I have a couple of rights and today I am going to exercise those rights. First, I am getting old so if I say something that offends someone blame it on my old age because the older I get, the more I don’t care if I offend you. Here are my credentials that allow me to exercise the second right. Except for one year in my adult life I have been involved in law enforcement in one capacity or another including military law enforcement, a sworn police officer or working in the private sector involving law enforcement. I can list all my accolades, but won’t. I will just say if you cut me, I bleed blue. I have the right to make a statement about something that I am noticing that really concerns me about my family in blue. I have this right to complain; I have this right to criticize because of my credentials and let’s not forget my old age.
I just got finished doing a church safety/security training in a large metropolitan area. In this training I noticed that there was not one sworn officer there, not one. It wasn’t because we didn’t invite them, in fact, we contacted their PIO (public information officer), made a special invite to them, posted the event all over our social media and there was a news report regarding the training on the local TV station about the event. We even had members of the local InfraGard chapter pushing out this training. InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector. But yet not one sworn officer showed up, not one. So this blog is not only for our Church Safety Team Members (CSTM) but it is also for you in law enforcement. In fact if you are on a church safety team share this with one of you law enforcement buddies.
I cannot understand law enforcement not showing up for this type of training. First you have someone that comes into your backyard talking about training people to physically protect a church. I, as a law enforcement department, would like to know what this organization is teaching. Hey, you might learn something. They may be teaching something that is illegal, or something that might not be illegal but something that your department might not agree with and maybe you would want to voice your opinion. I have been to a lot of these “church safety/security” training sessions and I shake my head when I hear what is being trained. I have heard of training that teaches CSTM about clearing rooms. I was watching one on the Internet the other day (wished I had saved the video) and they had a room of at least 8 people sitting at a table. The next thing you heard was what sounded like a gun shot in a hallway. Everyone in that room was armed. Everyone jumped up from that table, pulled their weapon and headed for the door. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was a company that went to that church and was doing church safety training. I got up and left a training where the instructor was showing CSTM how to go after people that have knives and disarm them. They stand up in front of the students who have little or no training and show them a few moves to take a knife away. I can tell you even if you practice that move until it becomes a natural movement, you are probably going to get stabbed (I would even bet you are). Some of you have only seen cuts on hands and fingers from a kitchen or shop accident but until you have seen wounds from a knife attack I can tell you right now, it ain’t pretty. You don’t believe me, do a Google search on knife wounds and look at images, maybe you shouldn’t because as I just said, it ain’t pretty.
I once asked one of my Safety Team Members, who is a martial art expert, has all sorts of belts and titles out his wazoo what he would do if he was confronted by a person with a knife and he told me he would just shoot that person. Okay Indiana Jones, you don’t have a gun at your disposal what would you do? His corrected response was they teach their students to put some distance between them and the assailant. Look for a weapon to be able to defend themselves if they have to confront the person with the knife. He told me that you only go hands on if you have no other choice. Getting to close to a person with a knife you will get cut, I promise you. But there are organizations that want to come out and teach you self-defense or tactical moves knowing that unless you practice you are going to get hurt. In anything, unless you practice whatever it is that you are doing you are not going to be good at it. As I like to say you can’t think of how to react to an attack. By the time you remember if it is “wax on” or “wax off”, you have been waxed.
No police department, no military unit ever goes into harm’s way without practicing how to survive. They train all the time. So how often does your church train? Once a month (rare), once a quarter (good for you), once a year (still ahead of the curve) or you can’t remember the last time you trained (most churches). I will shout this from the tallest steeple; most church volunteers are not SWAT, Rangers, Navy Seals or Force Recon and no offense to my prior military and police brothers and sisters but most of you don’t stay in shape to be able to handle a man with gun or knife. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes here but let’s be honest, when was the last time you ran a mile and a half in 12 minutes or less? When was the last time you did 100 push ups or even went to a range? You tracking yet? I will be the first to admit I am not what I used to be even 10 years ago. I know my limitations. When companies come to a church and want to teach safety/security teams how to be Rambo, they really need to have their credentials checked; and the local law enforcement agency needs to be the ones doing the checking. It is bad enough to go into a place where violence has happened and innocent people got hurt but it is heartbreaking when those hurt where hurt from friendly fire. Case in point this last March two police officers responded to a man with a sword in a church, the suspect was shot and killed but both officer were shot. Think about it for a second, man with a sword and both officers got shot. I have been around swords and never saw one that shot bullets (not talking rifles with bayonets or Elgin Cutlass Pistol from 1830’s). Still today, the police department has not said the officers were hit by friendly fire but I bet it was that or they had an overzealous CSTM there. I am going to go with friendly fire on this one.
