A leadership group at a local church met with Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies just a day after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, to learn more about how to keep their facility secure yet welcoming.
The training session happened a day after the Florida tragedy by coincidence, said Brian Rogers, senior pastor at First Church of the Nazarene, 1245 McClure Road. The training had been originally scheduled for January, but was postponed until Feb. 15, he said.
While active-shooter information was a piece of the presentation, Rogers said the main focus was to talk with local law enforcement about overall security and safety for the church facility.
The Indiana Sheriff’s Association had sent out an instructional guide for churches in the wake of the Nov. 5 shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman entered the church and began firing, resulting in 26 deaths and 20 people being injured.
After the church leadership learned of the association’s guidelines, they decided to ask members of the local county sheriff’s department to talk about overall security at worship buildings and how it needs to evolve, Rogers said.
“What prompted us is that we are constantly having a conversation about balancing safety here with what is happening in society, with the effort to make people feel welcome,” Rogers said. “In light of the recent church issues, we wanted to make sure our security plans were at a good level.”
Bartholomew County Sheriff Chief Deputy Chris Lane and Capt. Dave Steinkoenig used a PowerPoint presentation to go over the strategy that law enforcement has recommended nationwide, “Run, Hide, Fight.” The deputies also reviewed security best practices with the church leadership.
All Bartholomew County offices received the same instruction over the past couple years, Lane said.
While the first instruction, “run,” and “escape,” is emphasized in all these training opportunities, Lane said that can be problematic for church congregations.
“In a place of worship — you are going to have kids there — people from infants to 80 years old and older,” Lane said. “There will be people in wheelchairs. There will be people who can’t run.”
The Indiana Sheriff’s Association in its training materials says there have been 1,018 deadly force incidents and 549 deaths on church property since 1999.
Because of that, the sheriff’s department shows an FBI video detailing the “Run, Hide, Fight” response at their presentations, and also includes information about how to interact with first responders who get to the scene of incidents and must pursue the shooter.
“One of the things we explain is that when law enforcement gets there, we can’t stop to render aid,” Lane said. “We have to get the shooter and clear the area so the medics can get in to render aid. Some people don’t know that.”
For those who can’t run, the next best option is to hide, which can be difficult in the open location of a church sanctuary, Lane said.
And there is the last resort of “fight,” because at that point an individual will be fighting for their life and must use anything they can get their hands on to fight back, he said. That can involve hurling furniture or anything at hand at the shooter as self defense, an action to be used only when there is no other option.
“The best thing to do, if you can, is to get to the nearest exit,” Lane said. “We can’t have armed security everywhere. We can’t have it at every door.”
The church leadership is now considering what it has learned and making it part of a broader conversation with the church’s 275-member congregation, as well as other churches in Columbus, Rogers said.
“Our safety practices are always evolving,” the pastor said. “We need to stay current and have discussions, because some of the best ideas come from having people come together. Hopefully, this will help in the future.”
Lane said he is still somewhat taken aback about the idea of giving a presentation in a church about what to do in the event of an active shooter.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 25 years and never in a million years did I think I’d have to come to a church and talk about this,” he said.
To obtain more information about security, safety and training for active-shooter scenarios, call the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department at (812) 379-1650.
The Indiana Sheriff’s Association has put together specific training at indianasheriffs.org
If you see something suspicious, say something to authorities.
Know your community’s response plans.
Learn and practice first aid skills and use of tourniquets.
When in public places, or in the workplace, identify at least two exits.
Map out places to hide. Solid doors with locks, rooms without windows or rooms with heavy furniture and large filing cabinets and desks make good hiding places.
During the incident:
Run — Get away from the shooter. Leave your belongings behind and run. Call 911 when you are safe and give a description of the shooter, their location and weapons.
Hide — If you can’t run, get out of the shooter’s view and stay quiet. Silence electronic devices and make sure they don’t vibrate. Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights. Don’t hide in groups; separate around a room.
Fight — As a last resort, defend yourself. Commit and act aggressively to stop the shooter. Ambushing the shooter as a group with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors and books can distract and possibly disarm the shooter.
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active-Shooter Event at youtube.com/watch?v=5VcSwejU2DO
Guide for houses of worship:
Guide for K-12 schools: