Another Active Shooter Last Week

We saw last week that an active shooter, a 15-year-old boy, caused more death and destruction in a school in Kentucky. According to the Kentucky State Police, the teachers and several students had recently undergone active shooter training. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if the entire school received the training.

Looking at this from my perspective, the lack of training to every student is a downfall in many school (and church) active shooter plans. Every person should be trained in what to do when an active shooter (or bomber) makes it to the parking lot or crosses the threshold of the doors. If one person does not know what to do, they become more vulnerable than those that have had the training.

It is for this reason that I implore churches and schools to make plans, to train everyone, and to practice that plan. The more it is trained and practiced, the more likely that those involved will not only act, but they will take the proper actions that will save not only themselves, but others too.
I think I hear some voices out there saying “We have layered security and a security team: Do we really need to disturb people with what to do, and then practice it?” The answer is YES you do! Why? When you practice something, you build up muscle memory and brain memory. If you have trained their brains and muscles to do something under calm conditions, it is more likely that they will do the right thing when trouble comes through the doors. Secondly, are you 100% confident that your layered security and security team can keep a shooter or bomber outside? I have known some of the best public safety officers and soldiers that have been surprised by active shooters and bombers! What makes you think that your team is superior to all active shooters or bombers?

The same principles we teach for churches, can be used in schools. Let me plainly state that if you do not prepare for an active shooter or bomber, and revisit your plans regularly, you are setting yourself (and all those you protect) up for failure. Do you want the next headline to be “20 dead, 18 Injured in Church Shooting” or do you want it to be “Would be Shooter Taken Down and Detained Before Hurting Anyone”? The decision is yours, and complacency and/or procrastination will not help you if, and when, the time comes, … Mark

What will it take??????

Over the years of teaching how to prevent and survive active shooters in houses of worship, the one thing I have noticed is that many churches do not want to prepare. They take a haphazard or complacent response to protecting the church. I have heard a myriad of reasons, with almost all of them being what I consider “bad excuses”. This has led me to wonder “What it will take for them to understand the importance of protecting their flock?”

Historically, scholars and public safety has seen if it happens in the rest of the world, it eventually comes to the United States. We have seen terror attacks in various places, especially Middle Eastern countries, and we say, “That’s horrible” or “What a shame”, only for it to happen on U.S. soil a year or two later.

We only need to think about the car and knife attacks that started in Middle Eastern countries, then it moved to France and England, only to eventually come to fruition in the United States a year or so later. If we think about it, we saw the terror attacks in foreign countries in the 1990’s, and then we saw these attacks come to fruition on September 11, 2001. Looking at this from a historical perspective, it doesn’t even need to be the same type of perpetrator. We have seen the same types of attacks come from radical Muslims, eco-terrorists, domestic terrorists (think Timothy McVeigh), and people that have evil in their heart.

ISIL inspired attacks cut the throat of a French Priest, bombings in Egyptian Mosques and Nigerian Mosques soon led to the bombing of a Minnesota Mosque and the church shooting in Texas. The perpetrators of these crimes were not from the same religion, or even have the same beliefs. Their hearts are hard, and they want to cause death and destruction. It sounds like Satan’s plan to me. As a professional in emergency management and homeland security, I often say “As it happens in the rest of the world, so will it happen in our country.”

Whether it is a mental issue, or a heart filled with evil, our places of worship are under attack! In looking at Carl Chinn’s deadly force statistics (in houses of worship), it is easy to see that deadly force incidents are on the rise. In 1999, there were 22 deaths reported in churches from a deadly incident, and in 2000, there were nine, followed by four in 2001. The number of deadly force statistics stayed under 50 deaths in churches per year, until 2008. Since 2008, we have seen a steady incline in deaths in church at the hands of others. The year 2017 was the deadliest ever recorded, at 177 deaths occurring at houses of worship. Since 1999, there have been 477 deaths that have occurred in houses of worship, stemming from 1691 total potentially deadly force incidents.