I will give you another one; the shooting that happened at a country western bar in Thousand Oaks where the shooter walked in and shot 11 people. When the police arrived the Sheriff’s sergeant that was the first on scene was killed by friendly fire. I am not going to take anything away from either of these officers but here is my theory on what happened that night. Two officers from two different agencies were the first to arrive on the scene. I am willing to bet they never trained together at an active shooter training or they trained in their respected jurisdictions and maybe the training was different. But we have two seasoned officers at an active shooter scene and because of different training one accidentally shoots the other. I don’t think the surviving officer will ever get over that. Now let’s look at your church; you accidentally shoot one of your members. I promise you, you will never get over it. I almost shot my paperboy one night (contact me and I will tell you the story). It ended up the paperboy was unarmed but because of the circumstances I would have been justified. God was with both of us that night and I don’t have to live with killing an unarmed person. I still think of that night and shutter.
Back to my brothers and sisters in church safety. When I go into any church and teach safety/security in a house of worship one of the things I stress over and over in my training is to get local law enforcement involved in any training they do. I am out here plugging for the churches to be a law enforcement friendly establishment. I explain to them how important it is to us, our law enforcement brothers and sisters, to have a place where when we can sit and work in peace. A place where we can come and take a break from the chaos of the world. We use to do our paperwork in the stations but now we do most of it in our cars so it is great to have a place to go and be able to sit for an hour and not get complained on. Churches, if you see an officer sitting in a car on your property go out and introduce yourselves to the officers, tell them how much you appreciate them and offer up a cup of coffee or a bottle water (I do not push donuts, too much of a stigma). Offer them a place they can use the restroom in private. Do you know how important that little thing is to us that work the street? It is huge.
This is to my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. We are constantly having to watch our backs and the crazies in this world are not our friends and most of the time want to do us harm, so making friends with a church is not a bad idea. Listen to me very careful here, what I am about to say could save your life for eternity. Every day I read articles where an officer shoots an unarmed person. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to a church that you have befriended and get prayers, comfort and peace? Even if you are justified the press is going to hound you and your family. Your own department while investigating the shooting is going to feel like the enemy at times and you are going to need a support team. Christ said bring Him your burdens. He placed churches in your life to go there and lay those burdens down. The churches and law enforcement are in a unique place right now; there are a lot of people out there that would like to see both of us just go away. Why are we not getting together and talking about serving each other?
Now I am not criticizing all law enforcement agencies. In fact I would like to give a shout out to a few that have been great supporters of our ministry. I must first start with the agency that still lets me carry a badge and asks nothing of me; the Port Richey Police Department. I talk about you in every presentation; I do. A special thanks to Pasco and Polk Sheriff’s departments. You trust me and constantly send Deputies out to assist us in our training. You have connected churches to us when they have asked for our type of training; training you aren’t allowed to do. Venice Police Department took a chance with us and asked us to come and do a church safety/security for their town and what an event it was. Because they heavily promoted the training, more than 300 attendees and over 80 churches were represented. Following them was the North Port Police Department. Everyone of these agencies get it. Churches with only 500 to 1500 members are the size of a small town. My church has 3000 members which is larger than the small town of Glen Rose I grew up in. Heck it is almost double of the population when I lived there in 1970. These agencies get that they cannot be at every church service. They would if they could but they understand that if something goes sideways in a church, the church has minutes before they can get there. We understand we must do everything in our power to protect the flock. In an active shooter incident that means barricading doors, getting people out of harm’s way and trying to slow the shooter down till help arrives. It also might mean going against the shooter with force. Those minutes until the professionals get there are going to feel like hours when people are getting hurt. In talking to a survivor at Sutherland Spring Baptist Church, she said it was around 16 minutes before the first 1st responded walked into the church. We have to be prepared and we must work together. If we don’t who has our backs.
