<![CDATA[Sheepdog Church Security - Church Security Articles]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:09:50 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[Survival Instincts: Emergency Skills for an Active Killer Incident]]>Tue, 14 Nov 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/survival-instincts-emergency-skills-for-an-active-killer-incident
Active Killer

Part 3 of Active Shooter Preparation and Response

“... that you may live”  ~ Deuteronomy 4:1; 5:33; 16:20; 30:6; Amos 5:14  
“... that we may live and not die.”  ~ Genesis 42:2; 43:8; 47:19
This is the third article in a series based on the Sheepdog Church Security[1] Training Bundle[2] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3].

​The quoted phrases from the Bible show the intention to stay alive, to survive. In an active shooter attack, it is the intention of the assailant to kill. If we intend to survive, we must know how.

This fictional story was written to illustrate a response by a congregation to an active killer attack during a church service.

“Good morning John. Who’s your friend?” The greeter smiled as she handed him a bulletin.  
“Janice, this is Charles Woodly. I work with him at Michael’s Machine Shop.”  

“Welcome to Middlefield Community Church, Charles.”  

“Thank you, Janice. John has been asking me to come.”  

As John started to enter the center door to the sanctuary, Charles said, “I’d rather sit to one side or the other.” 

They sat more than halfway down the left side aisle. As they settled down, Charles looked around, noting locations of exit doors.

Many church services begin in familiar ways, nothing particularly out-of-place. It is easy to take it all in stride, feeling safe and secure in friendly surroundings. For many of us, going to church is a reprieve from the pressures of the workaday world in which we spend the rest of the week. For us, Sunday is our day of rest in the week.

​That is the way Sunday or Saturday at church had started in several places during the past 20 years, only to become a day of stress, not rest, with an active shooter incident[4]. The incidents were planned by the assailants. Sadly, in most cases, a response had not been planned by...[Click Below to Read Entire Article]

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the assailants. Sadly, in most cases, a response had not been planned by the targets, the churches.[5] When the attacks came, people could only respond with their native instincts. Some lives could have been saved if those instincts had been trained and conditioned in how to respond.

With the increase of active killer situations in various settings, there has been an increase in studies of how to prevent them and how to respond. Many of us who work in factories, stores, and offices have had classes and/or been shown videos, such as one provided by FEMA[6], on what to do in case of an active shooter. Students and teachers in school are instructed in how to survive an attack. There are also many “preppers” who are always preparing for whatever threat may come, whether it is civil unrest, economic collapse, war, or terrorist attack. However, not everyone who attends church has received this kind of training.

There are many sources of discontent leading to an active shooter/killer attack. Some of these are workplace grievances, deranged individuals with homicidal drives, disaffected students, social misfits and outcasts, robbery, and racial, ethnic, religious, ideological, or political hatred. Whatever the motivation, they attack with deadly intent and intensity.

Security guards and safety team volunteers are expected to be trained in preventing and stopping a deadly attack, but they can only do so much. The church staff, leaders, and congregation should know what to do in case of an attack. If a lockdown is called for, not everyone is in a room which can be locked. How would they know what to do? Some may remember from training in the workplace or at school, but what about the others?

The Training Bundle[2] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3], as well as the Church Security Guide[7] chapter “Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches”[8], says, “Teach skills for emergency situations. If an active killer situation occurs, people need to

     • Evacuate.
     • Hide.
     • Call for help.
     • Engage the active killer.

The opening series of songs had just ended when the song leader stared up the center aisle and raised his microphone. Before he could get a word out, someone in the foyer yelled, “Put that down!” Two loud pops were followed by a scream.

“Janice!” John gasped. 

Charles pulled his arm, “Let’s get outa here!” 

“But …”

“We’re headed to that exit.”

They ran down the wall aisle to the side door with their heads lowered. 

“What … about … the others?” John managed to ask.

“We’re helping them. They’ll follow. Someone has to lead.”

Outside, John looked back. Others were streaming out the back and side doors of the church.

You may have noticed that “Evacuate” is the first item on the list. If you can get out, GO! Don’t be a sitting duck. Getting out deprives the killer of targets. There may be a second killer waiting outside, but that is not very likely. Almost all active shooter/killer incidents in North America have involved only one attacker.

What if you are in the sanctuary or the fellowship hall? These are large, open spaces. Middle-sized churches and larger have multiple entries to the sanctuary from the foyer, so it is hard to quickly secure access in an emergency, and in many churches these doors cannot be locked. Besides, if the attacker is in the foyer, there is almost no time to lock those doors, and someone intending to kill as many as possible will head for the greatest number of potential victims. So don’t sit on Ground Zero.

In the first segment of our story, Charles chose sitting on the side, and he saw where the exits were. When they knew there was an active shooter, he knew where to head. Also, most killers fire into the center of a room, so being on one side not only made it easier to get out, it took them off Ground Zero.

 Hearing gunfire, Bob Dahls popped out of the sound booth and grabbed one end of a pew that was against the back wall. With Henry Zenn pushing, he pulled it in front of the doors to the center aisle. Other members pushed pews in front of the other doors. The doors opened into the foyers, but the pews would slow the attacker.  

As they ran toward the exits, the assailant pulled open a center door. Before trying to climb over the pew, he swept his gun in an arc looking for targets. Bob, Henry and the others had ducked under pews, out of sight. Watching from the floor, they avoided detection. 

In the September 2017 church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee, when the shooter came into the sanctuary, the pastor yelled, “Run!” Those there began to run. The attacker, who had shot the pastor, shot five others in the back.[9] Since they were running, that made it harder for him to aim. They survived. However, since the shooter was already in the room, it may have been safer to hide.

