Church Shootings: Protecting Your Congregation
With the rise of shooting incidents occurring in public spaces, it is still more important for Americans to stay alert and mindful of their surroundings when they go to out in public. Unfortunately, deadly violence seems to be entering into the church as well. Between 1999 and 2014 there have been 792 reported incidences of violence involving firearms in churches. These incidents have claimed the lives of 479 churchgoers. Violence in the church is a serious matter that must be addressed by the church staff. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your congregation safe. This article will outline 4 steps to protecting your church members.
Step 1: Security Team
Assemble or hire a dedicated security team. If you decide to gather your own security team, choosing people with law enforcement or military experience is recommended. Security team members should possess the following traits:
Effective communication skills. They should be able to effectively verbalize concerns about the security process.
Depending on state laws, members of the security team should be licensed and trained in the use of firearms.
Security paraphernalia such as earpieces, weapons, radios, etc. will make it apparent to any would-be assailant that the congregation is protected. This serves as a valuable deterrent to possible shooters.
Step 2: Security Risks to be Aware of During Service
There are several security risks that church members should watch out for when there is a service in session. This tends to be the most usual time for an attack to take place.
Possible security issues can include:
Doors that do not have a greeter assigned to monitor them.
Unlocked doors (particularly at nighttime).
People coming and going at abnormal times.
Individuals wearing trench coats in warm conditions.
People wandering in the parking lot.
Step 3: Dealing with a Shooter
Although attacks are not likely, being prepared is imperative. If there is an attack, the security team, as well as the police, must be alerted immediately. Assign members of the security staff to make it their priority to alert the authorities before taking any other action.
The next step is to evacuate the members of the congregation as orderly and quickly as possible. Lock doors in areas that are able to be secured. If possible, have security personnel incapacitate the shooter. The sooner the threat is neutralized, the better. Be sure to inform the congregation that you have security plans in place to address attackers. Instruct them on the steps they need to take to protect themselves and one another in the event of a shooting.
While one shouldn’t be in a constant state of fear in the place they choose to worship, it is of the utmost importance that each member of the congregation maintains vigilance in ensuring their own safety and the safety of their fellow worshippers. If this happens, it will ensure that churches remain a safe place for everyone to worship.