So, I ask you, what is it going to take to get your church to prepare? We have scriptural mandates to protect our flocks. We have seen a huge increase in deaths in houses of worship. We have seen mass killings in churches. We have seen mass bombings in houses of worship, in other countries (Prediction: coming soon to the U.S. like never seen before). Is it going to take a shooting or bombing at a church in your state? Perhaps it will take a shooting or bombing in your county? Of course, there are some that will wait until it comes to their doorstep! I tend to believe that there are those that won’t even take action then!

Many stand on “God will take care of us”. God does take care of His children, but He also expects us to help Him. If we are to rely solely on God’s protection, then why does Nehemiah 4:15-16 say: “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. 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.”

Similarly, in Acts 20:28-30, we are told “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Even Jesus provided guidance that we may need to protect ourselves. In Luke 22:36 Jesus spoke to his disciples “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”

These are but a few verses that support protecting Gods people and the church. Think of all the words of David about how God prepared him to prevail against those that would attack Israel. Think of all the times God the Father helped his people prepare for war. Make no mistake, this is a war. This is Satan’s assault on the church, and he has changed it from a spiritual war to a combination of a spiritual and physical war. Food for thought, … how many people do you think have quit attending church because of the recent violence against churches? This is part of Satan’s plan!

People, I am shouting from the mountain top, as are many of my colleagues who teach church safety! I beg you, start preparing! I also beg you to look at the statistics that Carl provides. They can be very eye opening! Pastors, individuals in public safety, and the general public are begging for church protection. PLEASE, quit being complacent and do something! … Mark

Personal thoughts-Cleo Warnick

I asked my wife to write down her personal thoughts about filming the active shooter video we are producing. I have also asked others to do the same, so you will likely see more of these in the near future. I find it amazing that even though this was a bunch of simulated scenes, with specific breaks between shots, it still brought about some serious emotions. Please ponder this account, and enjoy it, … Mark

Cleo Warnick’s thoughts and feelings-

As the day of videotaping began, I tried to bring myself back mentally to the days of secondary school drama club when I tried to imagine to be in a real situation we were about to act in.  There, the similarities between the two end.  On the day of filming, we were about to try and show what may happen, how we may feel and react, based on being unprepared and uninformed on what to do or expect, while hoping to maintain some safety…

…It seemed like a normal day as part of the congregation; a few greetings were exchanged; a little light-heartedness in quick chats before settling into the pews.  Everything was as it usually is.  Aware that cameras were already rolling, it occurred to me this sameness was how many disastrous and tragic days often begin when an active shooter situation occurs.  Empathy for those who have suffered a active shooter or bomber situation engulfed my thoughts.  Unremarkable, indistinct beginnings of a day, can turn to horror and terror at the blink of an eye, lives never to be the same, or worse, lost.

While listening to the opening of the morning’s messages, I felt vulnerable, because I clearly knew why we were all gathered.  The speaker continued, and we listened to his words. It was a pleasant day, and the weather was good.  Good friends had joined us, which is always a blessing.  Suddenly, a commotion broke behind me and was increasing; I, in the middle pews, I became aware of an individual storming past me down the narrow aisle towards the pastor, strangely holding his arm up with something in his hand!

Shock; disbelief; unreal; people screaming.  What do I do? What do I do? In church; he has a gun! Everyone was scattering in different directions.  Do we try to get out?  We are helpless.  Fear; overwhelming fear was my primary response. I told myself that I needed to remove myself, yet I felt frozen to the spot. Not asleep. This is my worst nightmare.

Okay, cut!