The item after “Evacuate” is “Hide.” In the story, Bob and Henry, along with others, hid where they could – under the pews – when the gunman opened the door to the sanctuary. If you cannot make it out in time, find a place to hide. There are two kinds of places in which to hide: cover and concealmentConcealment will keep an attacker from seeing you, while cover will stop bullets.

Thomas Warren and the worship team bolted into the ready room to the side of the platform. They hurried into the hall and out the exit. Once outside, Tom pulled out his phone and called the Middletown Police emergency number. 

The third item is “Call.” In a large city, dialing 911 on a cell phone will take you to the dispatcher for the local law enforcement agency. However, in a smaller city or a rural area, it is better to dial the local authorities directly when calling on a mobile phone, since 911 will take the call to a wide area service, and delay response. Have this number in the emergency contacts on your phone.

When a dispatcher is reached, certain information is needed. According to a 2008 DHS booklet, this is:
  • Location of the active killer
  • Number of killers, if more than one
  • Physical description of killer/s
  • Number and type of weapons held by the killer/s
  • Number of potential victims at the location (p. 5)[10]

The gunman tried to jump over the pew, but bumped his head on the top of the door frame. Enraged, he settled for climbing over the pew. By the time his feet were on the floor, the men under the pews had worked themselves halfway toward the front. 

Now that he was in the sanctuary, they stayed put, watching his feet as he moved down the center aisle. As the shooter passed the pew hiding Bob, he silently slid toward the back, so he was now behind the attacker. Henry and George Barton did likewise. Bob managed to catch their attention and gave hand signs. They slithered to the center aisle. 

On a signal, these men entered the aisle, stood, and rushed the gunman. At the last second, Bob yelled. The shooter started to turn, and the three men caught him sideways, knocking him to the floor while his weapon flew away. The other men emerged, and the assailant was pinned down by six persons.

​The fourth item on the list is “Engage the Active Killer.” If trapped in a room with the killer, it is better to swarm him than to wait to be shot. Too many times, such as at Virginia Tech, victims sat passively in place waiting to be killed because they did not know what to do[11]. At Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston members begged for their lives, but were shot in cold blood.

Use weapons of opportunity – whatever you can grab that can be used as a weapon: a stick or a brick, a bucket or a fire extinguisher, a cart, chair or table. In our story, Bob had the presence of mind to quickly put a hindrance in the gunman’s way. This bought a little time for him and the others. Overturning a table while on the run may buy you enough time to get out.

Bob and friends took advantage of their hiding places to ambush the killer. They didn’t wait for him to look under the pews and shoot at least one more person. They rushed him, distracted him, felled him, and secured him, and in the process disarmed him.

The DHS booklet[10] has this advice:

Your last resort when you are in immediate danger is to defend yourself. Commit to your actions and act aggressively to stop the shooter. Ambushing the shooter together with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, and books can distract and disarm the shooter.

The Church Security Guide[7] chapter “Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches”[8] says, “Teach your staff and volunteers how to swarm an active killer with one or two people grabbing each of the killer’s arms and legs. Teach them how to remove and secure the person’s weapon when they gain the upper hand.”

In Antioch, the usher confronted the shooter. He found out he did not have his .22 on him, so he grappled with the gunman. This stopped the shooting of others. In the struggle, the gunman shot himself, bringing his rampage to an end.

If an active killer showed up in your church, you might not be able to stop him or her the way Bob, Henry and George did in Middlefield, or the usher did in Antioch, but if you cannot escape or hide, do what you can. You may save your own life and lives of others.

Not only the Church Safety/Security Team, but the rest of those in the church need to know what to do in an active killer incident. In this order, it is EvacuateHideCall for Help, and Engage the Killer.
WHAT’S NEXT?The final article in this series covers Active Killer Neutralization.


[1] Sheepdog Church Security
[2] Training Bundles
[3] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”  
[7] Church Security Guide
[8] “Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches”
[12] Church Security Articles
[5] “Are you ready for this?”

Outside Sources
[4] Carl Chinn, “Deadly Force Incidents (DFI's) at Faith-Based Organizations in the U. S.” (Updated 08/30/2017)
[6] Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “How to Prepare for and Respond During and After an Active Shooter Incident” (n/d)
[9] KHOU TV, “Nashville Police Responding to Shooting at Antioch Church” (Sept. 24, 2017; 8:58 PM)
[10] United States Department of Homeland Security, "Active shooter: How to respond" (2008)
[11] CNN, "Virginia Tech Shootings Fast Facts" (Updated 12:03 PM ET, Mon April 3, 2017)
<![CDATA[“Katie, Bar the Door”: Lockouts and Lockdowns]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 19:40:20 GMThttp://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/katie-bar-the-door-lockouts-and-lockdowns
Lockouts and Lockdowns

Part 2 of Active Shooter Preparation and Response

... the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear ...  ~ John 20:19
“... shut the door and hold the door fast against him.”  ~ 2 Kings 6:32

This is the second article in a series based on the Sheepdog Church Security[1] Training Bundle[2] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3].

"Katie [or Katy], bar the door" is a very old expression of uncertain origin, but the meaning is clear: "Trouble ahead. Take preventive measures!" or “Here comes trouble – lock the door!” When the trouble is an active shooter (active killer), locking the door is a most logical response.

Doors Are for Defense
From the beginning, walls have been built for protection from the weather, wild animals, thieves, and invaders. Since the users of the wall have to get in and out, openings are made in the walls. Gates and doors are devised to control access through these openings.

The first recorded instance of access control[3] is in Genesis 3:24. Cherubim blocked access to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Later in Genesis, walled cities were built and wars were fought.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, his disciples locked the door of the room to keep out the Jewish authorities (John 20:19). This was defense against a possible threat.

