Metro Houses Of Worship Step Up Security Following Texas Hostage Situation


Monday, January 17th 2022, 6:44 pm


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The synagogue hostage situation in Texas has places of worship thinking about their safety. 

Some have already had that discussion with an expert based right here in the metro. 

Tara Koetter started providing training after her own church tried to come up with a security plan. 

Being prepared is something the local Jewish Federation says they have to do. 

"We were all horrified to learn what was happening," said Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater OKC Rachel Johnson. 

She said the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder to be vigilant. 

"We are all very aware of the rise in antisemitism over the last few years, and it’s because of that as Rabbi Cytron-Walker has said that we had to prepare ourselves for as many possible outcomes that we can think of." 

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker was one of the hostages in Colleyville, Texas 

"I told them to go, threw a chair at the gunmen and I headed for the door," said Rabbi Cytron-Walker. 

He credits his safety to training with law enforcement and other agencies. 

"We go through a three-pronged approach pray, prepare and practice." 

Tara Koetter started helping places of worship in Oklahoma about eight years ago when her own church was trying to form a safety plan. She said she couldn't find anyone in the metro to consult her congregation. 

"So, she started learning herself and now has her own business tailoring training to each house of worship," said Koetter. 

Congregations can have as many people as they want to come to her half day training. 

"We talk about statistics and incidents, and where the vulnerabilities might lie," said Koetter. "How to put together a safety team how to train them." 

Koetter said thankfully she hasn't had an incident at any of the churches she's worked with. 

"By having people watching and people understanding that you are not a soft target you never know how many incidents you are deterring," said Koetter. 

She told News 9 she will provide free consultations for churches that are interested.