Crossroads Church hosts active shooter defense seminar

From top, Ed Lower, of Jersey Shore, head trustee of Hillview Wesleyan Church of Flemington, demonstrates on Capt. Jody Miller, what he would do, if possible, if someone approached the pastor of his church in an aggressive manner. Mark Trueman, with UPMC, shows the audience the bleed kit that EMS use in the field. John French, outreach coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security, shows Bill Carlucci, of Loyalsock Township, and Parish Council with the Church of St. AnneÕs, the Safeguarding House of Worship app, and how to begin the process of building an emergency plan. A separate free app, at left, is available to help say something if suspicious activity is detected. Below, Trueman takes questions from the audience. JUDI PINKERTON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent

In recent years, the public has seen an increase in shootings in the workplace, shopping centers, schools and now churches. To prevent churchgoers from becoming victims, Jersey Shore’s Crossroads Church hosted the House of Worship Workshop recently.

The workshop was led by personnel from the Williamsport Bureau of Police and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with other first responders from Lycoming County and the area in attendance. Roughly 200 people attended.

“I am very excited to see this many people stepping up,” said Capt. Jody Miller, of Williamsport police.

Jason Borowicz, Crossroads associate pastor, said the event was about saving lives.

“The Lord would not want us to take a victim mindset,” Borowicz said. “We believe empowerment comes from knowledge and that gives us confidence. We trust in Jesus, but God does not want us to be victims.”

As a means of empowering the attendees, four seminars were held with discussions on first aid, how to spot a suspicious person, gun laws and whether a church should hire a private security firm.

The importance of planning

Miller, along with Jason Bolt, an agent with city police, stressed the importance of having both a response plan and a team in place for an emergency.

“Some of the things I hear in the news (such as shootings in schools, workplace violence or persons driving vehicles into crowds) keep me up at night,” Miller said. He added that murder is nothing new. “Let’s go all the way back to the book of Genesis. It took from Genesis Chapter 1 to Chapter 4 to detail the first homicide.”

Miller said, with a plan, the chances of survival increase.

The first thing a church should do, he said, is come up with plan including security codes and a means of accessing electricity and water. These details should be in a format that can be transferred to police when they arrive on scene.

The second item he suggested was having a response team put together. Miller suggested looking for people with medical training or a military background who could serve on such a team or offer advice.

Third, Miller said, was to have a plan and practice the plan regularly and make changes as necessary. He encouraged churches to not only plan for an active shooter situation but also for medical emergencies, weather events, or children in the middle of tumultuous custody battles. Bolt added that 54 percent of shootings are over domestic situations such as a relationship breakup or a custody issue.

Creating a plan and practicing it will make a church safer, Miller said.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, “An individual actively 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.”

Using ALICE

Bolt said the best way to minimize a situation is it to engage the ALICE method, which means alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. These are not in any particular order, but are avenues people can take to keep themselves alive.

Bolt said alert means for one to accept that one is in a dangerous situation. Lockdown is for when evacuation is not possible; find a place to hide and barricade a door. Inform means to be able to say to another person or an outside police agency what the shooter is doing in real time. Counter means to do anything one can to distract or obstruct the shooter. And evacuate means to leave the area.

Counter is now the way to deal with an active shooter, according to Bolt.

Bolt and Miller demonstrated that an active shooter needs to aim, get a firm stance and fire. Should anyone throw anything at the shooter, that person would be distracted and have to recalibrate.

“Now (Bolt) is well trained in weapons,” said Miller. “But if I were to start throwing Bibles, iPads or anything else at him, he would be unable to accurately shoot his weapon.”

Bolt mentioned the June 12, 2016, Orlando, Florida, night club shooting. The clubgoers were probably holding drinks and cellphones and had any of them thrown them at the gunman it could have been a different story.

Shootings happen everywhere

“We teach the ALICE method in schools and I endeavor to train every

one in this,” he said. “(Active shooter situations) don’t just occur in schools but everywhere.”

For churches that did not send attendees, Bolt encouraged them to contact their local police department and ask for assistance in creating an active shooter response plan.

James Cratty, a representative from the Department of Homeland Security, said he will partner larger churches that have gone through this program to mentor smaller churches that were not in attendance.

“We try to get other churches to partner with others to help them out,” Cratty said. “My passion is for non-profit organizations to receive the security they need, because our goal with the DHS is to provide the tools for churches to protect themselves.

“Churchgoers do not have to accept what is going on,” he said.

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