“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


Hiding-Run, Hide, Fight

While some will run from an active shooter that has gotten into the church, others may not be able to get out, and they may need to hide. Hiding sounds like an easy task, but it could prove difficult when gunshots are ringing out around you..

Of course, you can hide behind walls, but there are a few things to remember. First, most walls (unless a masonry wall) do little to stop bullets. Having said this, if you can find something solid to hide behind (e.g. like a metal or wooden desk, under a wood based table), then it will again increase your chances. In most instances, if you are hiding well enough, and you are quiet enough, the attacker will not know you are there. It is safer to hide behind a wall where they may not see you is safer than not hiding at all. The exception is if they are familiar with the church. Someone familiar with the church will probably know all of the potential hiding spots.

If you do hide in a room, you should do your best to secure your immediate area.  This may include locking the door, and if it can be done quietly, move objects in front of the door so that if they attempt to kick it in,  the door with items against it should keep them out. If at all possible, quietly barricade the area using desks, filing cabinets, furniture, etc. After you finish locking or barricading the door, NEVER position yourself directly behind the door, especially if it is a hollow core door.  This is a recipe for death in an active shooter situation. Hollow core doors won’t even stand up to a fist, and a bullet probably would not even slow down after going through most hollow core doors.  If it is a glass door, and the shooter hasn’t noticed it yet. shut the lights off (like it is not occupied), and hide out of site of the glass. DO NOT stack furniture or filing cabinets against a glass door, because this will tell the shooter you are there.

Once the door is locked and/or blocked,  turn off the lights. You want to give the impression to the shooter that nobody is inside the room, so he shouldn’t waste his time trying to get in. If possible (without drawing attention to the huddleshooter), close the shades or curtains, and stay out of the view of those windows. If possible, call 911, but don’t do it if the shooter may hear you talking.

Keep quiet, and keep all of your technology quiet. Shut off or turn cell phones to silent mode. If you have a computer running, hold the start button so it shuts down without making a sound, if you are a volunteer fireman (or someone else carrying a pager), shut it off. Think of anything that might make noise in that area, and shut it off. You do not want to alert the shooter that someone is in that room. If possible, lay on the floor.

It is also important not to huddle in a group, but spread out. Recent research has shown huddling together allows the shooter to do more damage because they shoot into a crowd and injure more people with less effort. When  bunched up, the shooter is at an advantage.

In tomorrow’s blog, I am going to delve into behavioral profiling. Behavioral profiling is easy if you know what you are looking for, and it can give you an exceptional advantage in being identifying an active shooter in church, or in the parking lot before they come in, … 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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