Preparing for an Active Killer
From the Bible
In Bible times, walls were built to protect cities.
Therefore [Asa] said unto Judah, “Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the Lord our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered (2 Chronicles 14:7).
Then said I unto them, “Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem (Psalm 51:18).
Walls are for definition and for protection. A low stone wall will define a yard, but a high one provides a degree of protection, at least from casual observers and those who can't quickly jump over it. The walls around a building should protect its occupants from the weather and keep unwanted critters out.
Figuratively, a wall is a separator or barrier. Security procedures are intended to be walls against intruders, thieves, abusers, and violent violators. So also are any technological or mechanical security measures.
In the context of this series, we build both physical and non-physical barriers against active killers.
In the News
Aztec, New Mexico, November 1, 2021 - One church in Aztec had been vandalized three times since September 1 with no clue as to the identity of the vandal. The fourth time was different. Cameras had been installed and recorded images of someone painting "EVIL" on the side of the building. After finishing the deed, the culprit went to a convenience store across the street. The same night, the same word was spray-painted on another church. A clerk at the convenience store identified the suspect from video footage.
* Note: The surveillance cameras would also reveal suspicious activity leading to a violent incursion.
Rocky Mount, Virginia, March 25, 2020 - A Rocky Mount Church of Christ elder who is a retired Roanoke police officer now focuses on making churches safe. He begins with evaluating the factors which put a church at risk of a shooter, whether it is a robbery or a shooting event. He said, "I am adamant that we can protect the assembly through planning, procedures, training and implementation of a safety team." His three points are (1) appoint a safety team leader, (2) monitor the parking lot, and (3) secure the building (physically and actively).
* Note the role of evaluation (assessment).
Griffin, Georgia, January 7-8, 2020 - The shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas and the stabbing attack at a Hanukkah celebration in New York during the previous two weeks highlighted the reasons members of a Griffin church would be trained in church security. The active shooter training includes ushers and greeters as part of church security.
Also in the Atlanta area, a 16-year-old girl was arrested and charged with plotting an attack on a local AME church in imitation of the 2015 killings at Emanuel AME in Charleston.
* Note: More than Safety Team members are being trained for active shooter response.
Viera, Florida, July 7, 2013 - While mothers watched their children and worshipers lifted hands in prayer, a man in the back of the sanctuary watched everything in the room. He was a member of the congregation's safety & security team. The man protecting his own church also trained members of other churches.
This was about a month after the federal government released guidelines for security at places of worship. A few days before that, a man was shot during mass in in Salt Lake City.
* Note: The safety team member practiced situational awareness.
Culver City, California, 2016 - OpenPath was started by several electronics engineers to design, make, and sell keyless entry systems. Now a part of Motorola, they have posted a Church security systems and safety planning guide. Their risk assessment for churches covers:
- Access control (Features to look for in synagogue and church access control systems)
- Unobtrusive design for door readers
- Easy-to-manage credentials
- Attendance reporting and tracking
- Adaptable, future-proof technology
- Emergency system lockdown
- Video surveillance
- Security management platforms
- Two-way radios and communication tools
* Note: This describes some of the current technological components available for a church's security wall.
The featured resources for this month are "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training" (a Church Security Guide article), "Active Shooter Response v4" (a training module in the Safety Member Certification program), and Active Shooter Situation Checklist (a free downloadable resource). An additional special resource is Kris's interview with Simon Osamoh about Situational Awareness.
A key brick in the mental wall of protection is situational awareness. It is not just being aware, but also knowing what to be aware of. Simon draws on his training and experience of security in various kinds of places as he discusses this topic with Kris.
Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training
This article in the Church Security Guide provides an overview of the role of a Church Safety Team in an active killer situation. This ranges from prevention and preparation to training, watchfulness, and response. This article will prepare the reader to better understand the "Active Shooter Response" training module.
Active Shooter Response
The second training module in the Safety Member Certification program - after "Security Team Fundamentals" - is "Active Shooter Response v4." The objective of this course is to enable the student to
- Identify Key Terms Associated with Violent Intruder Scenarios
- Conduct a Facility Assessment
- List Components of Lockout and Lockdown Plans
- Describe Actions to take in an Emergency Situation
- List Actions of Engagement Team
- List Actions of Containment Team
- Identify Appropriate Interactions with Law Enforcement Following an Attack by an Active Shooter
A student taking all of the Safety Member Certification modules and passing each certification test will be certified as a Sheepdog Church Security Safety Member for two years. Three modes of training are available: Team Training (in-person classroom), Individual Training (online), and Online Events (live Zoom classes).
Team Training - This is ideal for training a new team and for refresher classes every two years.
