Over the past several years this country has experienced two horrific mass shootings. First was the church shooting in Sutherland Springs Texas where 26 people were slaughtered while attending service. Then just a few days ago, on Valentine’s Day, a school shooting in Parkland, Florida resulted in 17 people being slaughtered during the school day. Understandably there is a huge outcry for finding solution(s) to stop this violence. But do you really think we will solve the gun issue in this country? How about the mental health problems facing this country? Not a chance. It is time NOW to take on this issue with some plain old proactive security measures. Waiting for the political/media circus to find a solution is absurd.
There are some serious questions about these two shootings that we must answer. How did Devin Kelly, wearing black tactical clothing, a mask, and an assault rifle walk into that church? How did Nikolas Cruz, a former student who had been expelled, walk back into the school with an assault rifle and backpack containing extra ammunition? The answer to both questions is that neither the church or the school thought it necessary to control access to their facilities.
We know from our experience in the Secret Service that the most important element of a security plan is access control. If Kelly and Cruz had been denied entry there would have been a much different outcome to both incidents. We also know that in building a security plan the first two things you do is establish a perimeter and then control the access to the interior of that perimeter. Developing tactical solutions to respond to assaults inside of the perimeter is an important element of the plan – but it comes after hardening the target and having an access control strategy in place.
Below are five critical points that all churches and schools should address immediately. With some thoughtful and insightful discussions these five points could be in place a matter of days. NOW is the time to take action to protect your congregation, students, and staff.
1. ACCESS CONTROL – Simple question – who gets in and how do they get in? A good security plan would limit the number of the doors left unlocked. Those unlocked doors should at a minimum have someone there monitoring who is entering. Nikolas Cruz should not have been allowed to enter that school. Have this discussion with your staff NOW.
2. POST A GUARD AND FACE THE THREAT (Nehemiah 4:9) – Each facility needs to consider an outer ring of security. Post a guard, greeter, usher, or a volunteer to identify approaching threats. Devin Kelly’s approach to the church should have triggered an alert to other security members, caused a lock out, where all open doors be locked and resulted in notification to law enforcement and the congregation of the approaching threat. Have this discussion with your staff NOW.
3. DEVELOP A CRISIS PLAN – Each church and school needs to have a crisis plan to address not only a violent incident but one that is concerned with fire, power outages, weather emergencies, disruption medical emergencies, and a multitude of other issues. This plan would designate who is in charge. Who makes the key decisions as to a response to the incident? Who makes the call to 9-1-1? If the Principal is in charge then when he/she is away there must be a capable well trained back up to assume the responsibility. In a church setting is it a good idea for the head minister, who probably is in the front of the church preaching on Sunday, to be the person responsible for making decisions involving a critical incident? Not really. Create a team to address these issues. Have this discussion with your staff NOW.
4. LIAISON WITH LOCAL FIRST RESPONDERS – Each school and church should have regular meetings with police and fire personnel in their area. They need to involve the police in issues that they find troubling. Reach out and have this discussion with your local first responders NOW.
5. ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING – Having an aggressive and comprehensive crisis plan with solid access controls in place is the best way to avoid a chaotic incident. Active Shooter response is an important and successful tactical measure to end a shooting incident. Active shooter training is important for schools and churches but it should not be viewed as the primary piece of a security plan. A crisis plan for a school or church is built for prevention. The active shooter response is for when our prevention efforts have been breached. Have this discussion with your staff NOW.
Do not sit on the sidelines and watch the media storm and political mudslinging try to solve these problems. NOW is the time to schedule a Church Security Conference in your area for churches and schools. Initiate the beginnings of actions NOW to protect your churches and schools with a 6 hour conference detailing protective and proactive methods and procedures. Followed by tabletop exercises to enhance your facility.
It is painfully obvious that we can no longer take our personal safety or the safety of those lives we lead, to the moral standards of the past. Today we see those morals crumbling and discover a total disrespect of authority. Respect for life is no longer an issue for far too many. Unfortunately, the targets of choice in many instances are faith-based institutions. If they are not the primary targets, then there is a nexus to a church or it is a secondary target.
The reality is that many of the "solutions" available deal with how to handle the fallout of the incident or how to respond when it is happening. Many churches and organizations think they are prepared for whatever comes their way, but when asked the tough questions about their readiness, most will admit that they are much more vulnerable than they anticipated.
In recognition of this desperately growing need for safety in our nation, I have developed a security awareness conference designed specifically to help safeguard your church. As a retired U.S. Secret Service Agent with more than 29 years of law enforcement, I combined the expertise of the U.S. Secret Service and over 17 years of ministry experience. I have also brought together a team of expert security, planning and consulting agents, with decades of Federal law enforcement experience to help churches, schools and businesses be on the cutting edge of awareness and safety.
Church Security Insights has unique insights to the needs of churches and faith-based institutions, and it provides pastors, leaders and lay-workers with violence awareness training and key prevention strategies that go far beyond the routine!
Founder of The Brewster Group (Champions of Honor & Church Security Insights)
CSI Conferences focus upon your people, pastors and property in building a proactive – and not reactive – approach to security. Over 50 years of protective experience in the US Secret Service can offer innovative ideas, while enhancing your security.
Every church seeks the lost because that is our mission, but some come with the enemy to rob, kill and destroy. Find out why this is similar to threats the Secret Service face every day. Let us help you profile human behavior patterns that lead to violence, as well as teach ways to reach and transform the lost, while steering them away from a violent path.
Many churches are in denial. They cannot accept the possibility that violence could come to their house of worship. They put security at the bottom of their needs list. All it takes are qualified volunteers and a small investment in training to transform a sanctuary into a safe place.
In the center of this graphic are the four categories attributed to workplace violence. This applies to churches, as well as businesses and schools. We will discuss these in great detail, to get an understanding of how to approach each of these categories.
Today's picture of violence keeps expanding into new areas for churches, but there are keys to understand when this cycle of violence is en route.
There are way to recognize the pathway to violence and any interruption of that pathway could prevent the violence. Once trained, you will begin to understand potential threats.
This area is a crisis area for churches and schools. Our youth are being radicalized right under our noses. Find out how and what signs signal that this is happening.
The influence of the family upon our youth is paramount, but the church family is the extended arm – or sometimes all the youth have – as a savior from this corruption of ideals.
Have you ever noticed why nearly all of the violent acts and disruptions happen within the first 20 minutes of a service? Everyone is focused forward and in a state of worship when an attacker comes into the building.
Upon completion of our training, you will be able to focus your team to create the necessary plans for your facility that will enhance your security and safety.