Dr. Warnick who was directing, stopped us and explained all that we could have done to lessen the impact of this individual on the church, and its people.  We needed to work together, identify our available resources, and have select people be prepared in the ways he suggested.  We needed to be more vigilant, or observant, of unusual behavior, and its implications.  Dr. W surprised us by showing us how many ways to exit, and made me realize the importance of uniting in our efforts to prepare ourselves and in so doing, strengthen our defenses.  There are actions people can take, as opposed to being sitting frozen to the spot, that can help them and others stand a greater chance of survival.  To be honest, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about crawling under the pews for protection, or as a way to escape.

Someone knowledgeable in emergency preparedness can work with the regulars to pinpoint all that can be done with greater safety, in the face of adversity to facilitate a better outcome.  We can understand inner turmoil and horror while witnessing horrible events, but would we not sooner have had some training and instruction on improving the situation?

An example is where we would not go out in pouring rain without a waterproof coat, and are therefore more likely to stay dry.  A raincoat helps to keep us dry and avoid colds.  At work, in the event of a fire or other emergency, we look to the trained individual(s) who have been prepared to work with employees in such difficulty.  Usually, there are practice fire drills.  It makes sense to know what to do.  The ‘its not going to happen around here’ is an ideal, not a guarantee.  Preparation strengthens the individual and the group.  Not knowing what options there are, or what to do for the best under the circumstances, creates fear in itself.

The above are some thoughts, feelings and visualizations that I experienced during filming an instructional video under the guidance of Dr. Mark Warnick, emergency management specialist.  He has spearheaded and is producing this video to help others be better prepared for the purpose of saving lives.


Cleo Warnick

Master’s degree learner in Clinical Psychology


Blog changes

After much thought and contemplation, the Board of Directors of Saving Lives and Souls has decided to make some changes to how often we publish our  blog at this time.

Due to the time constraints that myself, and that other board members face, we have decided that my commitment will be reduced in writing my part of the blog to only once per week. The reason for this is simple, providing this information and writing these blogs take time, and my talents are also needed elsewhere. I am still working on post-production of the instructional video, teaching university classes, attempting to finish a book, and providing seminars on active shooters. The blog has slowed all of these processes down substantially.

The information I have provided in the blog (to this point), has laid a basic foundation for churches to get started in preventing and surviving active shooters.  A church that has made the decision to protect their flock can obtain the basic information to protect their church and congregants from what I have posted in these blogs. They can at least get started from the information that has been shared via the blog. Should they have any questions, they can contact us and we will answer those questions, free of charge.

If you have made the decision to move forward, they should consider a seminar either for their church or even their community and include all houses of worship. Should you want a live seminar, we have suggestions of who to contact. These suggestions are based on a holistic approach of protecting the church with Gods word as the foundation. Those recommendations include contacting either:

Sheepdog Safety Training

Warnick and Associates

While there may be others out there, we are cautious with who we endorse. The reason, … we care about you! We do not want to recommend someone that may provide bad, incomplete, or non-scriptural information to you! If you have suggestions for other seminar providers, we would be happy to evaluate them for you and then potentially suggest them as well. These suggestions are not about making money for anyone, this is about protecting God’s children!

As we make this transition in our blog status, we look forward to any questions or suggestions. If it has not been covered in our blog, and it might be something useful that others may be interested in, either myself or one of the directors of the organization will address it in a blog, so everyone can learn more.

It is my pleasure to serve you in this ministry. Please feel free to reach out to us at any time through our “Contact us” form. Until the next blog, may God keep you safe, … Mark

Long-term care

The long-term care for those affected by an active shooter or bomber may take a while. It is important to realize that delayed effects from the incident could occur immediately, or they could occur days, months, or even years later. In the first weeks, and possibly even months after the incident, victims and family members may need additional help. They may need:

  • Help maintaining lawns, homes, gardens, or business
  • Meals (video of someone delivering a meal)
  • A 24-hour watch to care for emotional and spiritual needs
  • Counselling provided or arranged

 In the long and the short-term, church volunteers and leadership should also watch for warning signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. These signs can include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Reliving the trauma over and over
  • Physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable
  • Having trouble remembering the event.
  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Obsessing on why they lived, while others died
  • Feeling distanced from spouse or children
  • Crying for no known reason. or uncontrollable crying
  • Drinking, taking pain killers, or using drugs
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Dwelling on the incident

If you or someone that was present during the incident suffers from these effects, DO NOT ignore them.