Individual Training - This is perfect for training a new member of an established team and for members who cannot attend in-person classes.
Online Events - Both individuals and groups can sign up for these live Zoom classes. The 2022 Spring Semester is already in progress, and the Fall Semester begins in October:
Live Zoom Classes
Safety Team Fundamentals
February 6, 2022
October 6, 2022
February 20, 2022
October 23, 2022
Deescalating Disruptive Persons
March 6, 2022
November 6, 2022
Protecting Children from Abuse
March 20, 2022
November 20, 2022
Basic Use of Force Laws
April 3, 2022
December 4, 2022
Arson and Fire Safety
April 24, 2022
December 18, 2022
Storms and Disasters
May 15, 2022
January 8, 2023
Church Safety Teams are encouraged to have all their members trained and certified.
Active Shooter Situation Checklist
If your team is trained, drilled, and ready and an intentional killer begins a violent attack, team members will know how to respond. But what about teachers and group leaders? When they hear shooting or are notified either to evacuate or to lock down, would they know how? The Active Shooter Situation Checklist can be printed and posted in every classroom and assembly area. This PDF also has a brief description of active shooter situations. Click *HERE* to get this resource.
Building Walls against Active Killers
The walls we build for protection from active killers are both physical and non-physical. We decide how to build, based on a security assessment. Then we make changes where needed and keep doing what is right. An assessment should be made every year or two since things can change in that time.
A security assessment tells you how prepared your church is to prevent or respond to several situations, including active killers. The free download for last August, Practical Steps to Start a Safety Ministry, included a do-it-yourself Church Safety / Security Ministry Security Assessment. This 27-page form leads you through several features of the church's physical facilities, its policies and procedures, and its people. Here is a sample from the first page of the form:
Does the Church have?
☐ Day Care
☐ School or classrooms
Electronic Security Alarm System:☐ Yes
Safety/Security Team:☐ Yes
Electronic Access Control System:☐ Yes
Staff Safety Training Program:☐ Yes
Video Surveillance System:☐ Yes
Volunteer Safety Training Program:☐ Yes
These first few questions include both physical and non-physical features. Do you already have this resource? If so, have you used it?
In relation to active killers, physical defenses are for access control, detection, and communication.
If we can keep a violent intruder out, we protect everyone inside. If the intruder comes in shooting or begins the violence once inside, lockdowns should protect persons in classrooms, offices, and other lockable inside spaces.
An assault-resistant door is the first-line physical barrier to an active killer. Next are break-in-resistant windows. The doors should be sturdy, hard to break. Doors made with solid, heavy wood or heavy-gauge steel best resist forced entry. All-glass and mostly-glass doors, which have the advantage of seeing who is outside, need strong, tempered glass. These glass doors and side windows need security glazing. This is a coating which keeps the glass from shattering. That way, if an attacker tries to shoot out the glass, it will take a while, giving the Safety Team time to respond. However, these are only as good as the door's casing, hinges, and locks.
Classroom windows need to be easily opened from the inside, but not from the outside. First floor and basement windows should be shatter-resistant from outside blows.
Electronic access systems can lock all outside doors at once for a lockout, and all inside doors with another button for an immediate lockdown.
Surveillance cameras will help monitor the grounds and the exterior of the building. In some church shootings the attacker parked where he could not be seen from the front door and/or entered through a side or back door. Inside cameras may allow the engagement and containment teams to know where the assailant is.
Alarms on doors and windows will alert monitors to forced-entry attempts. The Safety Director, a designated team member, and a church leader should receive alarms on their mobile devices. That way if one of them is away from the phone, out of range, etc. the alert will be received and someone could check it out or call 911.
Lighting helps monitor the outside at night. Some may be activated by motion detectors.
Communication - Timely communication is essential for immediate action and coordination. Radios keep team members in contact with each other. Public address systems, intercoms, and radios can be used to notify classrooms, activity leaders, and platform persons of what is happening and what to do.
Bricks in a non-physical defensive wall include policies and procedures, forewarning (intelligence), a security mindset, situational awareness, and training.
Policies and Procedures
There are some policies and procedures which directly apply to stopping an active killer. The first is an access control policy.
- All exterior doors with no safety team member or security-trained greeter present should be exit only (locked). This is not just during services and classes, but all the time. This will force an attacker to either take time to force entry (thereby risking detection) or to use a guarded entrance.
- Lock all doors after the service starts. Latecomers can be let in by the greeter/usher or safety team member. If there are multiple doors in the main entry and you want people to be able to just come in, lock all but one at the end so it can be more easily monitored and defended.
- Doors should not be blocked open when someone goes out. An intruder can come in behind them unnoticed.
- Key control is an important access control policy.
