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

Verses that support security at the church

Day by day, we try to live the life that God wants us to live. Unfortunately, many Christians believe that this means we should be pacifists. They believe God will take care of us, which he will, but we must also do our part! We must protect God’s children! I believe it is biblical, and today, I want to help you to lay out a case for protecting your flock in your home church.

Many years ago, I had an older Pastor say to me “You know, Jesus told us if someone smacks you on the cheek, we should turn the other cheek, but he didn’t say what to do if they hit that other cheek.” While this is not may not be a biblical defense on judgement day (for defending yourself), there are versus that lead us to believe that self-defense is acceptable to our Lord.

If we look at Exodus 22:2-3, we see:

(2) If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; (3) but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.”.

So does this mean we can only defend ourselves at night? To the contrary, God wants us to protect ourselves and others all the time. If we look at Romans 13:4 we see:

(4)For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

I don’t want this taken out of context, so I should mention that this was not written about our ability to defend ourselves, but rather the government defending us. Essentially, I see this as to the modern day equivalent of law enforcement. However, this brings to mind the question the authorities that we have appointed in the church. Does God look on our security teams? I think that this is answered in Psalms 82:3-4:

(3) Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

We are charged with protecting the fatherless, the weak, and those that are poor. We are to deliver them from the wicked. Wouldn’t this be a church security team in our churches? Similarly, if we look at Proverbs 24:11-12 it says:

(11) Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (12) If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

We are called to step in when others are being led away to death, and from my understanding of these verses, we will be judged for not doing so. I believe this says that security teams are not only acceptable, but required. If evil invades our sanctuary, and our congregants are being slaughtered, aren’t we called to stop them from being killed? If we look at Proverbs 22:3 , it says:

(3)The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Interesting! So God calls us to take refuge from danger. What if we are taking refuge in our houses of worship? I believe Nehemiah 4: 7-8 describes how we (as a church and a religion) should defend ourselves.

(7) But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. (8) They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

They posted guards? Hello! This is a security team! I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you also believe this, ask yourself why God would leave this passage and the entire story in scripture. If we read further into Nehemiah 4, we see how they prepared.

(16) From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah (17) who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, (18) and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

(19)Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. (20) Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

(21) So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. (22) At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” (23) Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Again, God shows that we sometimes have to protect our people, and they didn’t hire someone else to protect them, they protected themselves. While I could provide a substantial amount of information from the Bible that supports protecting our churches, I fear that this blog post would be entirely too long! We could look at Jude 1:23. or even Jeremiah 22:3,  but I will let you see the versus and the context for yourself.

To close out this week’s blog, if we were not supposed to protect the flock, why would have Jesus said in John 15:

(12) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command.

Until next week, … 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

First steps in planning to prevent an active shooter.

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)
  • Avalanche
  • Car Bombs
  • Dam Failure
  • Drought
  • Earthquake
  • Erosion
  • Expansive Soils
  • Extreme Cold
  • Extreme Heat
  • Flood
  • Hail
  • Hurricane
  • Landslide
  • Lightning strikes
  • Medical Emergencies
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Severe Winds
  • Severe Winter Weather
  • Storm Surge
  • Subsidence/Sink holes
  • Suicide Bomber(s)
  • Tornados
  • Tsunamis
  • Wildfires

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

Keeping shooters outside.

In the past week or so, we have discussed signs to look for, behavioral profiling, and some basic security items such as camera’s and electromagnetic locks. Today, I would like to talk more about security.

Single items are usually not enough to stop an active shooter or bomber. Churches need to look at a layered security approach. This would mean watching the outside of the building, securing doors, and then adding layers of security inside the church. These layers can include putting laminate coverings on glass doors to impede entry, a security team inside with three main jobs, and training the congregation in what they should do. I will speak about the three main jobs of the security team (surveillance inside the church, congregation evacuation, ,and engage the shooter if necessary), and parishioners responsibilities. It is important to teach parishioners what they should do, but as I said, we will discuss these items as the week goes on.

In past years, it has been the mantra of many churches to look and be inviting. This led to the addition of large glass doors, as well as other things, to make the new visitor, and the regular church goer, feel welcome. I am a firm believer that we should make people feel welcome in church, so I enjoy having glass doors as well. The problem with a glass door is that it allows a perpetrator quick access, even if the door is locked.

Don’t think that I am saying we need to go back to the big wooden doors. While I love many of those beautiful solid wood doors, there should be no reason to change our entire lifestyle because of a few evil people. So how do we make sure that they don’t just shoot the glass, and then walk in? The simple and economical way is to put security film on the windows. The video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96x2tO9Xuxw

above shows how effective window security film can be. While 3-M is the most recognized, there are plenty of other films (and various companies) that can do the same job. The cost for the window film is really not that expensive. In my area of Illinois, it costs about $175 per door. For the small sum of $350, we can better protect our congregants by covering both glass doors. To look at this in a different light, what kind of price do we put on a life?

This is just one of many things I will be sharing in the future. If you find this blog helpful, please send us a note and let us know. Until next time, …. Mark