Metro Churches Preparing For Active Shooter Situations
Church security training for active shooters is taking place across the Bible belt. Homeland Security, local police departments, even churchgoers with a passion for safety are teaching how to protect the flock.
On a small highway south of Norman, the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Cole did not gather to worship. Tara Koetter owner of Sheepdog Security, a security consulting business, is visiting the church. She tells them her philosophy is based in the scriptures.
“It says the prudent sees danger and takes precaution,” said Koetter.
Koetter expanded from workplace security to churches after experiencing a frightening dream.
“I had a pretty vivid dream of an active shooter in a church and I was there and it was very vivid,” said Koetter. “When I woke up I thought, what stuck with me was there was nobody doing anything.”
And then Nov. 5, 2017 happened. A man dressed in tactical gear, carrying an assault rifle opened fire on the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter killed 26 church members including small children and a pregnant woman.
The mass-shooting woke up church leaders across the country, including Pastor Robert Butler.
“I always recommend the Homeland Security response to an active intruder who means to do harm,” said Koetter. “Run, hide and fight.”
Butler feels the immense responsibility of keeping everyone who sits in the church pews safe.
“It’s one of the main jobs of a church,” said Butler. “To protect the flock.”
Koetter spoke to church members about the importance of the congregation forming a volunteer-based safety team and having a working relationship with local law enforcement.
“Make them familiar with your building,” said Koetter.
She pointed out where members of the safety team need to be on-guard, starting in the parking lot.
“When the parking lot is quiet and the service has already begun,” said Koetter. “That’s when you see these tragic incidents happening.”
She suggests the safety team have reliable communication, including phones and walkie-talkies. She suggests to only arm those who are licensed with active shooter training.
“In a moment of actual attack somebody’s got to know what to do,” said Butler. “What I took away from Tara in her presentation. She said first you want to pray, pray as if it all depends on God but then prepare as if it all depends on you.”
Koetter first started the active shooter training in her own church in Norman. She works with churches of all sizes and denominations.