- All physical keys should be logged out so you know who has one. If a person is to no longer have keyed access, ask to have the key returned and log it back in.
- Keys can be duplicated, meaning someone could return a key and keep a copy. More secure than physical keys are electronic keys (keyless entry). This can be a coded card (like a hotel room key). There is a different code for each authorized user. If someone's key is lost or stolen, their code is changed so that a bad actor cannot use a stolen or found key to get in.
An important procedure is patrolling. A Safety Team member on patrol may notice something out of the ordinary indicating suspicious activity. Related to this is monitoring the parking lot, either in-person or via cameras.
Threat assessment is important in stopping an armed attack. Most church assailants have had some kind of connection to the church. This is especially true when it is a domestic abuse spillover. Also, several attackers with no direct connection to a church often indicate their intent in some way. Notify the Safety Director of any threats made against the church or one of its members, attenders, pastor(s), or staff. Pay special attention if notified by law enforcement.
Thinking in terms of safety keeps a person mentally ready to respond. This is a kind of alertness. In Cooper's Colors this would be "Condition Yellow" - thinking, "This could be the day."
No matter how well a person is trained, a live violent attack can be overwhelming. Conflict simulation during drills can help the safety team member function amid the sounds, sights, and smells of a mass casualty event. Carl Chinn describes this in his conversation with Kris Moloney on the videocast "Stress Inoculation."
A Safety Team member or greeter needs to be alert to potential indications of violent intent. This could be mannerisms, perceived demeanor, or signs of a concealed weapon. In his interview with Kris, Simon Osamoh brought up "breaking social norms." One example is going straight up to the platform during the service. Another is interrupting the service by standing, speaking, yelling out, etc. There are others.
Training prepares people how to respond in an active shooter incident. Sheepdog Church Security has the training module "Active Shooter Response v4" in its Safety Member Certification program. Teachers, ushers, and greeters should also be trained (at least informed) of their roles. The Active Shooter Situation Checklist is to be posted in the classroom or office as a reminder of what to do.
Nehemiah urged the people of Jerusalem to help him build the wall to protect the city from its enemies. There are walls of security we can erect to protect the church from an active killer. Some are physical; some are not.
There Is More
This is one of four articles for the month. The others are "2012 World Changers Church Shooting" (Lesson Learned from a Church Shooting), "Violation of Sanctity" (Killers Invade Sanctuaries), and "Facing Evil" (Responding to an Active Killer).
- Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Response v4," Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/].
- Diana Castillo, "Aztec church vandalized again, surveillance video brings hope for justice," KOB TV, November 3, 2021 [https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/aztec-church-vandalized-again-surveillance-video-brings-hope-for-justice/6289380/].
- Joshua Kellogg, "San Juan County man formally charged, accused of desecrating two Aztec churches with graffiti," Farmington Daily Times, November 9, 2021 [https://www.daily-times.com/story/news/crime/2021/11/09/jeffrey-schoeller-charged-arson-st-joseph-church-christ-aztec-nm/6356872001/].
- Lynn McMillon, "Elder focuses on improving church safety," The Christian Chronicle, March 25, 2020 [https://christianchronicle.org/elder-focuses-on-improving-church-safety/].
- Nick Sturdivant and Michael King, "Church leaders adding security training following violent incidents," WXIA 11 Alive, January 4, 2020 [https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/church-leaders-adding-security-training-following-violent-incidents/85-df5ba497-295c-4fe3-afdb-7a03d2a4ffae].
- J.D. Gallop, "Churches boost security as violent incidents grow," Florida Today, July 7, 2013 [https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/07/churches-boost-security-as-violent-incidents-grow/2495241/].
- Staff Blog Writer, "Church security systems and safety planning guide," OpenPath, no date [https://www.openpath.com/blog-post/church-security-systems].
- Kris Moloney and Simon Osamoh, "CSRC Special Interview with Simon," Church Security Roll Call on YouTube, November 11, 2021 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3E48EUV3w0&list=PLiGluOUZx7Rd5tLJgcNnVPTcmo_hPwbsp&index=1&t=26s].
- Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [https://sheepdogchurchsecurity.net/active-shooter/].
- Kris Moloney, "Active Shooter Situation Checklist," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2018 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/35d259d229].
- Kris Moloney, "Practical Steps to Start a Safety Ministry," Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [https://sheepdog-church-security.ck.page/9c5f2d32cc].
- Kris Moloney and Carl Chinn, "CSRC287: Sheepdog Interview - Stress Inoculation," Sheepdog Church Security Roll Call, November 29, 2021 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgp2Wp94J1c&list=PLiGluOUZx7Rd5tLJgcNnVPTcmo_hPwbsp&index=2].