At a recent training session for church leaders on how to deal with a mass shooting at a place of worship, experts at the Carroll County’s Sheriff’s Office in Maryland offered these tips: ● ● ●
[‘Smack them with a hymnal’: Authorities train church leaders to respond if tragedy strikes]
• Organize a volunteer security team among parishioners. Ideally, the team would include people with experience in law enforcement, military, logistics and medical backgrounds to help come up with a safety and security plan.
• Install a security camera system.
• Give ushers radios and have them serve as watchdogs outside the church before services start.
• In older facilities, check that cellphones work in basements. Many older churches with stone walls don’t get good reception. Obtain amplifiers or other equipment to help make sure there are no dead zones for when emergency responders are trying to find people.
• Limit access for entry and exiting a place of worship so officials can have a better sense of who’s coming and going.
• Give a local law enforcement agency a copy of your building’s layout so it knows the entrances and how to find people in case of an emergency.
• Check that sanctuary doors can be locked from the inside to keep a gunman out.
• Know your congregation. Carroll County Sheriff James T. DeWees says “everybody has a breaking point.” If someone says they are having an emotional, mental or financial problem, talk to that person. The chances of someone “breaking” among your members is more likely than a random shooter, experts said.
• Not everyone talks of performing a violent act before they do it, but their body language may give signs. If someone comes in, watch for things like clenched fists or if the person is sweating profusely when it’s 40 degrees outside.
• Greet everyone who comes into a church. Just saying “Hi, how are you?” may help to diffuse their temper for the moment.
• If there is a gunman in a church, go low to the ground to get away from bullets. And look for heavy items to use as barricades, such as pews or podiums.