By: Tonya Jackson
According to the Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide published by the U. S. Department of Homeland Security, “An ‘active shooter’ is an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” To educate and prepare religious organizations for this unfortunate phenomenon that has entered the church, Monday, February 29th, the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church Disaster Preparedness Committee partnered with the City of Pensacola Police Department and Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergency (BRACE) for phase one of their Active Shooter Workshop. As William Durant, Sr. stated in his occasion, “Too often when we listen to the news we hear of gun violence. We hear of someone who went on a rampage and shot and killed many innocent people. It may have been at a school, a workplace, or place or worship. Now is the time to be aware of our surroundings. To be prepared for an emergency.”
Program panelist, David Alexander, III, Pensacola Chief of Police, acknowledged that violence locations have changed and shared with all in attendance, “I think it’s very important that we take the security of God’s house very seriously. Last year, 2015, was one of the highest years since 1999 for violent incidents in churches in the United States. Even where I worship, there have been incidents where things that happened out on the street have ended up in the church. So I think it is a very worthy topic of discussion. I hope everyone tonight will get an understanding of church prevention and church security because you can’t talk about security without talking about prevention. And this is not just a one workshop thing. It’s a mindset we have to embrace, just like we embrace keeping our homes safe. We have to keep our places of worship safe. It behooves us to be aware of these dangers and then also learn how to do things to either prevent it or to either be able to respond.” Chief Alexander went on to share some sobering facts to reiterate the need for training such as this, “In the United States there were 372 shootings in 2015. There were 475 people killed and 1,870 people wounded.” He also explained that no denomination is immune to this violence and once again stressed the need for all churches to prepare for this emergency by creating a plan.
Greg Strader, executive director of BRACE elaborated by sharing data provided from the Department of Homeland Security through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Specifically, he shared some information from a study from Homeland Security and FEMA from 2000 to 20013. “During that period, 40% of active shooter incidents ended with the shooter committing suicide, 13.1% incidents ended after unarmed citizens safely and successfully restrained the shooter, in 28.1 % incidents law enforcement had to engage the shooter to end the threat.” These statistics serve to remind us that it’s not only about surviving an active shooter but also being prepared to deal with the aftermath. Additionally, Strader directed attendees to dhs.gov to get a free pdf copy of the online book, “Active Shooter How to Respond” and for more information.