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Churches prepare for worst-case scenarios

Church works with local police, FBI and homeland security officials to prepare area congregations on how to respond if a violent situation were to take place inside their buildings.

It’s a scenario we’ve heard too often —an active shooter enters a school, a nightclub, a movie theater, a crowd of protesters— innocent lives are targeted, police officers are preyed upon.

It’s a scenario law enforcement officials say cannot be predicted. However, at the Eastside Church of Christ in Midwest City, Okla., they are being proactive, training not only their leaders and members but other congregations in the area on how to respond should tragedy strike their fellowship.

“We pray that we’re doing the best we can but we pray what we learn we don’t have to use,” Hagan told The Christian Chronicle.

Herman Hagan is a former sheriff’s deputy in the area. He now works as a security officer at the church. His experience in law enforcement has helped him to develop safety protocols and checklists focused on recognizing any potential threats. Those protocols include checking the parking lot for anything or anyone suspicious, monitoring the halls and lobby during worship services or Bible class and reporting anything that seems suspicious.

Hagan recently invited churches across the area to a seminar led by local police, the sheriff, FBI and homeland security officials

Kurt Stoner is with the FBI in Oklahoma. He was one of the main speakers at the event. Stoner said events like this are vital, even for churches.

“Active shooters or mass killings seem to happen in just about any setting, unfortunately,” Stoner said. “Any time there’s a large gathering of any kind it’s going to be a target.”

Dozens of congregations were represented at the seminar. Church leaders listened intently to the speakers, hoping to walk away with a plan for keeping their congregations safe.

“If we can take bits and pieces and come up with criteria to make us a safer congregation,” Kenneth Williamson said. Williamson is with the East Side Church of Christ that meets just a few miles away, in Oklahoma City.

“We just want to make sure we take care of making our place a safe atmosphere,” said Greg Mikes with the Sunnylane Baptist Church in Midwest City.

Hagan said active shooter situations are something churches should prepare for in the same way they prepare for other emergencies.

“I was talking to a guy last Friday who said, ‘But the Bible says turn the other cheek.’ I asked, ‘Have you got a storm shelter?’ He said, ‘yeah.’ ‘Have you got a fire alarm?’ He said, ‘yeah.’ You lock your doors when you leave, but you’re telling me we don’t need to do anything to protect yourself and your Christian family?” Hagan said.

Law enforcement officials echo Hagan’s thoughts, pointing out that in today’s world we need to be prepared for any emergency.

“This is Oklahoma. We educate our kids from being real little of what happens when we have a tornado. We have fire drills and I think this is going to be one of those things we have to do with them.” Stoner said

Stoner said while not something anyone wants to prepare for, seminars like this are becoming more necessary. He said church leaders being proactive to gain this type of knowledge could ultimately save lives.

Filed under: National News Extras

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