The longer you allow them to go unchecked, the harder it might be to correct these issues. If signs of PTSD are seen, you and your aftercare team should:

  • Pray
  • Seek out help from a mental health professional specializing in PTSD
  • Seek out help from clergy

While I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, prayer should not delay mental health involvement; it should be done in conjunction with notifying a mental health professional.

While prayer is important, it is also important to note that you should not share any individual’s mental difficulties without their permission. It is fine to say they need prayer, but specific details should not be given. You should also realize that in many instances, due to the nature of the problem, many members of the clergy may not be equipped to handle the seriousness of the issues the victim faces. Clergy may refer you to some of these individuals to a PTSD specialist. For clergy members, they should realize (early on) if they are not equipped to help the individual. Clergy should NEVER delay getting professional help when signs of PTSD are seen.

The after-effects of an active shooter situation will likely have:

  • Long term effects
  • Short term effects
  • Be intermittent
  • Be constant

It will be a sprint in the beginning, it will be a marathon in the larger picture. For the Marathon, you should consider putting together a volunteer team that:

  • Undertakes long-term monitoring
  • Ensures long-term mental healthcare
  • Meets the physical needs
  • Will identify and arrange professional help for those who may be having issues

This team could prevent unnecessary suffering, and potentially even prevent a suicide. Our churches should have a commitment to these individuals because:

  • This is the Christian thing to do!
  • This is also the right and prudent thing to do!

In closing, I wanted to say that there will be changes to the blog in the near future. I will discuss these changes in tomorrow’s blog, and the reason we are making these changes. Until then, … Mark

After the incident is over: Short-term family care

I have been discussing a long list of things that will need to be done after an incident occurs in your church. Another consideration that every church should think about, especially in the immediate hours after a shooting (or bombing), would be to notify and help the families of those injured and killed.

Notifying families about the demise of their loved one will likely be done in conjunction with law enforcement. The list that you made in the initial aftermath, which identified the injured and deceased, should assist you in this task. It is important to ensure that not only are you present for the notification, but that you take a specific volunteer that will be a point of contact for this family member. This point of contact will be responsible for ensuring that their needs are met from the time of the notification forward.

While we may be in mourning for those killed, we need to remember that the living are still with us, and they will have needs. They will usually need support to get through this difficult time. They may even need mental health intervention, which your point of contact will be able to identify and request through your volunteer network. A critical aspect of care is to work with mental health professionals and public safety, to provide critical incident stress debriefings in the first 72-hours after an incident.

A critical incident stress debriefing helps individuals to share what they feel, or what they felt during the attack. This can help to reduce the long-term psychological effects of what they saw and felt during the attack, as well as the guilt that can come afterwards.

While not a mandatory task of the church, consideration should be given to helping those injured and killed as well as their family members immediately after an incident. They may need assistance with:

  • Arranging transportation
  • Taking care of the children, elderly, the disabled, or pets.
  • Providing emotional support
  • Provide a 24-hour watch (with, or over, certain individuals.)

It is extremely important to evaluate the immediate support needs in the first 2-6 hours after they have been notified, and evaluate the family’s short-term needs in the first 24-hours.  In providing help to these family members, you show Gods love. To accomplish these tasks, your church or another church may need to find some willing volunteers to take on the responsibilities of caring for these families. In all likelihood, it will take a cadre of volunteers to meet the list of needs for everyone affected.