Are We Ready?
Happy Easter, Christ has Risen! I found this description of Easter on the internet, “the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” See that, “the most important” of the Christian Church. That means we will be seeing our “Chreasters” soon. You know those that only come to church on Christmas and Easter. Of course we will also have the faithful that understand this is the most important celebration of our lives, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Because of several issues that have happened around the country and the world we are taking a little harder look at the safety for our church on Easter. Why would we do anything different than we would any other weekend, because Satan would love to disrupt or destroy a church during this most Holy celebration. Understand what is said here is only my opinions and my opinions only. The only bases for what I am about to say is my observation of the world and my experience in what we do for churches. These are things I think about as to why Easter is so different and we need to plan differently for it.
June 2018 the U.S. Department of Justice/ Federal Bureau of Investigation put out a publication called A Study Of The Pre-Attack Behaviors Of Active Shooters In The United States Between 2000 And 2013. In this article they looked at over 60 cases of active shooter and found that they were more likely to occur in an educational facility or a house of worship. This tells me there is still a lot of work for us to be doing and we cannot let our guard down at any time. We must be diligent on our walls and make sure that all is safe and our churches are open to those that are coming to worship, those that are hurting and we keep a watchful eye out for those wolves in sheep clothing.
Last week I was having dinner with a good friend that is a retired Norfolk Police Lieutenant. We started talking about the New Zealand Mosque shooting. He stressed to me that one of his greatest fears was that the next big shooting was going to happen at a vacation spot. He said not like at Disney or a big amusement park but like at a beach where on a really busy weekend families are out enjoying themselves when someone comes on the beach with a weapon and starts shooting. As we were sitting there talking I started thinking about how a lot of churches are going to be hosting an Easter egg hunt and a Sunrise Service. Maybe you have never thought about this being a potential target but after the dinner discussion I had with my friend I feel we need to pay more attention to what is going on around us instead of worrying about how many eggs have been found or how nice it is to have a service outside. This is what I am talking about, a habitual place where we feel nothing could happen. We have to be on alert to make sure this is the biggest celebration of the Christian Church and also the safest. Easter weekend make sure that you have Team Members at your doors with your Greeters, listen to your ushers. Make sure that you have at least two rovers in the parking lot because of the large amount of people that you are going to have coming and going at your churches. Remember “15 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 our own work.” Nehemiah 4:15.
Have a great and blessed Easter. Remember He has risen and conquered death so let’s celebrate!
When we started this ministry back in 2015, we were looking at just the education side of protecting houses of worship. As the incidents continue to increase there have been other things that have come to light that I feel, as an adviser to so many of you, need to be brought to your attention. We must review how we protect the flock. If we don’t have a plan in place I am afraid if a violent incident happens at your church, it will cause you to have to close your doors, forever.
Something that crossed my mind after the New Zealand Shooting and the recent suicides from the Parkland shooting is that we don’t talk enough about the aftermath of a tragic incident. Current suicides on church property and shootings at houses of worship bring up conversations we should be discussing if an incident like this happens on campus. There is so much more information that needs to be talked about. We are working on putting an after-incident training together for you. The Department of Homeland Security put out a brochure called “Active Shooter Recovery Guide” that has valuable information on what to do after a tragic event happens on your property but even when looking at this, it does not cover all that is about to happen. Understand we want to address immediate needs, ensure life safety, coordinate medical assistance, set up crisis communications for media response, assist the family reunification process, provide immediate crisis support and other assistance that is needed in such a tragedy.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is going to be coming your way in the event of a tragic incident. Every month or so I see an article on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Shooting in Charleston, SC. You would think that after all of what they have been through they wouldn’t have issues like payment of donations and past financial issues. This tragedy is still hanging around for families and friends that have not being administered to. One of the things that DHS also says in their “Active Shooter Recovery Guide” is to be aware of post-incident scams and frauds. “The aftermath of some active shooter incidents has seen the formation of fraudulent charities and other scams that may re-victimize those affected and the general public who wish to contribute to a legitimate charity. In addition to seeking money, some of these solicitations may be “phishing” for personal information. Organizations should ensure that employees are made aware that such scams could occur.” So while trying to deal with deaths of loved ones there are those that are still trying to scam the victims. We do live in a fallen world.