About 800 years earlier, Elisha was meeting with the city council in Samaria when the king’s deputy came (2 Kings 6:32). He told them to shut and...
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​blockade the door because the deputy came to kill him. This was defense against a real and immediate threat.

We still use walls, gates, and doors for defense. Most of us lock our doors at night and when we leave home. Businesses lock their doors when they close for the day. Many businesses and institutions have some kind of security personnel to watch the place and control access to the premises.

Not only do we have walls around the grounds and buildings, but also within the building. In the event of a violent person on the rampage inside the building, these walls and doors also serve as defensive measures. In this case, they provide concealment. They also turn hallways into fatal funnels. Keeping closet doors locked except when getting things in or out keeps them from being used by an active killer as hiding places.

The Teacher Barred the Door

In a church in Nashville, TN, this past September, the teacher of a children’s class heard gunfire. She closed the door, blockaded it with furniture, turned off the lights, and had the children move to a safe corner, away from the door and the window.[4] What she did was a lockdown.

Lockdowns are mentioned more frequently in the news. Many times they are precautionary. Law enforcement may call for a lockdown of schools, churches, and businesses in a neighborhood in the event of an armed assailant, robber, or escaped inmate in the area. The motivation for these lockdowns (which can also be called lockouts) is protecting innocent people when danger is afoot in the person of a potential killer. However, lockdowns and lockouts are an immediate life-or-death necessity in the case of an active killer on the loose.[5]

When It Is an Active Killer
As has been pointed out in several Church Security Articles[6] on Sheepdog Church Security, churches have been – and still are – targets of active killers. Defined by their intent, active killers (a.k.a. active shooters) seek to kill as many as possible. Their weapons have been firearms and explosives, but now edged weapons and vehicles are also used by mass killers. In any case, a church safety/security team must be prepared in the event their congregation becomes a target[7].

Not all active killers are the same. They differ in their motivation, their background, their personal lives, personalities, and mental states. An active killer can be any gender, any race, any ethnicity or nationality, any social class. But when they become active killers, they have the same intent – KILL! Since many of them are by this point suicidal, it is up to the intended victims to either escape or engage. And lockdown is a form of escape – victims keeping away from the danger.

A Prepared Response to an Active Killer
For the response to an active killer to be effective, it has to be thought out, learned, and practiced. And this includes lockdowns. We don’t just say, “Lockdown,” and everyone does it and does it right. Everybody needs to know what a lockdown is, and how to lockdown where they are. Also, it depends on whether the place they are in can be effectively locked down.

Can the Door Be Barred?
In one proposed origin of “Katie, bar the door” assassins were coming to kill James I, King of Scotland. A conspirator had removed the beam for barring the door (the lock), so the queen’s lady-in-waiting named Catherine (“Kate”) tried to bar the door with her arms. It did not work. He arm was broken and the  king was slain.

To us in church security, the point of this is that for a lockdown to work, the doors and frames must be sturdy enough and their locks must work. That’s why a facility assessment (see Part 1 of this series) includes the integrity of both outside and inside doors and their latching/locking mechanisms.

Plan the Call
If an active killer is identified outside the building, a lockout (soft lockdown) is the best response – lock all the doors, windows too if any may be open (such as on a pleasant Spring day). With more than one door and several windows accessible from the ground, how can you be sure that they are all locked? One person cannot do it all, so the person identifying the active killer has to call for a lockout, and other people in the church secure doors and windows. This is a lot easier if any doors and windows without anyone there are already locked (the doors opened only from the inside).

This is where planning for a lockout/lockdown comes into play. Part 3 of a facility assessment is “Communication – Identify existing communication devices”[8]. Know how you will communicate. Know whom you will call. Know where they are. Know when the doors are locked. This should be planned and practiced with several scenarios. An actual incident may not be exactly like one of the scenarios, but everyone on the Security Team will have practiced[9] responding to several and will be able to respond to the current situation.

What Are a Lockout and a Lockdown?

A lockout is also known as a soft lockdown. If an attacker or active threat is outside, the building can be locked to keep them out. In a lockout, only the outside entry points are locked.

On the other hand, if an active killer is inside the building, a lockdown is called for. In this case, all rooms are made secure by locking their doors.

Conducting a Lockdown
In Colorado Springs, the Security Team was warned about an armed killer and were watching for him. The parking lot was crowded when he came with people leaving the first service and coming for the second. But they knew when he began shooting outside, and they cleared the foyer. They didn’t know whether or when he would get there, so they didn’t have time to lock all the front doors when they spotted him. Team members did what they could in the time they had.

The Role of Situational Awareness[10]
Members of a Church Safety Team should be aware of what is outside the building. The Nashville active killer sat in the parking lot for 25 minutes, apparently unnoticed by those inside. If they had noticed, had become suspicious, and had locked him out, not letting anyone go out until they knew it was safe, a life could have been saved and six more people would not have been wounded.

Situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings. This includes patrolling or otherwise monitoring activity outside the church. Part 2 of a facility assessment is “Security – Assess facility security components”[8]. This includes live cameras showing what is going on outside. Cameras are more available and more affordable than they used to be. Now safety team members can monitor them from anywhere in the building if the system has Bluetooth connections and the security team members have Bluetooth-enabled smart phones.

The Call for a Lockout
Suspicious activity calls for a closer look. If the suspicious activity turns out to be (or is likely to be) an active killer, call for a lockout. On the other hand, the call for a lockout could come from local law enforcement if there is a robber, an assailant on the loose, an escaped prisoner, etc. in the area. In that case, a lockout is all that is needed.

