About a year ago I was talking to a church elder about the training we provide at Trinity Security Allies. Before we met he informed me on the phone that ‘he wasn’t buying anything”. While sitting at a local coffee shop he started the conversation with “you have a better chance of being hit by lighting or winning the power-ball lottery than being involved in an active shooter incident”. Fast forward to last Saturday. I was listening to the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety say to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities, today the nightmares hit home in the City of Pittsburg.” Every time I replay that conversation with the church elder and now listening to the Director of Public Safety, I think about how naïve these people are. Have they not heard of the twenty-six killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas? Have we already forgotten about the nine worshipers that were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? I wish they had heard Ron Holland’s riveting testimony of the 1999 church shooting at Wedgewood Baptist Church and about his denial when the shooting started. Shootings at churches are happening more frequently than you think.
Of course then the talking heads come out spewing their rhetoric. So many telling us that this wouldn’t have happened if the church had someone armed inside. Then there are those telling us that the police are just minutes away and guns don’t belong in church. I hear them talk about how guns are the problem and others it is all about mental illness and we need to do better on handling those with mental issues. What they showed me is that they don’t have a clue of what is going on in Houses of Worship, Christian, Jewish or even Muslin surviving in this fallen world. What do they really know about an active shooter situation in a House of Worship? Unless they have ever been involved in one they need to shut-up and just report the news.
Here is what we know about Tree of Life shooting; evil walked into a peaceful setting and killed eleven innocent people. It is just that plain and simple. Good people don’t walk into Houses of Worship and just start shooting peaceful people, that is not our nature. These innocent people felt they were in a safe place; a House of God and He would not let this happen to them. They probably felt that it will never happen here; it only happens to churches in the south like Texas or South Carolina but never here. Remember what the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety said to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities….” Why do we still feel that it only happens to other churches and not ours?
Brothers and sisters the police are minutes away, minutes. The time it takes you to read this blog nine innocent people were shot and killed in South Carolina during an active shooter incident. Nine. You know me and law enforcement, you cut me I bleed blue, but we have to learn to protect ourselves while the cavalry is on the way. We must circle the wagons and protect those we love and cherish. We have to do things to slow down what is happening. To start this you must have a plan.
Just recently at two different training seminars I said that the best outcome of an active shooter situation is that nobody gets shot and that includes the shooter. I had people in the audience falling all over themselves. Once they got their jaws off the floor I finished my statement. You must start with a plan and that plan is to save lives. If your plan is to arm all the members in the church and some bad guy comes into your church with a gun, he probably won’t kill many people but if everyone starts to shoot, then you are going to kill some innocent people. You have to have a better plan than this.
The first part of any plan is we must save lives. We need to find a way of getting people out of harm’s way when evil walks in the door. Pasco County has been working on a simple plan for schools to encounter an active shooter, it is so simple it is brilliant, the ABCs of School Safety. Alert, Barricade and Counter. I commend them on this because it is what we have been saying for years. As long as we keep it this simple there is no reason why safety teams across the country could not implement this plan.
Let’s break it down. Alert. At the start of anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, Alert local law enforcement. We have been preaching this since we first started. You must contact local law enforcement if something does not feel right. We would rather respond, and it ends up being nothing than getting there and we have a situation like Pittsburg.
Second, Barricade. Finally someone is talking about getting behind a barrier and slowing down the process until the cavalry arrives. Remember the wagons, it was a better way to protect themselves because it was putting a barrier between the them and the bad elements. Let me remind you again, studies have been done and NO locked, barricaded door has been breached. Don’t want to listen to me, read where the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and The National Association of State Fire Marshals reported that “there has never been an event in which an active shooter was able to breach a locked classroom door (Best Practices for Securing Classroom Doors).” And while we are on this subject, get rid of those flimsy doors with no locks and get a solid door with a good lock. I am going to let you in on a little secret, some of these off the shelf classroom barricade devices are dangerous and could be against Federal Law. You are going to have enough issues if you have an active shooter, you don’t want to have possible law suits also hanging over your head from using something illegal. Use a good solid door with a lock on the inside so the person in the room only has to lock the door by pushing a button or flipping a latch. Try getting a key into a key hole when evil is in the house, it is not easy.
One last thing on locked doors. I am sure most of you by now has heard about the Jeffersontown, Kentucky shooting at a Kroger where two people were killed. Here again we have nothing but evil killing people because of the color of their skin. Reports have come in that the shooter, before going to Kroger, had gone to an all-black church. Surveillance video showed the shooter yanking on a church door, but they were locked. There were ten members of the church still inside when the shooter tried the door. The report also states that there were 70 church members there an hour earlier. Lives were saved all because of a locked door. Are you starting to see a pattern yet? Have a plan, lock doors, saves lives.
The next thing on Pasco County’s ABCs is Counter. In their flyer they state “Throw objects at the intruder as a distraction. Shout, Scream, Defend yourself! Look for other ways to escape and Run Away from the danger!” Once again, we have been saying this since the beginning if it comes to a time when you have to defend yourselves, develop a survival mindset and do whatever it takes to make it through the attack. Here is a simple plan to build on, that wasn’t that hard. The hard part for most churches is implementing the plan and getting people to the church to train from the plan.
Would any of this helped those at the Tree of Life synagogue? I am not sure, I don’t know if they had a plan and if they did, did they share it with the whole congregation? In our advertisements for training at the churches we have been recommending, safety team members, church staff, volunteers and anyone interested in church safety. It has come to the time where everyone needs to come to the training, all members, staff and volunteers. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone in the church to be safety conscious.
Just as the wagon trains in the old west protected themselves when they got ready for the night or were under attack. Everyone knew of the plan, everyone had something to do during these attacks. It was only a few that got to hide, most were doing something to save themselves. They had a plan. What is your plan? If you don’t have one, call us today and let us start helping you put a plan together.
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.