Without a pre-determined, well-rehearsed plan on how to quickly and effectively stop a mass shooting from happening in your church; you can expect to lose a member of your congregation every 1.7 seconds.
These are the words of, Chris H., a Special Agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security (his last name is withheld for security purposes) when I interviewed him about the threat of an active shooter in a church.
As I stated in Part 1 of the article Potential Active Shooter At Church Part 1, pastors, church leaders and even the congregation must face the reality that we live in a different world and the threat of an active shooter in a church setting is something which must be considered and prepared for. These preparations must include tactical, mental, emotional and of course, spiritual components.
As founder of Psalm 144 Church Protection Seminars, when I must deal with objections to the idea of an armed security team being introduced to a church; I sometimes think, do you also object to having a fire alarm, fire extinguishers and an evacuation plan as well?
Churches prepare for everything from leading a broken person to Christ, to severe weather and fire threats, but tend to become very defensive when the subject is broached of having a proper security team formed and implemented. It must be accepted that having a prepared, active and tactical armed security team is a very real necessity.
I understand that the idea of introducing an armed security team into your church is a difficult proposition. In discussing this with Special Agent Chris H., he replied, “The most important thing a church leader can do to prevent this from happening to his congregation is to first admit that it’s possible. Once that mental hurdle is broken, the rest of the process is easier.If the first time you thought about what you would do in an active shooter situation, is after the shots ring out in your church, you’ve already missed the best opportunity you had to save lives."
In discussing how federal agents train for and prepare for mass shooting situations, he stated, "I know the point that always gets emphasized the most, is that in these types of incidents where a “soft” group of people (in this case, the congregation) are targeted, once the first shot is fired, the shooter will continue until he runs out of ammunition or someone stops him."
Last year, I was discussing church security with a newly acquainted pastor and his wife. They said their church was in a rural area and they had about 50 members. I asked them if they had a dedicated security team and the wife replied, "Oh honey, almost everyone at the church carries a gun, if someone came in making trouble, wellhe would leave with a bunch of holes in him."
Not just the hubris, or the staggering lack of proper preparation and acceptance of reality; but the idea that this church would be adequately prepared for a deranged shooter without any level of training and deadly intentions.
While researching this article, I interviewed James Martin, the founder of Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma and a combat veteran who served in the military for 15 years. During this time he also served as Army Reconnaissance with Special Operations. I told him what the pastor's wife said - and that all she did was make me not want to go to that church. Martin immediately agreed and said that such a mindset is not smart.
Martin noted a potential scenario of the church - not knowing what kind of ammunition the parishioners would potentially be firing.
How could the church know they would be safe from a good guy with good intentions firing a stray round that goes through the wall into, say, the kids' area? Martin’s expertise leads him to recommend DPX rounds, which expand upon impact and are much less likely to penetrate a wall, potentially killing or wounding innocents.Theses are the sorts of considerations a church must employ to be prepared, safe and effective.
Even if your church already has an active armed security team, you must look at their training, their instructors and how they are preparing for an active shooter.
As a combat veteran and competitive shooter, Martin emphasized the need for any security personnel to employ the use of stress shooting training.
Stress shooting teaches students how to maintain weapon proficiency while under stressful conditions and to understand and manage the physiological and psychological effects of fear and adrenaline on the body. Martin repeatedly stated that any security personnel who simply shoot at stationary paper targets under normal conditions will not be prepared for a determined and armed intruder.
During the interview, as Martin relayed stories of training soldiers in the Middle East, he repeatedly used the word chaos. Martin emphasized that all church security personnel must know exactly what to do in the moment of chaos.
This plan must include how to engage the shooter, what zones are covered and where the congregation goes. Martin stated that the congregation needs to know not to run, but to get down so the security team can engage and neutralize the shooter.
Martin stated that if he trained a security team, he would run them through stress shooting drills, see how they react, then he would designate and assign roles.
Clearly in these two short articles, you do not have all the information needed to create, implement and maintain a purposeful, prepared, tactical and trained church security team.
However, if you now realize that the critical need to consider introducing armed security. And without a doubt you will need, if you haven't already done so, , to prepare for everything from a child locked in the restroom to a deranged individual, and yes, even an armed, coordinated attack; then congratulations, you are well on your way to protecting your flock in the natural and supernatural.
Please continue to check back for more articles on church security issues.
Written by Timothy J Fancher, MAPT and Founder of Psalm 144 Church Security Protection Seminars.