The Call for a Lockdown
If an active killer assaults the building or otherwise tries to get in, call for a general lockdown. That way if the active killer breaks through the front door, the inner defenses are in place, including for the sanctuary. The containment and engagement teams can then focus on neutralizing the attacker. The foyer (lobby) and corridor(s) will have become fatal funnels, limiting the killer’s movement. If there is a fire door between the foyer and the corridor, this may be closed as part of a lockdown, further restricting an active killer’s access to the rest of the building.

If there is only one active killer (which is usually the case), try to evacuate people from the sanctuary, even if it is locked. Locked doors will buy time for people to exit out the back and meet at a unification point concealed from the building. This is in case the shooter can get to and break through the sanctuary doors. By the way, many churches have sanctuary doors which cannot be latched or locked. How about the sanctuary doors in your church? If they cannot be locked, quickly barricade them with anything heavy and movable, such as pews, to impede the killer’s entry, then seek cover or get out.

Lockdown Drills
“Oh no!” someone might say, “Another drill!” We all understand the importance of fire drills. In some parts of the country, we have tornado drills. With the increased frequency of active killer incidents, including in churches, lockdown drills have become more relevant. As with the other drills, they are literally deadly serious. We are less likely to hear “It can’t happen here” as the realization sinks in: “It CAN happen here.”[11]

As with other drills, a lockdown drill[12] is better when planned, announced, and explained. How should those in classrooms respond? Those in the office? In the sanctuary? What if someone is in the restroom? Or the kitchen? Have a planned response for every area of the church building.

We do not want to alarm the congregation. The teacher in Nashville knew what to do when she heard gunfire, but not everyone would know. When we tell the people we are doing a lockdown drill, use phrases such as, “Just so you know…,” and, “Just in case.”

If you can, get local law enforcement to participate in the drill.

On the day of a lockdown drill, announce that this is the day for the drill. This reduces the panic factor when the lockdown is called. Carry through as you would in a real lockdown. Account for everyone at the end.

After the drill, the Church Safety Ministry and the church leadership evaluate the drill. How did it go? Were there any problems? How could the procedure be improved? What if the attack had been different from the scenario? This becomes the basis for improving the lockout/lockdown plans.

We do not want an active killer to target our church. We do not expect it, but we do want to be ready for it … just in case.

What’s Next?
The next article in this series covers emergency skills for an active killer incident.


The primary Sheepdog Church Security[1] resources for this article are:
  • Training Bundles[2]
    • “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3]
  • Church Security Guide[13]
    • “Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches”[8]
    • “Church Security Assessment”[14]
  • Church Security Articles[6]
    • “Behind Closed Doors: Protecting Children Through Lockdown Drills”[12]
    • “Decisions! Decisions! - Situational Training for Church Security”[10]
    • “Prevention and Preparation for Active Shooters”[15]
    • “Ready When Needed”[16]
    • “Drill! Drill! Drill!”[9]
    • “It CAN Happen Here”[11]
<![CDATA[Inspect the Walls: Using a Facility Assessment to Keep Active Killers Out]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/inspect-the-walls-using-a-facility-assessment-to-keep-active-killers-out
Inspect the walls

​Part 1 of Active Shooter Preparation and Response

I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.  ~ Nehemiah 2:13
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. ~ Nehemiah 6:15
This series is based on the Sheepdog Church Security[1] Training Bundle[2] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3].

Incident in Antioch
On September 24, 2017, there was an active killer incident at a church in Antioch, Tennessee[4]. One person was killed in the parking lot. Six more were wounded inside the building, including the pastor. The assailant was a person known to the members of the congregation, but was not recognized during the attack since he wore a ski mask.

Active Killers/Shooters
What is an active killer (active shooter)? An active killer is a person who is armed (usually with firearms and/or explosives) who attacks or attempts to attack a group of people, intending to kill as many as possible. There are several motives an active killer may have: mental derangement, revenge, ethnic/racial/political/religious hatred, or terror. Most active killers act alone, but some have accomplices.

Churches as Soft Targets
Targets for active shooters are classified as hard or soft. A hard target is difficult to get to for any of several reasons. It may be well-walled with hard-to-breach fences, gated entries, and well-placed, well-trained, and well-armed security personnel.

Soft targets are easier to reach, and once reached easier to attack. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a soft target is “a ...[Click Below to Read Entire Article]

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​person or thing that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to military or terrorist attack”[5].

Among these are open-air venues (such as a street fair), concerts, or other public events. Besides being soft, these targets are made more attractive by providing large numbers of potential victims. Churches and other places of worship are generally considered soft targets for a number of reasons:

  • Churches stand for a religious truth many find narrow minded and offensive.
  • Churches are open to the public with open access to anybody during services.
  • Church service times are publically known or easy to find online and elsewhere.
  • A number of churches in the United States are gun-free zones. They may not recognize their own vulnerability.
  • Most churches have no Safety/Security Ministry. [3]

The key to making a place of worship safer, more secure, is hardening the target. As churches, we want to remain open to the public, welcoming to those in need, to those seeking God and fellowship with God’s people. We want our light to shine and our salt to be available. Therefore, turning our church into a Cheyenne Mountain type fortress (or even a lesser fort) is not an option.
However, we can make our church not as soft without making it forbidding by making it harder for an active killer to get in unnoticed and unchallenged. This is in addition to training our safety and security teams how to respond to an actual attack.

How They Get In
Most active killers get in through the front door or a side door, depending on the location of target activities. During a worship service, the front door is the shortest route to the targets (victims). This is where the shooters in Fort Worth (1999), Colorado Springs (2007), and Antioch, TN (2017) came in. A side door was used in Charleston (2015) where the killer sat in on a Bible study in a classroom. The church shooting in Brookfield, WI (2005) was an insider attack by a member of the congregation.

Not all active shooters come in the main door or the one closest to an event. Some will seek a way to enter secretly and open the attack once in. This could be a door not being used that moment by parishioners. It could be an unlocked window. The attackers may find a way to quietly force entry without alerting anyone in the church.

