Sadly, houses of worship are not immune to the rash of violence that has come to pervade our society. In fact, churches have – in many ways – become a target for gun violence.
With 19 church shootings occurring over the past two decades in the U.S. – one of which ended with 26 lives lost – faith leaders have an obligation to take action. By identifying all potential risks and adopting proactive plans in response, you can better prepare congregants to respond.
Because no house of worship is immune to gun violence risks today, Critical Path Solutions provides comprehensive risk analysis services, emergency preparedness plans and targeted active shooter training programs for churches.
The Moral and Ethical Imperative for Church Active Shooter Preparedness
As violence in houses of worship increases, so too does the risk to your congregation and staff.
Even though the chances of your church being targeted are small, you face a moral and ethical imperative to prepare your congregation to respond to potential threats. Doing so can mean the difference between life and death.
If you put off confronting these potential risks, you could find yourself facing overwhelming sadness and regret, should the unthinkable happen. In addition to the inevitable regret you could face.
Who Has Liability for Church Shooting Incidents?
As unpalatable as this topic might be, it is an important one for churches to address.
According to AG Financial, it is unlikely that churches or church leaders have legal liability for injuries or deaths that occur on the premises as a result of violence. The conclusion is based on the ruling of the Virginia Supreme Court ruling on cases related to the Virginia Tech University shooting where 32 people were killed and many more injured.
However, taking the wrong approach to preparedness and response can put you and your church in a precarious legal position. For example, placing untrained individuals in a position of providing armed security or allowing congregants to carry concealed weapons on property without property evaluating their fitness for the role, may place your church in legal jeopardy.
The best way to minimize any potential liability is to consult a professional disaster preparedness expert to assist with a threat assessment and emergency response planning.
What Steps Are Necessary for Developing an Emergency Response Plan?
The first challenge you face is knowing exactly what you should be doing to prepare for gun violence, and to what extent you should take your preparations.
No one can possibly predict every type of incident that could occur. However, bringing in a professional organization to conduct a church risk assessment is the best place to start.
In addition to acts of violence, an emergency preparedness expert can also evaluate your exposure to other risks. This might include fires, tornados, floods, earthquakes, and other natural or man made disasters. By addressing all potential risks, you will be in the best position to protect your church and congregation.
It is important to note that any disaster preparedness plan should address prevention, protection and mitigation, to help reduce the risk of an emergency. Your plan should also address recovery in the wake of an emergency.
Implementing a Church Disaster Preparedness Plan
Once your plan has been prepared, reviewed and approved, it’s time to take the steps necessary for implementation. Without taking the proper care with implementation, even the most comprehensive of plans will not provide the protection your congregation deserves.
One of the foundations of effective emergency response is ensuring that stakeholders are not only trained but truly prepared to respond appropriately in the face of a disaster. In addition to your congregation, you might have to include community members and partners in this process.
Awareness of the plan and prescribed response procedures is not enough to ensure an improved outcome in the face of risk. You must conduct exercises and drills to practice appropriate responses – including church active shooter drills.
Holding Active Shooter Drills for Your Church
Active shooter training is a highly sensitive subject. For your congregants, it can be especially disturbing and difficult. No one wants to worry or feel vulnerable while in their place of worship. Communicating the importance of training and drills to your stakeholders should focus on helping to ensure their safety.
Your disaster preparedness consultant will provide all the guidance you need for conducting training and drills.
This could include tabletop exercises, which introduce response plans to stakeholders by describing possible scenarios and the appropriate response to each. Functional exercises involve basic response walk-throughs. Drills and full-scale exercises simulate the full range of actual responses outlined in your emergency response plan.
Appropriate, conditioned responses for natural disasters and similar events can typically be developed more quickly than can those for an active shooter situation. For this reason, holding multiple active shooter drills might be necessary to ensure that you are truly prepared.
Getting the Most from Church Active Shooter Training
Don’t take risks with the well-being of your congregation or the future of your church. Call on Critical Path Solutions to assist you with threat assessment, emergency response plan development, and active shooter training.
We have the knowledge and experience you need to accomplish these complex but imperative goals. We create truly customized response plans based on your location and other specific factors. We teach your team and your congregants specifically how to respond to the threat of violence – including gun violence – should they enter your church or facility.
We give the option of having us run your exercises and drills or we can teach you how to run them effectively yourself.
Whichever option you prefer, take action now to get your church emergency response plan in place. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with emergency preparedness and active shooter training for churches.