Your point of contact volunteer should initially be used to identify the needs of the victims and their family members, then to arrange a support system for them through the cadre of volunteers.  Some individuals may just need checked once or twice per day, while others may need 24-hour around the clock care. As we check on these individuals, we need to assess their psychological state. If they seem psychologically unstable, or they seem to be in depressed, suicidal, or there are other concerns, you should immediately take action. In order to take care of their needs  after an incident, it may require a lot of volunteers and professionals. Prior to an incident ever occurring, the church should talk with, and make agreements with, individuals that may be needed after an incident occurs. This may include:

  • Cadre of Clergy
  • Cadre of Mental Health providers
  • Cadre of medical professionals
  • Cadre of Social Workers
  • Trained advocates

It is important that these individuals get the help they need in the immediate hours after the incident. When these people need help, they typically need it right away. By having pre-identified individuals who can step up, the help can come quickly, rather than waiting hours to locate someone with a certain specialty. Pre-identifying clergy and mental health providers trained in grief counselling, prior to an incident, can significantly reduce stress, and it can reduce the time it takes to help those that are hurting.

Tomorrow, I will discuss long-term care of those that were affected by a shooting or bombing in a church. Until then, … Mark

Calling others for help

In instances where your church has been the victim of an active shooter or bomber, it is important to remember that key individuals may have been injured or killed. Without these individuals in place, it may lead to gaps in the operations of the church, when it is needed most. In a government setting, this would be referred to as a gap in continuity of operations.

Continuity of operations refers to the ability of the church to carry on with it’s primary mission. After a shooting or bombing, the primary mission will likely be to spiritually and emotionally care for those that were affected by this shooting, including family members and the victims themselves.

One of the key factors to address the barrage of issues is to take inventory of who is missing, deceased, and/or incapacitated from fulfilling their duties. This is done through:

  • Identifying and filling any critical personnel gaps
  • Identify operational gaps (e.g. comforting, counselling, )
  • Identifying Public Information Officer (PIO) gaps
  • Identifying gaps in caregiver groups and/or volunteers

Many different issues will need to be dealt with in the aftermath of an active shooter or bombing in a church. In order to respond to the work ahead, you will need to make sure that there are enough resources to deal with parishioners, their family members, and the media, just to name a few.

If you find that your church resources may be overwhelmed, you may need to reach out to:

  • Denomination headquarters
  • Other local clergy members
  • Other local churches
  • Local schools
  • Local county health organizations
  • Local advocacy groups
  • Professional media spokesperson

No matter what, it is important to realize that this is a very hectic and ominous time. There is no shame in asking for help! In a perfect world, we would pre-arrange whatever help might be needed in advance, and pre-load these numbers in our phones and document those numbers in our paperwork that helps us to take roll call. If we fail to do this in advance of an incident, we will need to fly by the seat of our pants, and make judgments on who should be called while under duress. In my opinion, it is always better to prepare and not need it, rather than need something and not be able to figure out what to do.

We need to remember that many hands make light work. We also need to remember that everyone that was present during this heinous act will need time to process everything. This extra help, will help those present at the incident to focus on themselves rather than focusing on others, and then later having a break-down.

We will continue this short series tomorrow. Until then, mull over a list of individuals that you may need to reach out to, should something like this happen in your church, … Mark


After the shooting is over

Many people mistakenly think that once the active shooter (or bomber) is neutralized, that the incident is over. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, church leaders and volunteers have an exorbitant amount of short, and long-term, work that must be done.

After the scene is secure, police, fire, and EMS will begin to sort patients by injuries. They will sort them by those that cannot be helped (deceased or not likely to survive), those that need urgent help (life-threatening injuries), those that need minimal help (injured but expected to survive), and those with no injuries (or very minor injuries), who are also known as “walking wounded”. In most instances, the walking wounded will be placed in a single location to allow more critical patients to be tended to first.

It is important to note that things will be extremely hectic, and public safety will have their hands full. Just like your church does not have an active shooting or bombing on a regular basis, police, fire, and EMS do not respond to these types of mass casualty incidents on a daily basis. It will be extremely difficult for public safety as well.

