You are in the middle of your sermon when someone enters the sanctuary and pulls out a gun. The sound of erupting bullets drowns out your main point and panic fills the sanctuary.
As pastor, it’s your job to protect the sheep of your flock. What do you do? Is your church ready to respond if an active shooter walks into your sanctuary?
The number one thing you can do to protect your congregation is to hold a practice drill before an emergency situation takes place. Practice with your church the actions most likely to keep your congregation safe. This way both your church staff and your members know what to do if an active shooter visits your church.
Train Adults and Staff to Run. Hide. Fight.
The first action adults in an active shooter situation should take is to run to a safe area. You can help your congregation do this by providing clearly marked and accessible exits from every room. Point exits out during announcements so your members and guests know where they are.
If your constituents cannot run, the best option is choosing to hide, in the most protected area you can find.
If it is not possible to hide, the last resort for survival is to fight. If members or church personnel choose this option they must aim to incapacitate the shooter. Use any available item including chairs, tables, even books.
Be ready to act when an active shooter attacks by planning with your church personnel how your team will act in an active shooter situation. Help your congregation be ready by practicing the Run.Hide.Fight. steps with a drill at your church. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. is providing the following emergency action planning resources free to pastors at SafetySabbath.com:
· How to Create Your Emergency Response Team Info Sheet
· How to Host Your Church Active Shooter Drill Guide
· Run.Hide.Fight. video to share with your congregation.
Teach Children to Lock out. Get out. Take out.
Lock out. Get out. Take out. is the recommended active shooter situation action plan for grades K-12. Child and youth Sabbath School teachers should shut and lock the classroom door, then hide children where they will remain unseen and bullets cannot reach them. If there is time, teachers can barricade the door with furniture, turn off lights and cover windows so it appears no one is in the room.
If there is a safe exit to a safe location, teachers can choose to evacuate their class and remain in the safe location until the situation is resolved. The take out step is for adults only. A teacher’s duty is to stay with their class. Teacher and students should remain hidden until safe.
Be ready to act if an active shooter attacks during Sabbath School by reviewing and practicing your emergency action plan with your teachers. Download the free Be Emergency Ready: The Safety Sabbath Teacher’s Guide at SafetySabbath.com.
Be Ready with Safety Sabbath
Safety Sabbath is one day set aside by the North American Division for all churches to protect their congregation by holding a safety drill on the fourth Sabbath in March. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has a wealth of resources you can use to hold an active shooter drill on Safety Sabbath 2017 at SafetySabbath.com. ARM recommends that churches NOT use actors during the active shooter drill. Simulate your drill and explain how to evacuate the sanctuary and building.
Register your church at SafetySabbath.com to get your free resources.
Anna Bartlett is a writer and education specialist for Adventist Risk Management, Inc.