Antioch - Entry
In Antioch, Tennessee, the active killer came in the front door, but was unseen until coming in. Witnesses from the neighborhood saw him sitting in his SUV in the parking lot with the engine running. His presence was not noticed in the church until congregants heard shots as he killed a woman in the parking lot after the end of the morning service. Then he came “around the corner” into the foyer, where he shot the pastor, who was greeting people leaving the service. He kept firing as he entered the sanctuary, wounding six persons inside the building.
VisibilityMost church buildings were not designed with security in mind. It is easy to assume that someone in the foyer should have seen the occupied vehicle idling in the parking lot. The truth is that no one inside the front door could have seen any vehicle in the parking lot unless it was in one of three handicap slots directly in front or a few in the extreme front corners. A Google Maps satellite view[6] shows why. 
Notice that most of the parking is to the right of the front door (to the left as you’re looking out) and toward the back. The sanctuary has two windows high on the right side, which means no one sitting down could have seen vehicles in the parking lot.

From photos and TV footage in news stories, it appears 

the gunman parked close to the church on that side, screened by another SUV. It is unlikely that a security team member in the foyer would have seen him until he came to the door. It is also not certain that someone would step up to a window in the sanctuary, look out, see the SUV, and become suspicious enough to report it to the pastor or a security team member.

Facility Assessment
Facility assessment is one key part of a Church Security Assessment[7]. A facility assessment inspects the facilities of the church (buildings and grounds) in regard to fire safety, walking and driving safety[8], building integrity, weather readiness[9], healthfulness, and preventing burglaries[10], vandalism[11], and other crimes. Aspects related to preparation for an active shooter/killer[12] are access, security, and communications. These are to be evaluated in light of stopping an active killer.

Access – Assess all access points[13]
This includes all points where a person may gain entry to the building (or outside, to the grounds). This includes doors, windows, larger vents and hatches (such as on the roof), etc. Access control also means being able to block or hinder the movement of an intruder inside the building. There are questions to ask and things to look for in each of these:
  • Doors
    • Can they be easily forced opened?
    • Can the latches be bypassed (such as by taking out hinge pins)?
    • How secure are the locks?
    • Can the locks be operated remotely?
    • Do the door windows have security mesh or glazing?
  • Windows
    • Do all the windows have glazing (glass)? A broken, open or empty window is an invitation to intruders, including active killers.
    • Are all window frames in good condition? Are they sturdy enough to resist prying?
    • Can the windows be securely locked?
  • Hatches and Vents
    • How secure are the latches and locks on hatches and vents large enough for a small person to come through?
  • Outside
    • Are there security barriers preventing vehicles from crashing into doors (or at least slowing them down considerably)?

Also look at doors to classrooms, offices, the nursery, restrooms, and the sanctuary. Can they be locked and blockaded?[14] Can someone hiding in a restroom deadbolt the door? Are there corridors that can become fatal funnels (where an active killer can be trapped)? Upgrades to doors and windows will be worth the cost if they prevent or limit the impact of an active killer.

Security – Assess facility security components
Security components in a church may include intruder alarms, closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, and lighting.

The alarms can have sensors not only on doors, but on windows. Hard-to-see access points, such as hatches and large vents, should have alarms, since that is probably the only way to know if a would-be intruder is trying to use them. If the church has several outside doors and an armed person – apparently intent on attack – is spotted approaching, an electronic emergency-lock system can lock all the doors with the push of a button (if this is too costly, just lock all the doors except the main one).

Security cameras, especially CCTV, let security team members see more. Cameras on corners of the building could have let a security team member see the idling SUV in the parking lot at the church in Antioch. If accessed on a pocket-sized device, such as a blue-toothed smart phone, the team member would not have to be in one location to monitor what was outside.

Lighting is a subject all its own. The first consideration for outside lighting is safety for those walking or driving outside after dark. This means the walkways and the parking lot need to be seen by those using them. But it also has a security angle[15]. This means it reveals persons outside the building at access points. The light should not blind the viewer, making an intruder essentially invisible.

Communication – Identify existing communication devices[16]
Effective communication is the key to effective coordination during a crisis, such as an active shooter incident. It is essential for the team leader, team members, church staff, and the people making good decisions. What are the communication channels available in your church? –
  • PA system?
    • General?
    • Room specific?
  • Two-way radios?
  • Twitter account?
  • Internet website and social media?
  • Digital signage (electronic signboards)?
  • Text messaging?
  • One Call?

The important thing is getting the right information to those who need it when it is needed.

In Bible times, strong walls and gates were a vital part of a city’s defense. And within a city was at least one fortress for holding out if the enemy got into the city. Our church facilities should help us defend against an active killer.

What's Coming?
The next article in this series is “Katie, Bar the Door” - Lockouts and Lockdowns.

Primary Sources
Sheepdog Church Security[1] Training Bundle[2] “Active Shooter Neutralization and Lock Down Drills v3”[3].
Church Security Guide[17] chapter “Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches”[18]
Church Security Articles[18]
<![CDATA[Ready When Needed]]>Mon, 23 Oct 2017 22:25:53 GMThttp://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/ready-when-needed
Ready when Needed

Trained to Respond

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;  ~ Psalm 144:1
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.  ~ Proverbs 27:12

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.  ~ 1 Chronicles 12:32

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel."  ~ Ezekiel 3:17

One recent event at a place of worship, an attack that made national headlines with updating articles, shows the need for safety/security ministries in churches, such as those set up with the help of Sheepdog Church Security[1] and trained through the Church Safety / Security Volunteer Academy[2].