After the shooting is over, you should try to gather everyone into a predetermined area. Sometimes this will be determined by police, fire, or EMS. After be placed in an area, you should then do your best to account for everyone. During this process, you should do your best to ensure that nobody gathered at your meeting place is injured. In this initial stage, you should check each other for any serious signs of trauma, and you should monitor each other’s health until everyone has been taken to be checked out, or they have been released to go home. It is important to note that the shock of the overall incident may be so traumatic that some individuals do not even know they have been injured.

While the physical well-being of those around you should be the first priority after an active shooting, you should also take an account of the mental well-being of everyone. If someone is suffering mentally from the incident, medical personnel should be notified, and they should evaluate that individual to determine if they need to be seen. These signs of trauma may be a 500 mile gaze, not speaking (when they normally would), and severe crying to name a few.

It is also important to note that even though those that are present were traumatized, they may also need to console a victim’s family members who may have died or that is on the way to the hospital. In most instances, once word gets out about the incident, friends and family will respond to the church to get word on their loved ones.

Another important thing that should be done after an incident. You should make your best attempt to account for every person possible, and to the best of your ability, make lists that include:

  • Missing individuals
  • Injured individuals (including those taken by ambulance and those in your group)
  • Those that were killed

In the pre-planning stage, you may want to create a list of everyone that attends the church on a regular basis and place it in a weatherproof box outside of the building or place it in a vehicle to make this task easier.

In large churches, known as megachurches, you may want to split accountability between two or three people by preassigned area of the church. Essentially, the church would be divided into zones, similar to the chart below.

Should you find that individuals are missing,  you should notify law enforcement, so that they can take measures to identify if they have already been transported, or if the individual might be injured and still be in the church.

As I walk you through this process, it may be disturbing, but we as Christian’s need to ensure that we do all we can to reduce pain and suffering. Until tomorrow, … Mark

Watch police training for active shooters

Today, I am sharing police training videos that we shot for our instructional video, which should be released in July. Please note, these videos will be substantially less professional looking than the instructional video.

Single Officer

Two Officers-Training

Three Officer Training

Training on clearing Sunday School Rooms

I hope this gave you some insight of what law enforcement may do if they are called to your church, … Mark

How to help the police

We have been discussing the importance of assisting the police, and what they will do when they arrive. It is important to remember that law enforcement is there to help you. They will probably be on edge and nervous. After all, they are trying to engage with someone that is trying to kill you and possibly even trying to kill these law enforcement officers.

The actions you take may help officers realize that you are not a threat, or, if you take the wrong actions, you  may waste valuable seconds and minutes when law enforcement could be chasing the active shooter rather than trying to determine if you might be the shooter. These men and women are putting their lives on the line to get you out alive. Help them by taking the right actions; actions  that reveal that you are not a threat. You should avoid:

  • Screaming or pointing at officers
  • Sudden movements
  • Touching or talking to officers
  • Getting in an officer’s line of sight
  • Getting between officer and the shooter
  • Jumping out or running in front of officers

As you can see from the video above,  these actions can put both you and the officers at risk.

This is the reason why you should:

  • Be compliant
  • If you move, do so in a slow methodical manner
  • Remain calm, and stay in place until told to leave
  • Follow all directions

Until the situation is under control, for their own safety, expect the police to:

  • Treat you as a suspect
  • Be extremely cautious until they understand the situation
  • Make you lay prone on the ground
  • May be aggressive or may push you to the ground
  • Shout orders to you, or at you

This yelling and screaming can be because their adrenaline levels are high, or they are still trying to understand the situation. In most instances police will also yell if they know shots have been fired in the general vicinity. The reason behind this is that if shots are fired, especially indoors, there could be temporary hearing loss if you were present.

Tomorrow, I will post some basic videos of the police doing their job when it comes to active shooters. Until then, … Mark