From the Bible
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock (Psalm 27:5).
When the wicked rise, men hide themselves (Proverbs 28:28a).
Therefore [King Asa] said unto Judah, "Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars ..." (2 Chronicles 14:7a).
But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof (Nehemiah 3:3). The line "set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof" is also in verses 6, 16, 14, and 15.
And I said unto them, "... let them shut the doors, and bar them ..." (Nehemiah 7:3).
The call, “Katie, bar the door!” has a tragic origin. When assassins came for the King of Scotland, Kate, the queen’s lady-in-waiting, used her arm to bar the door. Unfortunately, this did not work. The assassins forced the door open, breaking Kate’s arm, and killed the king.
When an assassin comes to kill people in our church (a violent intruder event), we can protect the flock by locking him out. If the violent intruder is inside, a lockdown is called for.
In the News
Ventura, California, October 13, 2017 – A Friday manhunt for a homicide suspect resulted in lockdowns (really lockouts) at three schools and a church. Although no services were in progress in the church, a local organization was meeting there at the time.
Antioch, Tennessee, September 24, 2017 – When a gunman killed a woman in the parking and continued firing when entering a church, a Sunday School teacher locked and barricaded the door to her classroom.
Dunbar, West Virginia, September 4, 2019 – A shooting on the street led to four schools being put into lockdown.
Grants Pass, Oregon, July 21, 2019 – Shots were fired at a church, breaking a window. The church responded by going into a lockout and lockdown.
Skokie, Illinois, March 19, 2018 – Police responding to shots fired during a street robbery called for soft lockdowns (lockouts) in the area. Among others places, this included a school and a Jewish community center.
Mansfield, Texas, October 2, 2019 – A church employee heard about a school shooter in the area. The church has a pre-school learning center, so the employee called 911. Police called for a lockdown and went to the church. Responding officers searched the church and the daycare center, finding no intruder.
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Safety Member Certification
We are focusing on Safety Member Certification. This means training all team members so they can take and pass Certification Tests to be certified as Sheepdog Safety Team Members. Watch this information video to learn more.
To make this more convenient and economical, we have put all the training courses into one package, the Complete Training Program:
- Security Team Fundamentals v4
- Active Shooter Response v4
- Deescalating Disruptive Persons v4
- Protecting Children from Abuse v4
- Basic Use of Force Laws v4
- Arson and Fire Safety v4
- Severe Weather and Natural Disasters v3
The particular course relating to this article is Active Shooter Response v4.
By the way, if you are considering starting a safety ministry in your church, we have the Safety Ministry Proposal and Starter Kit.
Our free downloadable resource is the Active Shooter Situation Checklist. The first page is a brief discussion of active shooter situations. This includes what an active shooter is, why churches are targeted, how quickly the incident moves, and the four steps for an active shooter response.
The second page has a checklist for teachers and office workers of what to do if there is an active shooter. It can be copied and posted in each classroom and office. It has nineteen points under three categories:
- Evacuate if at all possible.
- Shelter in a room you can lock if evacuation is not possible.
- [What to do] Once clear.
Click *HERE* to get the download. You’ll be signed up for the weekly updates and the monthly newsletter (The Church Guardian) if you’re not already subscribed.
Refuge, Shelter, a Place to Hide
In Psalm 27:5, David wrote, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion.” When pursued by King Saul, he hid in caves, went to remote cities, etc.
In Proverbs 28:28a, Solomon wrote, “When the wicked rise, men hide themselves.” It is wise to hide from danger.
When a violent intruder comes, the Church Safety Team should be ready to deal with him, but what should the congregants do? These are the people we are trained to protect. For them, the best options are to run and to hide. We can help them by enabling a lockdown and training the congregation in how to run and hide. In other words, teach them evacuations and lockdowns.
Let’s begin with access control. There are several reasons to exercise access control in a church: prevent theft, prevent child abduction, prevent arson and vandalism, keep bomber planters and poisoners out, keep violent intruders out, etc.
Some shooting incidents begin outside. That was the case in Colorado Springs (2007), Antioch, Tennessee (2017), and Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017).
The area outside the church, especially the parking lot, needs to be monitored before, during, and after services, classes, and events. Here’s where surveillance cameras pay off. If a suspicious person is spotted outside who should be kept out, we need to be able to quickly lock all doors. This is a lockout, also known as a soft lockdown.
Call 911. Have someone on the team keep the dispatcher updated on where the shooter is, whether safety team members are armed, the status of the incident (Is the shooter down? Are there many injured?), and where evacuees assemble.
A lockout is easier if all unattended doors (those with no safety team member or trained usher/greeter present) are set to exit only. It is best if only the main door is unlocked after services begin. Then only one door needs to be locked. If you need several doors unlocked, the church should have a remote locking system. One button locks all the doors.
A Christian folk song from the 1960s asked, “Where you going to run to?” When a violent intruder comes into the church, those who can get out should. If he forces his way through the front door, those in the sanctuary/worship center go out the doors at the other end. Likewise, those on another floor evacuate at the opposite end of the building from where the shooter came in.
By the way, if the attacker is coming from the front, close and lock doors from the foyer to the sanctuary. If he gets in the front door, it will delay his getting into the sanctuary and will give those in there time to get out. If he heads to a side door or around back, lock the doors on that side of the sanctuary instead. All doors to the sanctuary should have panic bars so the people can still get out on any side.
Those who evacuate go to a pre-arranged assembly area, which should not be visible from any church windows.
Some people cannot evacuate. For instance, if the shooter comes into the foyer (or that’s where the shooting begins), those in rooms along an open hallway leading into the foyer are trapped. Going into the hall will expose them to possible gunfire. Their best course of action is to lock down their rooms.
