Sometimes the boss would jump around the corner shooting, and you would respond in kind. To be honest, this was probably something that heightened situational awareness more than anything. If you got hit with one of the plastic balls, it stung a little bit (if it hit bare skin), but it was less painful than a mosquito bite. He even got to the point of sending friends in to test mess with us. Perhaps I am strange (no perhaps about it), but I thought it was fun to have to defend yourself in a non-lethal way.

For as little as $5 per replica handgun (plus shipping), you could add realism to your exercise while not having the potential for lethality. If you wanted to spend a little extra on the bad guys weapon, you can purchase a replica AR-15 for around $20. I should mention that the links to these replica weapons are no way an endorsement for this company, they are only used to demonstrate how reasonable the prices can be. Don’t forget the safety glasses!

I should also mention that whenever undertaking an exercise, nothing should be done that is unsafe. Think through everything and look for the potential someone could get hurt. If there is even the slightest possibility that someone could get hurt, then that danger must either be mitigated, or that part of the exercise should not be undertaken.

In the public safety arena, preparing for a full scale exercise is a long process. They can include:

  • Seminars
  • Workshop
  • Tabletop Exercise (TTX)
  • Games
  • Drills
  • Functional Exercise (FE)
  • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE)

I could get more detailed about all of this, but it would serve no purpose. When it comes to churches (especially smaller churches), the long process of preparing for a full-scale exercise will likely “burn out” volunteers. For that reason, it is suggested that the capability of the safety and security teams, as well as their protocols, are tested. This would involve creating as close to real-life incidents as possible.

When undertaking these exercises, there will need to be an evaluation. Evaluating the safety teams response could be done by a member of the church, however it would be better to have someone from public safety present to evaluate the response. More specifically, if testing security response, then either law enforcement or emergency management officials might be the best evaluator. If testing fire response, then a fire official or emergency manager might be best, and if testing a medical emergency, then an EMS or fire official might be best. This also allows these agencies to integrate with your team, and it helps them to know what your team will do. With that, they can create a more integrated response with your team should an incident actually occur.

Tomorrow,  I will discuss who to choose to be your “bad guy”, the types of scenarios to consider, and whether or not you should also have victims in your exercise. While my guidance may seem long and drawn out, it is important to note that by taking the extra steps, your church will be better prepared than most. Remember:

If we fail to plan, … then we plan to fail, … Mark

Planning for an active shooter.

Whether in a business, a house of worship, or even at a mall, planning is a critical part of making sure you prevent and/or survive an active shooter or bomber. Throughout this week, I will be sharing tips on how to create a plan specific to your needs.

While I have mentioned some items that may help protect you, it is important to realize that each house of worship (and business) is unique. Each has their own little idiosyncrasies that make them different from others like them. Because of this, it is important for planning to be done in-house, then reviewed by a professional. While you can have a professional do it all for you, it likely cost a lot of money, or they may miss something that is easy to see by those who use the building.

Before I go into explanations about planning at your house of worship, or your business, I think you should see the attached video about planning. Some of you have already seen this video, but it is worth another watch.

As we go through the week, I will try to help guide you through setting up layered security for your own church or business, as well as how to create the best plan for you. Until next time, I ask you to be aware of your surroundings and all that is going on, … Mark

Should guns be in the church?

So, … do you think you are protected because you have people who conceal carry firearms in your church? Well think again! I have heard many concealed carry permit holders state that they will stop a shooter in a church. Looking at a large amount of research, I believe those comments are seriously debatable. I am not saying that it couldn’t happen, just that it is unlikely without specialized training.

I have researched this area probably more extensively than 99% of individuals in this business. There has been multiple studies that contradict what many individuals that carry in church say. In fact, many studies found that the only 15%-25% of soldiers in the United States Military will take a life, unless of course they are conditioned to do so. This includes those that were face to face with a gun . The same happens with Law Enforcement unless they are conditioned. What does that conditioning involve? It involves mentally preparing through training, whether psychological training or physical training. No, I am not talking about target practice, I am talking about tactical training. If the defender is not tactically trained, they could easily freeze. I reviewed the following You Tube video’s. Let me warn you, I do not like the name of these two YouTube videos (Video 1, Video 2) because it lumps all concealed carry holders into one category, and the title is somewhat offensive to those that agree with the 2nd Amendment. Still, I think the outcomes are close to as realistic  for people who do not tactically train and get themselves mentally ready to take someones life (if needed).

I also revert to several studies that were presented in books. Multiple studies were discussed by 2nd Amendment supporter, Lt Colonel Dave Grossman and Dr. Michael Asken (as well as others) in the book Warrior Mindset: Mental Toughness Skills for Peacekeepers. Another book in which Grossman supports having the proper mindset and training would be On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

If you are planning on defending your church, especially with a firearm, these books should be a mandatory read! It should also be noted that Grossman, along with Carl Chin and Jimmy Meeks (former police officer and current pastor) provide excellent seminars on church safety, albeit slightly different than my seminars. Grossman (a former Army Ranger)has also trained law enforcement and soldiers. One thing that I learned in reading these books are what would usually cause an active shooter to pause,. One such concept is to take a side-step. Believe it or not, this disrupts the shooters vision and forces them have to reset their mind (and eyesight). This side-step buys you 1.6 seconds to take action. These books are filled with tips like this!

So, we get to the ultimate question; should there be guns in church? I do not advocate for, or against, guns in church. I will say that if guns are allowed in church, it is preferred that they should be carried by individuals that have tactical training and the mental preparedness/capacity to take a life if necessary. In most instances, veterans, law enforcement, and some fire and EMS people have had tactical training. Even if your concealed carry person hasn’t been in one of these fields, they can receive the training, and they can read books on mentally preparing.

Finally, let me close with my belief that some people should never carry in church. I read a story last week about the 81 year old man that was showing he was ready for an active shooter at a church function in Tellico Plains TN, who accidentally shot his wife and himself. The age doesn’t matter as much as the ability to safely handle a firearm. If you have someone in your church that carries in church, and you have a legitimate reason that they should not be carrying in church, then perhaps you should talk to church leaders  before someone gets hurt or killed. The wrong person with a gun could add to the death toll if an active shooter comes in. Thanks, … Mark