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Active Shooter Prevention: Form a Response Team

Houses of worship should be sanctuaries. While that is true in the hearts and minds of the clergy and parish members who attend, support and guide the church, churches have also recently been the target of active shooters.

Many church leaders feel overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities of preparing for and securing the church against an active shooter situation. But, church leaders also recognize that they have a moral duty to lead and protect their church members. That is why we have gathered these recommendations: to help you begin to formulate a plan.

There are many steps to creating a safe environment. This article focuses on building a team of people who will know how to prevent and react to unexpected violent scenarios.

Build a response team

Ushers can serve as a first line of defense against violence during services if they are properly trained. If someone unfamiliar – or someone who is known to be troubled – approaches the church, and his or her body language or appearance seems odd, ushers may deny them entry to the church and even potentially alert local police.

Those well-trained ushers can be one part of your response team. To form this team, survey your church’s roster and determine which members would be most useful in an active shooter situation or other violent scenarios.

People who have served in the military, medical professionals, and law enforcement officers all are good candidates to serve on this team. You may consider hiring a professional crisis management consultant to train response team members, so they know what to look for, and how to react.

Consult with local law enforcement

Find out how law enforcement will respond if there is a shooter in your building. Pre-planning on both sides – your church and law enforcement – means that both of you will be prepared should a shooting occur.

Provide police with information about your property and buildings. This information will allow them to act quickly and decisively should the situation dictate that their intervention is needed. You may provide police with photos of and keys to the facilities and information about how and where to shut off utilities.

And, if your church has received any threats – or if there are church members, volunteers, or community members who have acted suspiciously or have an active restraining order against them by church members – let police know right away.

Inform church members

Inform church members that you are planning for the possibility of an active shooter attempting to gain entry to the church. Every church member can contribute to vigilance, and if they know who to approach if they see a reason for concern, your organization’s security will be strengthened.

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