News outlets are reporting another attack on a place of worship, this time at a church in White Settlement, Texas, near Fort Worth. In this instance, two congregants were killed before the threat was abolished by armed volunteer members of the church’s security team.
As time goes on, more heinous acts of violence are occurring in what should be sanctuaries for the faithful. There is no place where crowds gather that is immune to the bad intentions of a disgruntled, deranged, or politically-motivated individual.
In the case of the shooting at White Settlement, Texas, a security detail of volunteers was able to end the incident quickly. This was because the folks in the Texas town of 17,000 realized the importance of instilling a culture of situational awareness in our citizenry.
(Aside: Originally put forth by a fighter pilot as a strategy in aerial dogfights, situational awareness has real practical significance in staying safe in uncertain times)
Situational awareness is a state of calm, relaxed observation of factors that might indicate a threat or a need to act. These are called “anomalies”; learning to recognize them can identify suspicious individuals and save lives. It certainly did in the recent incident.
(Learn more about situational awareness in this article)
Unlike the church in Texas, not all congregations prioritize church safety at the level needed in this toxic climate. The premise that a ministry is based on peace fails to take into account that there are those who consider places of worship to be “soft”targets. In this era of active shooters and anti-Christian feeling (or anti-religious feeling in general), pastors must make sure their flock is safe, just like any shepherd. In the New Normal, it’s has become part of the job description.
In my role as medical preparedness writer, it’s my mission to help the average citizen promote the well-being of loved ones in disasters. I’ve written about hurricanes and earthquakes, but shooter events like the one in White Settlement are also instances where mass casualties can occur. As in the recent shooting, these casualties could be minimized with a plan of action.
Large churches may choose to hire security professionals and install video surveillance technology. Smaller and less affluent churches, however, might benefit by establishing what I call a “safety ministry“. This group should be comprised of parishioners who have some security experience, such as active and former law enforcement, military veterans, and carefully selected others. Members should evaluate the layout of the church and grounds for weak spots and organize a plan of action for calling 911 and other measures when needed…