A friend of mine sent me a text message recently asking if I had heard about “Active Shooter Insurance”. I was a little taken back on this because my impression was that most commercial general liability would cover anything that happened on your property. I was like do we really need to go this far and add “Active Shooter Insurance” to the mix? But what I didn’t realize is that most of your insurance companies do not know how to handle an active shooter incident and don’t want to handle this type of event. It is unfortunate that we have to start asking these questions, but it seems that we need to review our insurance policies to make sure in case of an active shooter you are not standing there asking why this is not covered.
Last year, at our conference, we had Barrett Harding Insurance talk about liability insurance for churches. I would rather be poked with a sharp stick than talk about or listen to someone discuss insurance. It appears I am the only one that feels that way because every time I walked by the room that was holding the insurance session, it was packed. When I saw this information on Active Shooter Insurance, I contacted our friend, Jeromy Harding and asked him if this was for real. “Yes, Jim, it is for real”. Jeromy quickly sent me over some brochures and a buyers guide on Active Shooter Insurance. I am still shaking my head that we have come to this point. After a brief history of why this has come about the buyer’s guide states “The Commercial General Liability may not respond unless the insured is deemed to be “liable” for the event. Typically, there are stated exclusions in the policy which may include employee as perpetrator, damage to property, business interruption or terrorism. In general, a policy may not include an event triggered, crisis management component which provides precontracted crisis response, including public relations, coverage for victim counseling services and unfortunately, funeral expenses.” What? Unless the insured is deemed to be “liable” for the event Commercial General Liability may not cover things like precontracted crisis response, including public relations, coverage for victim counseling service and funeral expenses.
This brochure continued with “A variety of organizations have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment for staff and visitors. In the event of an active shooter attack, they could be liable not only for civil action but regulatory action as well. There are significant challenges to organizations in securing their place of business while managing a vast throughput of people. These organizations are particularly at risk from a lone attacker who could enter a business unchallenged. Despite security measures, by design and necessity these places remain very open places. The reality of the needs of these buildings directly oppose much of what the security measures look to achieve.”
Did you notice the first sentence in the statement? “A variety of organizations have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment for staff and visitors.” You may tell me that the church does not fit in that category. I disagree. If you take the word “organization” out of it and put “church” we really do fit in this situation. You may also tell me that we have a better chance of being struck by lightning than to have an active shooter on campus; I agree. Are you sure you want to take that chance? What I am really saying here is in these fallen times we need to take a hard look at how we are protecting the church. Do we still feel that “it will not happen here?” Every survivor I have talked to that was involved in an active shooter or possible active shooter situation said the same thing; they couldn’t believe it was happening to them.
I reached out and contacted a lawyer friend of mine who handles cases like this. Some of his cases have involved physical altercations on school campuses and shootings at social events where security should have been put into place and were not. He said the owner of the business and school board is going to be in litigation for a long time. He went on to say that this litigation is costly and most cannot afford what happens to them and with a little bit of education on prevention and what to do afterward it most likely would have saved thousands of dollars in litigation. One of the things he recommended is that all businesses, churches and organizations that regularly hold meetings or are open for business must have some sort of safety plan in place to limit the liabilities of the policyholder. One of the things recommended in this brochure “Active Shooter Insurance” is to have a “security review audit and vulnerability assessment” with also scenario, workplace violence and awareness training to assist in keeping your place of worship safe. It also talked about having some sort of Crisis Management in place or having someone be on call to handle that if something ever happens to your house of worship”
So where do we go from here? The first thing I need is your help. We NEED a couple of churches that is willing to fill out an active shooter insurance application. (Email Wendy@TrinitySecurityAllies.com). This application will give us an idea of what we are looking at as far as cost goes. Jeromy explained to me that he can’t give us prices until we get a few of the applications filled out. When I asked why we could not just get a price list it was explained to me that this is brand new and they really don’t know what it would cost to provide active shooter insurance to a church. It also has to do with what state you live in and incidents that have happened in your area. Jeromy has promised that no salesperson will be contacting you, this is just so we can get some prices.
