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

Identifying Risks

Identifying risks is an extremely important part of keeping your congregation safe.  Looking back to yesterday, I talked about letting the Safety and Security Committee contemplate what specific risks might affect your church and congregation.  As I like to say “How can you protect a congregation if you don’t know what might hurt them?” Today, we will discuss what to do with everyone’s thoughts on risk.

After some time to contemplate over what risks might affect your church, there should be another committee meeting. At that meeting, everyone should provide a list of what risks might affect the church. Everyone’s list should be compiled into a “master list” that documents every risk mentioned. After the Master list has been compiled, then there should be a discussion that rates every risk in numerical order based on the input of committee members. That order should be based on the likelihood that the risk identified will actually happen. The easiest way to do this is to list the first risk that is most probable of happening and come to a consensus. If a tornado is the most likely risk to happen, then it should be number one. If a medical emergency is the second most likely risk to happen, then it should be labelled number two, and so on. Once the risks are prioritized, then the committee can go on to figuring ways to mitigate the risks.

Mitigation measures are actions the committee can take to reduce the severity of the risk, or in totally making a risk non-existent.  As an example, a mitigation measure for a medical emergency may be to implement a church medical team. This could be nurses, doctors, EMT’s, and firefighters that attend the church, who can help stabilize any medical emergencies until more help arrives. The purchase of an AED may help mitigate the effects of a heart attack in the church, while a first aid kit may help mitigate the affects of someone bleeding. This is done by putting gauze on the wound and applying direct pressure. All of these are mitigation measures.

When it comes to ways to mitigate the risks, there are several methods that have proven successful. The first is forming several subcommittees and assign each of the subcommittees two risks that they will research and make recommendations. Research is an important part of mitigating these risks.

It is not hard to research mitigation measures. FEMA provides some basic mitigation measures, and just about any search engine will provide some good results if you type the name of the risk (tornado, flood, severe weather, etc.) and the words “mitigation techniques” or “mitigation strategies”. Additionally, you can talk with local public safety people and see if they might have suggestions, especially emergency managers. You can also call safety consulting companies and non-profits that specialize in church safety (such as Saving Lives and Souls, Warnick and Associates, and Sheepdog Seminars).

When coming up with mitigation measures, three things are commonly forgotten about:

  • Considerations for disabled and elderly
  • Considerations for children
  • The need to train the entire church

Failure to address these issues will bring about an incomplete mitigation plan. This incomplete plan will put some or all of your congregation at risk. Every effort should be made to identify all types of mitigation possible, including new and fresh ideas.

Tomorrow, I will discuss how to determine what mitigation measures the church should adapt, long-term goals to adapt others, and which mitigation measures should be scrapped. As always, stay safe and may God bless you, … 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

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

The media and mass shootings.

Since 2000, active shooter incidents have been steadily and substantially increasing.  The FBI reported that from 2000-2008, there was an average 6 active shootings that occurred per year. From 2008-2014, that number increased to nearly 15.9  incidents per year (see report). The latest report, which covers 2015 and 2016, show that the number rose to 17 incidents per year. Given the shooting incident we have seen in 2017, I believe we will see even more of an increase. This leaves many to wonder why these instances are increasing.

While I have no definitive proof what caused an increase in active shootings, I have a theory that someday I would like to explore in research. Until 2006, the national news media covered shootings, but in April of 2007 that all changed.  In April of 2007, a mass shooter went on the attack at Virginia Tech University. Soon, we heard the name of the shooter, and the 24 hour news media, the national news, and even the local news seemed to cover every aspect of the incident, including insignificant details. In my unproven theory, I believe this coverage inspired copycat shooters who were looking for fame. I also believe that social media plays a role in mass shootings, and there is research to somewhat support both of these contentions.

Recent research has led some, if not many, to believe that the key factor of increased active shootings is directly correlated to media coverage of these incidents. In a research report by Dr. Jennifer Johnston, and Andrew Joy, there were two theories that have been investigated and linked to mass shootings. They enter a long line of others that have worked to support the correlation between mass media covering every detail and an increased number of shootings. The two theories that are predominant are the Media Contagion Effect with the subcategory theory of the Copycat Effect.  One finding of this study that was extremely disturbing to me, is that for every three incidents of active shootings covered on television, at least one new incident is guaranteed, or copied, within 13 days.


