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Prevention of and Preparation for Active Shooters

Man standing by woman shaking hands

When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. . . Then he worked hard repairing all the broken sections of the wall and building towers on it. . . He also made large numbers of weapons and shields. ~ 2 Chronicles 32:2-3,5 (NIV)

King Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for war and a siege. He saw a threat and made ready for it. Jerusalem was both the political and spiritual capital of Judah. The Temple there was the equivalent of the church.

Likewise, we who are leaders in our churches ought to take heed to what is going on around our country and in our communities. There is the very real possibility of attacks on churches, whether motivated by robbery, racial hatred, reaction to social stances, hatred of religion, terrorism, or insanity. The better part of wisdom is in recognizing danger and preparing to meet it.

Just as the king strengthened the walls, laid up provisions, protected the water supply, and armed troops, the ruling board of a congregation (elders, deacons, trustees, etc.) ought to prepare the physical plant, people and plans to prevent and/or deal with an Active Killer/Shooter. At the least this means starting a Safety/Security Team. Sheepdog Church Security can help your church set up a Safety/Security Ministry. We have an online article on this: Safety Ministry Launch.

The elements of preparation are assessment, planning, teaching, training, and drilling. Depending on the results of the assessment, it may also mean changes to windows, doors and other points of possible entry or exit.

Facility Assessment

The first item of preparation for a violent intruder (active killer) incident is a Facility Assessment. Three areas of examination are Access, Security and Communication.

Access - Check all places where people can get onto the grounds and into the building(s). Items to look at are doors, windows, roof latches, and other places where entry can be gained. How secure are doors and windows? Can they be easily forced? Is there anything else that can be pried or smashed to get in, such as a skylight?

Security - Is an alarm system in place? Does it work? This would be a good time to test the system. How about perimeter lighting? Does closed circuit television cover all vital areas of the church?

Communication - Communication systems and devices are essential to keeping in touch and coördinating an active killer response. Communication needs to flow both directions. Make use of any communications tools you can: 2-way radio, cell phone network, PA system, Internet/wi-fi (including social media), whatever (within budget) you have access to.

Plan for Lockout and Lockdown

The first question is, "What is the difference between a lockout and a lockdown?" A lockout (also called a soft lockdown) is the defense when the shooter/killer is outside the church building. Lock all outside doors and windows to keep him out.

If the shooter is inside the building, a lockdown is called for. Every class or meeting closes and locks its doors to keep the intruder out. Besides keeping him out of the rooms, it also traps him in hallways. There is more on this in the Sheepdog Church Security article Active Shooter Response and Lock-downs for Churches .

Teaching and Training

Once the Security/Safety Team is established, the members need to be taught the skills necessary for a violent intruder response. Everyone needs to know what to do and how to do it. These need to be practiced until they are skills.

After teaching needed skills, training and re-training is needed to keep skills and knowledge honed. This includes drills, not only for the team but for the whole congregation, so everyone knows where to go, where to meet in case of an incident. These can be alternated with fire and tornado drills. If enough members are drilled, guests and visitors can follow them in an emergency.

The time to prepare for an active shooter/killer is now. If we wait until one shows up, it is too late.

To learn more, check out the online Church Safety and Security Guide .