If you are still on the fence about a safety team, start looking at putting one together. If it has been a while since you have looked at your policy and procedures get them out, dust them off and look at them again and make sure they are up-to-date. Contact your insurance company and make sure you ask them specific questions about what they would do if you had an active shooter show up at your house of worship. Contact us with any question you may have on this issue and let us reach out to our resources to make sure you are covered.
This is a new issue that churches across the country are going to be facing in the near future. No matter what type of tragic incident you have on your property are you prepared? This is a gut-check situation because we don’t want to not be able to cover all the things that need to be done after such a tragic event. Once the incident is over, and first responders have shown up on your campus, the danger is over and everyone is safe, recovery takes over and it is not for the faint of heart. It will require a lot of work and a lot of faith that God is in control and will never put something in front of you that you can’t handle. As Julie Workman, a survivor from the Sutherland Spring Baptist Church said that God had been training her all her life for this one moment. He is training all of us for what we will face in the future. Let’s be prepared and ready to act when that moment comes.
Ezekiel 33 (NIV)
“33 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”
What a month! God is on the move my brothers and sisters and the question I keep asking myself am I ready for the work? I got to sit down with my good friend Kevin Haggerty. Kevin has started a YouTube page called the Godlogic Project and if you can, go out and subscribe to his page at https://www.youtube.com/godlogicproject. The reason why this was such a big deal to me, Kevin and I met right after we started Trinity Security Allies and he has been a faithful follower and supporter of our ministry. Kevin is with Next Level Church (some people might know it as TN24) and they let us use their church for conceal weapon classes for free. If you have never heard Kevin speak you need to go to his page and click on one of his videos. He speaks the Word and does not sugarcoat it. Kevin interviewed me and we discussed church security and safety. He recorded this interview and will be putting this out on his YouTube page. More to come.
On February 13th, I had the opportunity to talk with Julie Workman. For those that don’t know who Julie Workman is, she is one of the survivors of the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church Shooting. I spent 90 minutes with Julie and all I kept hearing over and over again was about God’s love, strength and presence in such a horrific incident. Julie had two sons with her the day of the shooting. One of her sons was able to get out of the church with a minor injury. The other one who was leading the worship music was shot twice, one hitting his spine and taking away the use of his legs. Julie was also shot that day but God was with her. She said it felt like she was hit by a Mac truck but the bullet did not penetrate her chest. Not only was her testimony inspiring but her message was clear, God prepares us for whatever we may face. He does not put you out there without the knowledge and tools to do what may come our way. You see Julie is a nurse and works in the operation room. Because of her training, she was able to do triage on several of the victims and save lives that day. Without Julie there, her training and the presence of God in such a tragedy more lives would have been lost. I am hoping one day we all get to hear her talk about that day.
Back to the to the opening Bible verses. From the start of our ministry, I am always looking for Bible verses that support our ministry. To give an example we use Nehemiah 4:13-16 for why we do what we do. At a church training, someone asked me a question about hiring private security guards instead of using your own men and women in the church safety team. At that time I was in a study on John and I found John 10:11-13 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” Please don’t start sending me emails about what is wrong with security guards, nothing if they are members of your church. We hire deputies to help with our traffic and after they are finished they patrol the campus and are a great deterrent but they leave after their time is up. Even if you have hired someone to do your safety, are you prepared if the private security or sworn law enforcement officers cannot show up on your campus? We are the sheepdogs of our church but we have to still be prepared even if we have other help.
So coming across Ezekiel 33 I thought to myself God is telling us that we must protect the church. As I read it, God is quite clear that as the times start to deteriorate and the attacks on the churches continue to grow, we the leaders of the church need to start preparing for the worse. Reading Ezekiel 33 I felt God will hold us accountable if we do not heed His warning and start protecting His Bride. Of course, when I read verses like this and go out and look to see what other scholars are saying about this I start to think I am trying to read something into it. Then I found someone who thinks like me (kind of scary isn’t it, hey Kevin found another guy that thinks like us).
