Planning and mitigation works!!!!

As is becoming commonplace, I am a day late with my blog submission. I know that this blog keeps many of you informed. I apologize for being late (again)! Unless you do not watch the news, you know that my prediction last week of another mass shooting, almost rang true . I say almost rang true because the school, and those involved with protecting children in that community, had a plan. As soon as news broke, multiple people began to text me and call me about the incident. One of my university students (who has been amazed at my predictions) even asked if I was a prophet. While I would be honored to take that title, I can only say that I foresee when mass shootings will happen through following the statistics.

As I said in the last paragraph, the school and public safety community had a plan. Not only did they have a plan, but they had the resources in place to deal with such a situation. It is unfortunate that the shooter died, but that was part of that shooters own choice. They had a choice about bringing the gun to school, they had a choice regarding whether to shoot or not, and they had a choice on shooting at the School Resource Officer. The shooter had choices, but those he shot, and shot at, did not! The shooter in exercising his choices, did not allow his victims to have any choices.

Fortunately, the schools and public safety made choices long before the incident ever happened. The primary choice was whether to plan and implement mitigation measures, which they did. This community thwarted not only this attempt, but also the one before it at Leonardtown High School . By planning, only the Lord knows how many lives have been saved in just this one community.

The point I want to make from this: Churches also need to make plans and undertake serious mitigation measures. Some churches believe that a few firearms in the church (alone) are enough to protect a church. It is not, and this type of mentality may lead to a shootout similar to the one at OK Corral. In that type of scenario, you are creating an environment where innocent people may be shot, and possibly even killed. Serious plans need to be made to keep a shooter outside of the church. While there is no “one-size fits all” plan for churches, there are some basic concepts that need to be in place.

  1. Total situational awareness-take your head out of the sand and watch for something out of the ordinary, or dangerous, that might be evolving!
  2. Implement layered security-Identify multiple areas where a shooter can be denied entry and denied access to parishioners. Use those layers to make it harder and harder to get to their target(s) (such as a person monitoring the outside, greeters that know what to look for, ways of quickly securing doors, door film to stop entry, trained security teams, etc.).
  3. Train parishioners– Train everyone in the church on what they should do if a shooter gets past your defenses and the shooter overcomes all mitigation measures.

The end goal is not to kill someone with evil intentions; the end goal is to protect church goers. If it is possible for law enforcement (or even a security team) to take the individual(s) alive, that gives the church the opportunity to show this person God’s love, and to even lead them to the Lord later on. This could even be while they are in prison or even possibly a mental institution.

As I close, I look at the statistics again. The next shooting will be harder for me to predict. Why? Because a school district, local law enforcement, and a school resource officer did not ignore protecting their students. Additionally, the media has not provided nearly as much coverage about this incident or about how the shooter was stopped. Because of this, there is a good chance that the next mass shooting may be delayed. Then again, it may create a challenge to someone else who thinks the last shooter botched their own infamy. No matter what happens, I praise the Lord that no innocent students died in this latest attack and that more were not shot. I can only pray that more schools and churches learn from this latest shooting. Until next week, … Mark

Evaluating response

I should start out by saying that the information I have been sharing is a quick guide, and should not be considered a comprehensive teaching. For more in-depth understanding, talk with a professional, or contact us and we can help you go through the entire process with a fine tooth comb.

So up till this point, we have discussed creating a plan, creating policies and procedures, equipping the church, training the church, undertaking exercises, and evaluating what you have done. Today, we will discuss improving the plan.

If you undertook exercises right, your evaluation should have found things that need fine tuning. The process of improving the plan is as critical as creating the plan in the first place. When you find gaps in your plan and/or your response,  you need to make adjustments to mitigate those gaps so there are none.

Mitigation is the process of reducing the risk that those gaps will show up again in a real incident. The real issue is how to overcome those gaps. This is a task that is best served by a collaborative effort between the Safety and Security Committee and the Safety and Security Team. It is important to note that one person should not come up with the mitigation measures themselves. Why? Because they will look at it one way, while someone else may have a different (better) idea.

Overcoming and mitigating these gaps could require a multitude of different measures, or only one or two new adjustment.  No matter how good or bad the exercise turned out, this is where the Safety and Security Committee and the Safety and Security team needs to be critical. They need to ask the tough questions, then come up with viable solutions. Mitigating these gaps can be done in a variety of ways, including:

  • Changing the initial plan
  • Changing or creating new policies and procedures
  • Obtaining new equipment
  • Changing or getting new or different training
  • Creating a larger safety and security team
  • Hiring a consultant
  • Hiring individuals to fill some of the gaps (this should be a last resort).

Of course, there could be a multitude of other ways, but these are the most common. After deciding what needs to be done to improve the safety and security of the church, then it should be implemented. This does not mean that the work is done by far.

After the plan and implementing these changes, it is time to start the Preparedness Cycle all over again! How long should the process take? The entire process should take a year, from beginning to end. When should it end? The planning process in continuous and should be done indefinitely. Part of our responsibility to those that trust us with taking care of their spiritual care is to keep them safe from those that choose to harm or destroy us. We should never stop trying to keep Gods flock safe!