More disturbing was research conducted by Garcia-Bernardo, Qi, Shultz, , Cohen, Johnson, and Dodds, studied the effect of social media on active shootings in schools. The correlations identified were in relation to the social media platform of Twitter. They reviewed millions of tweets about school shootings. When tweets about school shootings went beyond 10 tweets per million about an incident, then there was a 50% increase of a school shooting within eight days At nineteen days after a school shooting, if the amount of tweets went beyond ten per million, the potential for another shooting went up to 85%.  If tweets exceeded ten per million in the 35 days from a shooting, it was close to 100% likely that another active shooter in a school would occur.


I could go on and on about this research, and their findings, but it would do little to cure the problem. What in the media drives these individuals to take lives? Almost all of the researchers involved with active shooter/mass shooter research agree that they are looking for their 15-minutes of fame. How can we reduce these effects? It really is quite simple. First, we need to make sure that we don’t identify the shooter by name or with a picture in our social media. Yes, that is what I said. While the human mind wants to know every detail, those details are also what feeds, or at least partly feeds, the next shooter to act. If they see that there is no fame in shooting up a school, or church, or business, then they will look for that fame in other ways. The second thing is that the national and local media needs to quit using names, pictures, and all of the gory details about the shooting. In order to do that, they would have to put the good of the American public above the eventual money they receive from ratings.

Perhaps I sound a bit cynical, and I probably am a little bit. All I know is that nothing would make me happier than never having to do a seminar on preventing active shootings and bombings because they were a thing of the past; kind of like the plane hijacking in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening in the near future, … 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

Your role if a shooter or bomber gets in!

Layer four of layered security (or layer one, if you have not taken my advice), is you the parishioner. You may be asking what can I do? There is a lot you can do. Next time you sit down for church service, look around and see what you may have that could be used as an improvised weapon. Think about this, you are someone that is planning evil in the church, you make entry into the sanctuary, only to be hit in the face with thrown hymnals and the Word of God (the Bible). How much damage do you think you are going to do if you are dodging the heavy books that keep hitting you in the face?

While hymnals and Bibles are readily available, there are some other things that may be used as an improvised weapon. They include:

  • Laptops
  • Cell phones
  • Hot Coffee
  • Thermos or thermos cups
  • Coffee cups
  • Light furniture
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Keys
  • Much more

When I teach my seminars on Preventing and Surviving an Active Shooter in Houses of Worship at churches, I allow the attendees to see how effective throwing items can be. I give them a mix of bean bags and the plastic balls (the type used in kids fun centers), then ask for a volunteer to be our gunman. I give the volunteer safety glasses and a semiautomatic rubber band gun that shoots 20 rubber bands as quick as they can pull the trigger.

In most instances, they are too busy trying to get away from the annoying things being thrown at them, than they are trying to shoot me with rubber bands. In fact, in most situations (not all), they only get one or two rubber bands coming my direction. The rest of their shots are way off to the side or they are not even shooting as they try to dodge the bean bags and balls coming at their face.

You should fight the shooter ONLY as a last resort. If you have no other choice but to fight the shooter, fight as if your life depends on it, because it does/! Try to avoid hitting others as you fight the shooter. As the items are flying, one or two other parishioners should be rushing to tackle the individual, and take the gun away. Whenever taking a gun away from a shooter, or when trying to stop a shooter, you should try to avoid just pulling it from their hand. This might allow them to get shots off at people. Whenever possible, force the barrel of the gun towards the ceiling or floor, then pry it from their hand(s).

Once again, this is a last resort. If the other layers of your security is working, then it should, in most instances, never come to this stage. On a side note, whomever is in the pulpit should be the early warning person. They will see the shooter or bomber before most people. They should announce “Gun, gun, gun!” as quick as possible.