Ken Cayce from Discover Books of the Bible wrote on Ezekiel 33 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman,” Ken states “This message is as much for the ministers of our day, as it is for the people of Israel. The pastor of a church must also, be a watchman. He must look out to the world and warn his people of all danger. The minister is responsible for warning the people of spiritual things. Unfortunately, some ministers preach nothing but love and good times.” Now I don’t know about your pastor but mine is warning our members of the spiritual things but we need to expand this and talk about the physical dangers children of God are facing in our fallen world. We had a man come into our church this last Sunday that even made the deputies uncomfortable. Our pastor was up preaching, he didn’t have time to do what we do while this person was on the campus. This person was on the campus all three services and we finally had to remove him from the Worship Center so people could get back to worship.
Brothers and Sisters, I have said this over and over, we are chosen. This is not a position to be taken lightly. Let’s look at another part of Chapter 33. “3 and he (the watchman) sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.” This sounds fairly simple, we warn them, they don’t listen then their blood is on their own head. But then read on, “6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”
Follow me on this, Julie Workman said that one of the things she realized after the shooting that day in Sutherland Springs, God had been preparing her for that moment. At that moment when friends and family were dying around her, she stayed calm and worked on saving lives. God had trained her all her life for that one moment. It took 20 minutes before the paramedics got into the building. People with the injuries Julie was dealing with could have died within 5 minutes from their injuries if she had not been there. So if you have been called to take on the responsibility, not from your church, but you feel this calling from God, if you don’t stand up and warn your church of what is out here and it is only a matter of time before something bad is going to happen at your church, “but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’”. Are we tracking yet?
We have come to a time where it is not a luxury to have a safety team on your campus it is a must. Two people this last month committed suicide inside a church. I am saddened that this happened on any church property but you know what I am glad of (don’t think of me as morbid). I am glad that these people did not take anyone with them. I am glad it wasn’t a suicide by cop where they walked into those churches and started killing members and waited to have a shootout with the cops. Sorry folks we need to wake up and start thinking about these situations.
No, I have not gone off the deep end. I read day after day what is happening around the country to churches and I am afraid of those that bury their heads in the sand and say, “it won’t happen here”. That was the same thing Julie thought on that beautiful November morning in the small town of Sutherland Springs. That was until reality sat in and evil came through the door and she found herself being used for what God had been training her for all her life.
The Best Results In An Active Shooter Situation Is That No One Gets Shot, And That Includes The Shooter.
I made that statement at a church safety seminar in North Carolina. Once the announcement sunk in they looked at me like I had insulted their families. This is one of those issues that has been bothering me for some time. I continue to hear stories of safety teams that spend a lot of time, money and effort on training on how to confront an active shooter instead of guaranteeing the safety of those around them. They go to these firearms classes that teach them how to come out of the pew firing away at the active shooter. I watch them take classes on how to clear your house in case you hear an intruder or I heard one church was using police resources to learn how to go room to room and find a hidden shooter. Every time I hear of a safety team that spends more time on how to take down a shooter instead of planning on how to protect those in a church shooting I cringe.
In our church safety training we talk about knowing your campus and positions. One position, a rover driving around your facility looking for anomalies is a priority. Why do we say anomalies instead of threats? If your rover is only looking for the man in or getting out of his car with the weapon in his hands he may miss the child that was accidentally left in his car seat while the parents are in church. We deal with these types of families every Sunday morning, you know the type that come running like their hair is on fire, total chaos. Checking their kids in 5 minutes before church starts, kids still half dressed with their tooth brushes still in their mouths, we all know the type. I have seen families, that are running late, trying to gather all their kids and necessities they need for church forgetting to shut the van door, turn their vehicle off or forgetting the diaper bag next to the back tire. They are one step away from leaving that child in the car seat. Remember I live in Florida and our winters can get quite warm, think about our summers.