For the readers that always read this blog, I will be out of pocket for the next few days. I have six or so (former) students that are graduating with their Master’s in Public Safety from Tennessee Tech University. This is always a proud moment for me. Pastor Thomas Black will be taking over until  I get back. May the Lord keep you and your congregation safe and bless you, … Mark (AKA Dr. W.)

Sample policy

To close out the week, I wanted to share some basic policies and procedures to give you an idea of how simple this can be. You can modify these examples to fit your needs, or your can create your own. The policies and procedures that I am sharing with you are from a church that I have worked with, so these are actually policies and protocols that are in place. This first one deals with ushers as a part of the security team.

___________________________________________

(Insert Name) Church Active Shooter Protocol for Ushers

            These protocols are not intended to be all inclusive, but rather to provide guidance in the event that an active shooter situation occurs at (Insert name) Church. An active shooter is an armed person(s) whose actions are immediately causing death or great bodily injury. In order to reduce death and injury, there are actions that can be taken to reduce the death and/or injury.

Basic protocols;

  • -Identify the general location of the threat and alert others
  • -Call 911
  • -Evacuate others or advise them to seek shelter in a safe place (based on the situation)
  • -Lock the door or blockade with any furniture if possible (Sunday school rooms)
  • -Turn lights off when beneficial
  • -Lead people to hide between or behind furniture
  • -Ask congregation/others not to huddle together

If evacuation is necessary;

  • -Ushers and key staff should guide people to exits and assembly point(s)
  • -After the threat is contained, assist with headcount
  • -Do not let any members leave unless medically required to do so

If there is no time or exit to evacuate people;

  • -Physically capable people who typically sit along the aisle should be asked (in advance) to be part of a team to assist should an event ever happen
  • -If an usher has face to face (close) contact, go for the weapon (if possible)
  • -The closest usher should attempt to tackle the active shooter while others further away should provide cover by throwing books, hymnals, or a Bible
  • -If taken down, hold the active shooter until law enforcement arrives

Final consideration

Be mindful that certain members in the congregation have a CCW permit, and may take it upon themselves to take action. Make sure you are not in the line of fire of a potential concealed weapon carrier if they decide to become involved. (Insert name) Church does not advocate carrying a firearm, but recognizes an individuals’ Constitutional right to do so. For that reason, the church does not forbid the carrying of firearms on church premises.

_________________________________

As you can see, it is pretty simple and pretty straightforward. The absolute worst thing to do when writing these policies and procedures is to make them complicated or confusing. This could render the individuals tasked with doing these job somewhat ineffective because they will have too much to remember.

Below is another example of policies and procedures, but this one is for mitigation measures undertaken by the audio technician (in that same church). The audio technician in the church that uses this protocol has the responsibility of watching the motion detectors, security cameras, and the electromagnetic door locks.

_____________________________________

“Denial of Active Shooter” Protocol for Audio Technicians

Audio technicians are the first line of defense against active shooters that may want to cause death and destruction at (Insert name) Church. This guidance is provided to assist audio technicians in making decisions that may affect the life and safety of the congregation for active shooters or any other risk that may present itself while congregants are present in the building.

Duties:

  • -Monitor motion detectors for activity
  • -Monitor video feed from security cameras for threats
  • -Possibly engage electromagnetic door lock at any sign of a threat
  • -Warn ushers and all others present about the threat

Visual Signs that May Indicate a Threat:

  • -Unknown teenager or adult wearing a backpack
  • -Teenager or adult wearing a long coat
  • -Presence of a gun
  • -Someone carrying unusual objects (propane tanks, gas cans, Molotov cocktail, etc.)
  • -An individual you’re unfamiliar with and who appears to be focused on getting in the door
  • -Any other suspicious activity

Actions:

  • -Prior to service (or other event) check with ushers to make sure all but front doors are locked.
  • -Upon motion detectors alerting, check cameras for activity
  • -If a potential threat is seen, activate the electromagnetic front door lock
  • -If unsure about a threat, lock the doors and alert ushers who will evaluate the situation
  • -If there is no doubt that this is an active shooter, alert everyone by yelling “Gun”-three times.
  • -Call 911 and provide as many details as possible. It may be necessary to pass the phone off to another individual if the incident escalates
  • -Do not unlock doors unless told to do so by the ushers or police

Ushers Actions:

  • -Upon announcement of a potential (but not positive) threat, the ushers will investigate to determine if it is an actual threat. You may be required to temporarily unlock the doors to allow two of the ushers to walk outside and investigate. Under no circumstances should you to allow entry of the suspicious individual(s) until they have been cleared by the ushers.
  • -Upon a real threat being identified, ushers and the safety and security team will evacuate or secure all members of the congregation in a safe area. If some ushers are outside, they may engage the shooter; do not open the door if they have engaged them, except to let other ushers out to assist.
  • -You will be responsible for viewing the video cameras and identifying the location of the threat to the best of your ability.­-Some individuals with CCW’s may engage the shooter. If they do engage the shooter, do as instructed in regards to door locks and identifying the location of the shooter.

_____________________________________

As you can see, these are simple, easy to understand, protocols. In both instances, they fit on a single page of an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. This is not to say that it always needs to fit on a single page, but the committee needs to make sure that they are not complicated or confusing. I cannot stress this enough! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Saving Lives and Souls. Until next week, … 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