It happened one Sunday morning
September 24, 2017, Antioch, Tennessee[3][4] – It was 11:15 Sunday morning, usually a calm time in contrast to busy Friday and Saturday nights. Metro Police received a call reporting an active shooter at a church in the southeast section of the city-county: One person down in the parking lot, several others in the sanctuary.

Police arrived at the church, finding the gunman, who had shot himself in a struggle for the 40 cal. handgun, being held for them by an usher holding a .22 pistol. The victim in the parking lot was deceased. Six persons shot in the sanctuary are still alive, some critically wounded. The usher was pistol whipped by the gunman.

A Perilous Truth
Violent attacks on religious groups and places of worship in general, especially on Christians and churches, are in the news more frequently. It seems that churches are more and more in the crosshairs of hate groups[5], and this is borne out in statistics. A hundred years ago, churches were generally considered to be sacred places, safe from attack. This was still true 50 years ago. Times have changed, however, and now it seems that...[Click Below to Read Entire Article]

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to some no place is sacred, especially churches[6]. The motives vary, from robbery to idle vandalism, from rebellion to hate.

Proverbs 27:12 (quoted above) stresses the wisdom of foreseeing the likelihood of trouble and preparing for it[7]. The writer of 1 Chronicles commended members of the tribe of Issachar for knowing what to do in their time. Our times are perilous times for churches, and it is wise to be prepared for these times.

"... from among your own selves"
The shooter in Antioch may have been a member of that church[8]. He had attended from his youth into young adulthood. According to one news article, that is where he had been baptized. He had been enthusiastic and active, helping with VBS, but hadn’t attended there for about three years. He wore a mask when he came as a shooter, but members recognized his name when he was identified. Somewhere a turn had been made.

Apparently unknown to the church, this young man’s life began to fall apart[9]. He lost one job, had relational problems, then lost another job not long before the attack. What he posted online at this time indicated a very troubled and confused person. This included these statements: “Everything you’ve ever doubted or made to be believe as false, is real. & vice versa, B.,” and “Become the creator instead of what’s created. Whatever you say, goes.”[10]  A note left in his car referred to the 2015 shooting in Charleston. This might be the motive, but is not verified.

Active killers in churches are not always total outsiders. Many times, violence is the act of those who are "... from among your own selves" (Acts 20:30), just like the false teachers Paul warned about. The shooter at the Life Way church in Colorado Springs used to attend there. We must not only watch without, but also within, and it does not hurt to be aware of how those who have left are doing.

Be Aware!
The word “beware” is a contraction of be and aware, and it does mean be aware. Members of the military and law enforcement are trained in situational awareness[11]. Basically, this means being alert and aware of your surroundings, being aware of developing situations. It extends to situational readiness, being ready to correctly and effectively respond to situations as they develop. These are needed skills for a church safety/security ministry.

It is understandable that after losing contact with a former member, the church would be unaware of changes in his life, of the developing storm. But if they had still been in contact, someone may or may not have noticed changes in his personality.

This is not a diagnosis – just an observation – but the little bit now known makes me wonder about the possibility of schizophrenia or drug use. Either can make a person irrational and distort his or her perception of reality. White males are not the only ones with schizophrenia, and the age the shooter left the church is the age it first becomes apparent in many cases. Whether or not that is the diagnosis, someone who knew him should have noticed and wondered.[12]

Goings on – Cause for Suspicion
Apparently, the church members were also unaware of what was happening on their own church property. Witnesses in the neighborhood saw the shooter sitting in his car in the church parking lot for about 25 minutes waiting for the morning service to end. Loitering is suspicious behavior. If loitering is observed, the observer should ask, “What are they doing there? What is going on?”
If this church had a trained safety & security team, someone should have been watching the parking lot, even from inside the building.[13] If security cameras had been installed, a person sitting in a vehicle should have been noticed and investigated.

What can we learn from this?
As a nation, we have known that vigilance is the price of liberty. Vigilance is also the price of safety and security. But vigilance must know what to watch for and how to watch and how to discern danger. And when danger is discerned, vigilance needs to know how to respond.

The purpose of Sheepdog Church Security[1] is to help a church set up its Safety Ministry[14], then train its members with the Church Safety / Security Volunteer Academy[2]. The training continues with other downloadable Training Bundles[15], and refresher/update sessions of the Academy. The safety ministry is tailored to the individual congregation, taking into account factors such as its size, its location, and its beliefs and traditions.

Let’s take a glimpse of how this may apply in the story:

About 50 persons were in attendance that morning in Antioch, which may indicate a membership of no more than 60 to 70. This would mean a small Safety/Security Team, with only one or two members on duty during the Sunday morning worship service (regular ushers should be included on the team).

One member would stay in the foyer during and immediately after the service, able to see the parking lot. With such a small team, a security, it would be essential to have a camera covering the portion of the parking lot which could not be seen from the foyer. The parking lot should be checked before anyone leaves.

Side and rear doors would be locked before the service begins, making the main entrance the only way to enter normally (this assumes the doors can be opened from the inside in an emergency). The main entrance would also be locked when the service starts, requiring latecomers to be let in by the team member, who also serves as the greeter.

As it was, people in that congregation had some sense of what to do in case of an active shooter[18].

  • The pastor yelled for people to escape or take cover.
  • The teacher of a children’s class did a lockdown[19] of the classroom.
  • An usher confronted the shooter. When he realized his .22[20] was still in the car, he used his hands for defense[21].
  • When the shooter was subdued, the usher effected a citizen’s arrest[22], holding the suspect for the police.

Undoubtedly, these actions saved lives inside the church. What if they had a security team member on station, monitoring the parking lot as well as the main entrance, foyer, and corridor? If he or she had noticed someone in a vehicle loitering in the parking lot, a 39-year-old mother could have been told to stay inside until police arrived. The masked gunman could have been denied entry with the sanctuary and classrooms on lockdown, police already on the way.

