As I mentioned yesterday, preparedness is an important aspect of preventing an active shooter or bomber. It is also an important way to survive one. The shooter that has come into your church or business has prepared. They know EXACTLY what they are going to do, and how they will do it. The way to overcome their preparedness plans is to have plans of your own. In some instances, churches have done one or two things to addresses security, and then they forget about it. Throwing a plan together haphazardly can give you a false sense of security, so I encourage you to take your time and do it properly. This is why I am discussing the planning and preparedness aspect in such detail.
In order to create a plan, you should first create a Safety and Security Committee. It is critical that you form a committee rather than use one or two people to plan for disasters and emergencies. When you use one or two people, you have a perspective from only one or two people rather, than 5 or more individuals. In most instances, using a mix of individuals will provide a 360 degree view of potential risks, vulnerabilities, mitigation measures, evaluating mitigation measure as well as other issues.
Think of it this way, if you only had a young able bodied person creating the plan, they may forget about elderly individuals and those with disabilities. If you use only older individuals, they may forget about children, or even the capabilities of young and middle age adults. Additionally, if only one or two people are responsible for all aspects of planning, they may miss something, while the likelihood of a group of people missing something is substantially less. In this instance, five (or more heads) are better than one.
When asking for, or appointing, committee members, try to get a good cross-section of individuals. Even if there is a large contingency of police officers in the congregation, you should never put more than one or two on this committee. Why? Because they will in most instances be led by their police training. Again, a cross-section gives you a 360 degree view from every aspect of your church (or business).
Once a committee is formed, it is important to let everyone in your congregation know who these committee members are, and that they are available to listen to any concerns. Being available to listen to congregant concerns can be extremely helpful, and they may help guide the committee to identify other risks that the committee may have not thought of. The input of other congregants should at least be considered, but the committee is not required to take any other action, unless of course they think it is a viable risk.
In the initial meeting of the Safety and Security Committee, the members should choose the leadership of the committee. They should decide who should be appointed or elected as the committee leader, the alternate leader, and they should choose a secretary who will be required to keep good notes. After determining the leadership, then the committee will need to discuss the risks that the church may be vulnerable to. It is important to note that I did not say only the risk of an active shooter, but rather all risks.
For the Safety and Security of the congregants, every potential risk should be evaluated. This should include if the risk listed could happen to your specific church, and if it is possible, how it could affect the church. This holds especially true if the incident happened during a time when people will be in church. Disasters that should be considered might include:
- Attacker(s) with knife, bat, etc.
- Active Shooter(s)
- Car Bombs
- Dam Failure
- Expansive Soils
- Extreme Cold
- Extreme Heat
- Lightning strikes
- Medical Emergencies
- Sea Level Rise
- Severe Winds
- Severe Winter Weather
- Storm Surge
- Subsidence/Sink holes
- Suicide Bomber(s)
This list is only a starting point. The list provided may not include everything that might affect your church. Upon briefly discussing the risks that might affect your church, you should adjourn the meeting to allow everyone time to think and contemplate on all the potential risks. When thinking about these risks, those on the committee should consider any risks that were missed, and which risks are most likely to occur in your specific situation.
Tomorrow, I will discuss the committees role in prioritizing these risks and how to come up with mitigation measures for your specific circumstance. Until then, may God keep you safe, … Mark