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.
Here are a few beginning steps to prepare for an unfortunate violent event.
BUILD A RESPONSE TEAM
Ushers can serve as the 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. 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 perceives a threat from an individual’s activities, let the 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. Review your plan with your church members and staff regularly to ensure that everyone knows their role and how to properly respond in hostile or violent moments. Every church member can contribute to vigilance, and if they know who to approach if they see a reason for concern, your ministry’s security will be strengthened.