November 14, 2017: Through online resources last updated November 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging houses of worship to protect against active shooters.
The renewed focus on protecting houses of worship takes place after the November 5 Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting in which Devin Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church with an assault rifle and killed 25 people including an unborn child.
The FEMA resources stress that “public gatherings are vulnerable, and adversaries may perceive houses of worship as attractive targets where they can inflict mass casualties, cause substantial psychological impacts, and draw extensive media coverage.”
In response, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships have created a website billed as a “one-stop shop” for available resources to protect against threats.
The FEMA resources include additional tools, training and material from the DHS’s National Protections and Programs Directorate (NPPD) which coordinates a Hometown Security initiative more broadly aimed at community safety.
Combined, the resources provide extensive information on how to plan and prepare for active shooters.
Webinars, trainings and other materials prepare houses of worship using what is called the “run, hide, fight” concept. The material covers the profile of an active shooter, how best to respond and creating an emergency plan among other issues.
Churches are encouraged to run active shooter workshops which will aid them in developing an emergency plan.
Houses of Worship are given resources for trauma, resilience and stress management for responding to crises.
Resources are also available for responding to bomb threats including info on conducting a security assessment and running an “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to enhance detection.
Adventist Risk Management has renewed its emphasis on church safety as well. After the Sutherland Springs shootings, additional information specific to active shooter situations was sent to pastors.
In addition, ARM asked all churches in the North American Division of the church to take part in a safety drill on Safety Sabbath during March 2018.