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.
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.