In my next post,  will discuss one of the most contentious areas when it comes to church safety. I will touch on guns in the sanctuary. Some churches believe that guns should be in the sanctuary, while others believe they should be gun-free zones. Until then, may God Bless you, … Mark

Layer No. 3 of Layered Security

Layered security is inexpensive, and it protects more than one area. To this point, we’ve talked about the first and second layers of security. The first layer includes security cameras, and electromagnetic locks. The second layer is security film on glass doors and posting trained security, ushers, or greeters at the front door. The third level of security could be a group of individuals that are either follow suspicious individuals into the Sunday School classroom and/or the sanctuary, which we will explain today. I should mention that I am of the opinion that if there are enough able bodied people in a church, then creating a security team is preferable to hiring one. The reason? Hired security usually changes who they have in place (different person every week), and they have no more knowledge on security than the average person when it comes to church security. In most instances, they also do not know the building layout well, nor do they know the regular congregants versus visitors, but I digress.

Most churches want to portray a welcoming atmosphere, but by the same token, they want their parishioners safe at the same time. The third level of security addresses the visitor that you are not sure about. In most instances, there is nothing to worry about. You don’t want to drive the new visitor away, or even the troubled person that may need God’s divine intervention. The third level of security is more of a clandestine level of security, so that you do not drive these individuals away.

Before service (or Sunday School) ever starts, you should have an individual or a group of individuals that will sit next to, or behind, the individual in question. This holds true in Sunday School rooms or in the sanctuary during service. In most instances, behind them is the best place to sit, if possible. In the event they do pull a gun, or start acting out in any way, this security team member is within striking distance.

Let me say VERY PLAINLY that I am not telling you that these methods will always work. I am only providing ideas that may work, which will be dependent on the circumstances. One method that can be very effective in this situation is to pull them backwards, over the pew (or seat).

Another method that can also be very effective is to grab the arm with the gun, and pull it straight up, or pull it backwards behind the pew. The arm method is more difficult to do without the shooter getting off a round or two, but at least they will not accomplish their entire mission, and hopefully nobody will be shot.

If the visitor or person in question sits in the back row, the security team member may have to sit in a folding chair behind them, or sit next to them in the pew. If sitting next to them, they could grab their arm straight up (unless there are rooms with people above the sanctuary), or shove them sideways and/or trip them to make them go off-balance and force them to the floor. If they do go to the floor, and they still have the gun in their hand,  stomp on their hand until they let go, then kick the gun away. If two people are trying to do this, one can kneel on their neck or small of their back, while the other stomps on their hand.

Whenever possible, force them face down and kneel on their neck if it is only one security person/ parishioner. If more people are available to help, they can kneel on the spine, legs, and arms. There are multiple ways to hold someone, and this blog should not be considered proper training to take these actions. These methods are only being shared to show you that more can be done. It is also provided to give you ideas on what can be done until you receive professional training.

Tomorrow, I will discuss what every congregant can do to help everyone to survive an active shooter in church. Until then, may God Bless you, … Mark

Hardening Glass Door Security

Many times we think as security teams as the total package for security. Let me plainly say that relying on one thing (such as cameras, a security team, or individuals in church carrying firearms) is a serious mistake that many churches make. Layered security allows the church to have three or more layers in place. If one does not stop them, then perhaps the other two (or more) will.

Just like the cameras and the automatic door locks, posting someone at the door is another method of keeping evil people out. This would be the first layer of a security team.  Access points should be limited to one or two doors. While parishioners may have become accustom to coming into whatever door the found convenient, the overall safety of the church should be a priority over someones convenience.

After you limit access to one or two doors, you can have greeters, ushers, or a whole host of other individuals fill the job of door security, but they need to be trained. It is up to your church if the should be armed or not. No matter what the decision on arming them, teaching them to call out for locking the doors and/or evacuation is critical. In smaller churches, this can be accomplished by yelling “Gun, gun, gun!” In larger churches, it might be a call over a radio that says “Gun at the front door”. With the call, the area by that access point should be evacuated, and the security member should hide and position themselves to either run, or to hide and engage the shooter. It should be noted that if your churches plan is to engage the shooter, then the security team should all be trained by local law enforcement, or if the church allows the carrying of firearms, then they should be trained by local law enforcement and a  tactical training course at a gun range. Also, it is important to make sure the church is covered by insurance if individuals are carrying.

We need to remember that just by putting guns in our church does not ensure that we can stop shooters from entering. Guns are not always the answer, and neither are outsourced security teams. Thinking about hiring a security team? Let me discuss those tomorrow, because I have a few things we need to talk about. Thanks, … 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


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