- First, close and lock (or jam) the door to the room. There are door jammers on the market, such as the Gotega Door Stopper. If you can, also barricade the door with anything heavy, such as a large desk, a sofa, etc. In Antioch, pupils helped the teacher barricade the door.
- Next, turn off the lights. Turn off cell phones. Stay away from windows. Keep quiet.
- Spread out through the room, hiding where you can, especially behind something that will stop or deflect bullets.
- If you are in a restroom, lock the door (if you can) and hide in a stall sitting on the tank with your feet on the seat and your head down so that the feet don’t show beneath the partition and the head doesn’t show above it. If the shooter comes in, be still and hold your breath (if you can). If he opens the stall door, you’re in a position to tackle him or kick his head.
When It’s Clear
Wait until responding law enforcement officers clear you to come out.
- First, just because it becomes quiet doesn’t mean no one’s out there with a gun.
- When first responders arrive, law enforcement has to restore or maintain order, and medics have to treat the wounded. Neither medics nor officers need a crowd.
- Police have to ensure that the building is clear and no danger remains. You don’t want to stick your head out a door if they’re still looking for a shooter.
- Law enforcement may want to release one room at a time to be sure that everyone is OK. They will tell you where to go. Follow their instructions. They’re in charge now.
Getting It Right (Drills)
The Safety Director and the Safety Committee plan how best to respond to an active shooter, depending on how and where an attack begins. What does the Safety Team do? Which members deal with the shooter? Which ones lead evacuations and/or lockdowns? How do we evacuate the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, and other large areas? Where is the assembly area?
Once plans are made, an active shooter drill is planned and scheduled. First, the congregation is educated in what to do, depending where they are at the time. This means evacuation routes for the sanctuary, lockdown procedures for classrooms, etc.
Announce the drill at least a week ahead with an approximate time (“… sometime between ____ and ___”). Practice ahead with the Safety Team and church staff and ushers. Follow the active shooter drill with a fellowship event (such as a dinner or picnic) to make it something to look forward to.
One consideration which should not be overlooked is communication. Whoever first knows an attack is beginning radios the rest of the Safety Team, but how do we let the others know that it is time to act?
- Announce, “Active shooter! Lockdown! Lockdown!” over the public address system (PA).
- Call classrooms on the classroom radio channel.
- Radio the contact person on the platform to interrupt the service and tell the people to evacuate the appropriate direction (away from the attacker).
- If the classrooms do not have radios and there is no PA, send someone to the platform to tell the service’s chairperson and send another through the hall to every classroom telling them to lock down.
When a violent intruder/intent killer appears, the prime consideration is the safety of congregants, staff, and visitors. Even as the Safety Team begins to counter the intruder, a lockout, evacuation, and a lockdown should keep all or most of them safe.
There Is More
The other September articles are “The Nudge” (Sparking Interest), “Time to Gel” (Get Organized and Rolling), and “The 2007 Moscow First Presbyterian Church Shooting” (Lesson Learned).
- Kris Moloney, “Active Shooter Response v4,” Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses, © 2019: Training Materials (Classroom) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/active-shooter-neutralization-and-lock-down-drills-training-bundle]; Individual Training (Online) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/active-shooter-neutralization-and-lock-down-drills].
- Christian Martinez and Jeremy Childs, “Police search for double-slaying suspect in Ventura, but he's caught elsewhere,” VC Star, October 13, 2017, updated October 14, 2017 [https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2017/10/13/schools-locked-down-police-search-homicide-suspect-ventura/762999001/].
- Tom Cleary, "Burnette Chapel Shooting: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know," Heavy.com, September 24, 2017 [https://heavy.com/news/2017/09/burnette-chapel-antioch-tennessee-church-shooting-photos-videos-victims/].
- Elizabeth Suarez (WSAZ News Staff), "Parents alarmed by shooting near their kids' school," WSAZ NewsChannel, September 4, 2019 [https://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Schools-in-Kanawha-County-currently-on-lockdown-during-shooting-investigation-559375531.html].
- Leah Thompson/ and Mari Nelson, “Shots Fired at Parkway Christian Center in Grants Pass,” KDRV12, July 21, 2019 [https://www.kdrv.com/content/news/Shot-fired-at-Parkway-Christian-Center-in-Grants-Pass--513009521.html].
- Mike Isaacs (of Pioneer Press), “No arrests following shots fired, attempted armed robbery as alleged victim was uncooperative: Skokie police,” Chicago Tribune, March 19, 2018 [https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/skokie/ct-skr-shots-fired-church-street-tl-0322-20180316-story.html].
- Anon, “Heavy Police Presence At Mansfield Church After Staffer Called About Possible School Shooter,” CBS DFW, October 2, 2019 [https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2019/10/02/heavy-police-presence-at-mansfield-church-after-staffer-called-about-possible-school-shooter/].
- Kris Moloney, “Safety Member Certification,” Sheepdog Church Security [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/bundles/safety-team-complete-training-course].
- Kris Moloney, “Safety Ministry Proposal and Starter Kit,” Sheepdog Church Security [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/safety-ministry-proposal-and-starter-kit].
- Kris Moloney, “Group Coupons,” Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/collections?category=group-coupons].
- Kris Moloney, “Active Shooter Situations: Thinking and Acting Clearly When the Unthinkable Occurs,” Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/35d259d229].
- This is from Run, Hide, Fight, the video on how to respond to an active shooter in the workplace: Ready Houston, “Run, Hide, Fight,” City of Houston, © 2012 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2D0&feature=player_embedded].
- “Gotega Door Stopper,” Recommended Equipment for Safety Ministries, Sheepdog Church Security store on Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SHKQWWM?ref=exp_instructor_moloney_dp_vv_d].