Good News
Here’s the good news: Sheepdog Church Security will soon have an online course for the Church Safety / Security Academy.

  • Sheepdog Church Security [1]
    • Training Bundles [15]
      • “Church Safety / Security Volunteer Academy v 3” [2]
    • Church Safety Guide [22]
      • “Church Safety Ministry Launch” [14]
    • Church Safety Articles [23]
      • “In the Cross-hairs: Churches as Targets of Hate Crimes”[5]
      • “For Them, No Place Is Sacred: Armed Robbery in Places of Worship”[6]
      • “Are you ready for this?” [7]
      • “Decisions! Decisions! - Situational Training for Church Security” [11]
      • “Seeing the Risk: Recognizing Potentially Disruptive Persons” [12]
      • “Patrol and Response: Patrolling the Premises and Responding to Incidents” [13]
      • “Behind Closed Doors: Protecting Children Through Lockdown Drills” [18]
      • “Weapons of Our Defense: Part 4 of Guns & Gear for Church Security”[19]
      • “Taking Security into Your Hands: Using Force without Deadly Weapons”[20]
      • “Detaining an Offender: Citizen's Arrest”[21]
  • Outside Sources
    • Fox News, “Deadly Tennessee church shooting: Sudanese immigrant arrested, FBI launches civil rights investigation”[3]
    • Tennessean, Natalie Neysa Alund, “Burnette Chapel Church of Christ shooting suspect told police he 'fired upon the church building'” Sept. 25, 2017 [4]
    • _____, Mariah Timms and Nate Rau, “Suicide threat and domestic disputes: Antioch church shooting suspect had history with police” Sept. 25, 2017 [9]
    • USA Today, Adam Tamburin, “Personal turmoil weighed on Nashville church shooting suspect” Sept. 26, 2017 [8]
    • Washington Post, Brandon Gee and Tim Craig, “Masked gunman rampages through Nashville church; usher uses personal weapon to subdue shooter” September 24, 2017 [10]
<![CDATA[Get them Out: Evacuation and Fire Drills]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/church-security-articles/get-them-out-evacuation-and-fire-drills

Part 4 of Arson Prevention and Fire Drills for Churches

“Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.”  ~ Genesis 19:14

...Though they escape from the fire...  ~ Ezekiel 15:7

Radio earbuds around Rock of Faith Fellowship Center crackled: “George Peterson to all. Code Red, Kitchen. 9-1-1. Frank is responding with Class K. Out.” 

Dateline – Chicago, Illinois, December 1, 1958, 2:00-2:20 PM

In the basement of Our Lady of the Angels School[1], a cardboard trash barrel was close to the foot of a stairwell. Also nearby was a pipe chase (opening for pipes to pass through) which went clear to the attic (there were no firestops[2] in this chase). A fire started in this barrel, smoldering and producing smoke for about 20 minutes before bursting into flame.

Up to 1600 pupils were enrolled in the school. Neither the fire nor the smoke triggered any alarms. When it was discovered, many did not know what to do. Several could not get out through hallways filled with smoke. Some stayed in classrooms waiting rescue. Some escaped through windows. 95 persons died – 92 students and three teachers.

What now?
Let’s say that you have conducted a fire safety assessment or security assessment[3] of the church’s buildings and grounds. Outdoor housekeeping has cleared away or trimmed shrubbery to keep windows and doors visible. It has removed rubbish, emptied dumpsters, etc. as fire hazards to prevent arson and accidental fires in this area. Interior housekeeping has also cleaned out fire hazards and cleared doors and hallways. The furnace has received its annual checkup. Wiring, electrical equipment, and gas lines have been inspected, and fixed if needed. The right kinds of fire extinguishers are in the right places, and they are up-to-date in their inspections, charged and ready to use. Safety Team members and church staff are trained in their use.

You have done what you can to prevent fires, but a fire may start anyway. Now, what if...[Click Below to Read Entire Article]

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​a fire does start that cannot be put out immediately and is spreading. What do we do?  Escape. Evacuate. Get out of there!

​“Peterson to all. Code Red update. Not out, spreading. Evacuate.”

Getting Out of There
Getting out of there is simple enough, but with more than a handful of people inside – 50, 100, 400, or more – how do we avoid panic and chaos. How can we be sure that everyone gets out safely? In the Our Lady of the Angels School fire[2], 95 people did not get out safely. The shock of this tragedy led to changes in fire safety in schools – structural changes to stop fire and smoke from spreading, fire exits from upper floors, fire suppression systems (sprinklers), fire extinguishers, effective alarms, plans for safe evacuation, and fire drills so everyone knows how to evacuate in an orderly manner.

This is for more than schools. It is for churches, too. During the Sunday School or Sabbath School hour, children and adults are in classrooms or assembly areas. During services, people are sitting in the auditorium/worship center/sanctuary. A church dinner will find people in the fellowship hall. During an event, people (some unfamiliar with the building) will be in the sanctuary, hallways, fellowship room, etc. If there is a fire, how will they be alerted? How will they get out? And how do we know who got out?

R.A.C.E. is an acronym for responding to a fire. It stands for Rescue, Alert, Confine, Evacuate/Extinguish[4].

Get anyone close to the fire away to a safer area.

If someone is on fire, put it out. Wrap them in a blanket. Roll them on the floor or ground. Keep them calm. Treat anyone burned, beginning with the person who’d been on fire. Call emergency medical help (if using a cell phone, dial the direct number instead of 911 – this should be in your emergency contact list[5]).

Alert others – authorities, Safety Team members, church leadership. If an evacuation (see below) is needed, alert those in the church.