Over the years we have seen several deaths of infants left in a car seat from the parents just being too busy, forgetful or doing something really stupid. When I read of two incidents at churches back in 2016 I started having my rovers look into vehicles with car seats to make sure they are always empty when the parents are in church. I don’t want it to happen in our church and I am sure you would regret it happening at yours. I had one church contact me because they kept having cars pull up in their church parking lot, driver staying in the car for a short period of time then drive recklessly away when their rover approached them. It caused them some alarm with all the activity. They found out Pokémon Go had a character in their parking lot and all those playing the game kept coming in and leaving. When people were coming and going between services it became a hazard. So, train your rover in the parking lot to look not only for threats, but also anomalies. Make sure you stress the importance of your rovers. They are our first line of defense in cases of an active shooter.
In our threat profiling we look at normal human behavior patterns to detect a possible threat. We must be trained in what to look for before it has the opportunity to strike. Once we put into play that this person is a threat then we must start making moves to protect those on the church property. It may be confronting the threat or it may be warning those around of the situation. In Sutherland springs we have learned that the shooter started shooting outside the church, killing two church members. He then began shooting at the building with several hundred rounds before entering the church. The shooter exited his vehicle dressed in black tactical gear wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying an AR-15 style rifle. When we look at the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, the shooter was wearing a ski mask with two handguns as he got out of his vehicle and made his way to the church. On the way into the church he shot and killed a member as she was leaving. Before they could react, the shooter was in the building. Both churches did not have a plan or a team to be watching for these threats as the threat got out of their vehicle and started their killings. We need to watch outside as much as we watch inside.
Back to active shooter. Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has started its ABCs for school safety in the event of an active shooter. Alert, Barricade and Counter. Notice the order. The first thing you need to do is Alert 911, get the troops on the way. I want everyone coming. Alert others and move to a safe place. The second thing is to Barricade yourself behind something, preferably a solid wooden door with a lock. If you have desk and chairs start piling them against the door and then turn off the lights and wait for help to arrive. The last thing, if you have no other option is to Confront. This should be the last thing in an active shooter situation at a church. Even if you have Safety Team members that are already in contact with the shooter, others need to be slowing the injuries and deaths down by finding safety in locked rooms.
Let’s take a few minutes and look at the dynamics of an active shooter. The shooter wants to kill as many people as they can before the police, or some outside force stops them. They are going to be shooting at anything that moves, but if we take the targets away, haven’t we done the right thing? If the shooter has nothing to shoot at and knows that the police are on the way, the best thing for the shooter to do is either leave or wait to confront the cavalry. Once you start the shooting at the bad guy, unless you’re the best shot in the world and take him out with the first shot, then there will be bullets flying. The more and more bullets that are buzzing around the more loved ones or people you know are in danger of being hit.
One last thought of the dynamics of an active shooter. Most modern projectiles will go through walls. If you have confronted your active shooter in front of your children’s ministry you have now put them right in the gunfight. As I said once you start shooting not only do you have to be concerned about where your bullets are going, you also have to worry about the shooters rounds penetrating walls and hitting people you know and love. If you must confront the shooter, try to move them away from the church or populated areas. How do we do that? We need that rover in the parking lot that can sound the alarm and while other Safety Team members are locking down the interior, you may want to move out to the perimeter, find cover and confront the shooter outside if possible. No contradiction here, just showing you to have multiple plans in protecting the church. The first must be the lockdown or barricade taking the targets away from the shooter. Slowing down the shooter how ever possible until the cavalry arrives is the next step.
Right after the Aurora Movie Theater shooting I was talking to a friend about active shootings and he asked me what I would do if I was at a movie theater with my family and a guy walked in and started shooting. I told him my main priority was making sure my family was safe, get them down on the floor, if near an exit get them out of the theater. After that I would respond to the threat and this is because of my police training. The last thing you want to do is put your loved ones right in the middle of a gunfight. The same thing goes with your church. We have to protect the flock before we put them right in the middle of an exchange of bullets. We need to have a plan and train others to keep the flock out of harm’s way. Just have a couple of plans on how you would protect those in an active shooter situation and work the plan. No plan means more casualties. Even if the plan is a bad plan, at least it’s been discussed. Give me a call and let’s work on a couple of plans of how to protect your flock …against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.