How do we alert?
>Fire alarm – One that connects to the local fire department and sounds in the church is preferred. When it is heard in the church building and on the campus, it should be accompanied by an announcement letting people know what is happening and instructing them on the course of action. Fire alarms at Our Lady of the Angels School did not work as they should, in the building and connecting to the fire department[2].

>Two-way radio – Notify team members throughout the church building and campus. With earbuds, a team member in the sanctuary can receive the alert, then alert the speaker, worship leader, or chairperson, who can then inform the congregation and instruct them what to do.

     It could be, for instance:
“There has been a fire in the kitchen, which has been put out with no injuries. The Fire Department has sent a crew. We will remain in the Worship Center and continue the service, beginning with thanksgiving for God’s protection.”

     Or it could be:
“There is a fire in the church building. Remain calm and leave your seats when directed by the usher. Follow the others to the exit on your side of the sanctuary. We will meet at the designated re-assembly area. Children’s church leaders are taking your children to the same area. Please wait for them to take role and account for all children.”

>Mobile Phones or Landline – Use the phone to notify local emergency responders: fire department, emergency medical services. If it also involves vandalism or a break-in, also call law enforcement. If the fire starts with no one or only a few at the church, call the pastor or others in church leadership and notify them of the fire.

When everyone in the vicinity of the fire has been taken out, close all doors, windows and vents. When all of these are closed, it limits the supply of oxygen to feed the fire. A closed door also buys time to get people out of the building.

Confining a fire is easier to do when confinement is built in. Inhibiting the spread of a fire should be a consideration in constructing, remodeling, or renovating a building[6]. For instance, a firestop is an item and/or substance inserted into an opening made for wiring, piping, plumbing, etc. to close the gap and keep a fire from going through[1]. The pipe chase at Our Lady of the Angels School did not have firestops[2].

A firewall is designed to stop a fire for a specified period of time, giving firefighters a chance to control the fire before it can spread[7]. Non-combustible exterior surfaces are recommended in areas with a greater risk of wildfires[8] or in close urban neighborhoods.

Fire doors are designed to stop fires[9]. Access to stairwells should be through doorways that have fire doors which will close in case of a fire. These close off the area with a fire. Some of the victims at Our Lady of the Angels were killed in flashovers after fire spread to the space above the ceilings[2].

Although this is the last letter in R.A.C.E., evacuation is always a consideration. If the fire can be extinguished immediately with a fire extinguisher or automatic fire suppression system, evacuation may not be needed (depending in large part where the fire is). Most fires in occupied buildings do call for evacuation.

Fire evacuation should always be planned, whether at home, in the office or factory, at the store, in school, or at church. The fire is not planned, but the evacuation is. The Church Security Article[10] “Fire Evacuation Planning”[11] recommends walking through the church with a floor plan, noting how many persons would be in each room and what the most direct route is to an exit door. Plan the routes so there are not too many people trying to get through one door. There should be enough well-placed exit doors for the number of people attending services, classes and events. If not, your church should consider widening a fire exit (making a single door double) or installing another fire exit, even if it is in a classroom midway between two doors. 

​Fire trucks and rescue vehicles sit outside Rock of Faith Fellowship Center. George Peterson presses the earbud to his ear as he listens, then turns to Pastor Rogers.
“Everyone is out and accounted for.”
“Thank God! I am glad we had that fire drill last month.”

​Fire Drills
Not only should fire evacuation be planned, but also fire drills. The article “Plucking Brands From the Fire: Protecting Children Through Fire Drills”[12] has more detail on planning a fire drill. This is practice so that everyone knows what to do if it is the real thing.

Drills should be scheduled and announced: “We will conduct a fire drill on such-and-such a day.” This keeps people from panicking when they hear the alarm and the worship leader or pastor says, “Those on this side follow Usher A, and those on that side follow Usher B.”  Also, knowing this is a drill prepares them mentally to pay attention to what they do and where they go, helping them to remember.

Instruct: After announcing the scheduling of a fire drill, tell the people how to line up, which exits to take, and where to re-assemble. Tell them that the children are being led by their teachers or children’s church leaders.

Pre-drill. Several days or a week or two before the fire drill, conduct a pre-drill with the Safety Team, ushers, leaders, and church staff. This way, those leading the drill already know what to do. The congregation will have more confidence if their leaders are confident.

Post Mortem

After the drill have an evaluation. Were there any problems? What did we do right? How could this have been better? This should result in better plans for evacuation and better execution.

A well-planned and well-conducted fire drill prepares the church leadership, the Church Safety Team, and the congregation for the time when we may have to “Get them out.”


Cited Sources
[1] Wikipedia, “Our Lady of the Angels School Fire”
[2] _____, “Firestop”
[3] Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Guide[13], “How to Conduct a Security Assessment”
[4] _____, ______, “Fire Safety and Evacuations”
[5] _____, Church Security Articles[10], “Do You Copy? - Radio Procedures: Church Safety/Security Academy-Part 3”
[6] _____, _____, “Fireproof”
[7] Wikipedia, “Firewall”
[8] Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Articles, “Firestorm”
[9] Wikipedia, “Fire door”
[11]  Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Articles, “Fire Evacuation Planning”
[12] _____, _____, “Plucking Brands From the Fire: Protecting Children Through Fire Drills”  

Other Sources
[13] Sheepdog Church Security downloadable Training Bundles
[14] This article is based on “Arson Prevention and Fire Drills for Churches v3”
Sheepdog Church Security, Church Security Articles
[15] “Emergency Operations Planning”
[16] “Drill! Drill! Drill!”
[17] “In Case of Fire”
[18] “Firestop: Stopping Fires before They Start”
[19] “Put It Out: Using Fire Extinguishers”
[20]  “It's in the Plans - Planning Our Response to Fires”