By R.V. Baugus
The news came across my phone as I was driving to lunch after church on Sunday, December 29: Two parishioners killed by gunman at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement (near Fort Worth).
Here we go again. It was barely more than two years ago when a madman fatally shot 26 people and wounded 20 others during a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, near San Antonio. The murderer managed to leave the church and drive away but crashed in a field and died from three gunshot wounds and a fourth shot that was self-inflicted.
The difference between the two shooting might have had a similar number of deaths – if not greater – had not multiple members of the church security team responded immediately to the shots. Jack Wilson, 71, a former reserve deputy sheriff and a firearms instructor, was the only person to fire back and killed the shooter with one shot.
This is not a piece on gun control or politics. It is a piece on vigilance, awareness, preparation, and response for when such occasions occur – and they do occur in a matter of when and not if.
Our Mark Herrera does an incredible job and spends exhaustive hours hopscotching the country to speak to venues about life safety, situational awareness, active shooters, and so much more. This is an unabashed plug to say that if you have not touched base with Mark and IAVM to discuss having him address your staff, please consider doing so now. Just click here.
Mark’s presentation is often heard by more than venue personnel as many also bring in government leaders, police, fire, first responders, and more to understand just how serious these issues are in our world today.
Even though it was late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve and because Mark and I are such dedicated employees (hey, cut us some slack!), we chatted by phone to discuss the sad event at the church and just to talk some more about faith-based organizations when it comes to the balance between security and welcoming people to worship.
“We must become more vigilant on behavioral detection than the traditional security measures in place to protect others,” Mark would share later by email after gathering his thoughts. “Understanding behavioral patterns of conduct not conducive to an environment that leads a prudent person to reasonably believe that the behavior is outside of the baseline is what we should focus on. This should be followed up by a plan or action that one must immediately take to assure their safety and the safety of others.
“Many in the world today are consumed with their daily lives to the point that they fail to be situationally aware. Technology has consumed our attention and the threat can identify with those not aware of their environment. A threat wants to succeed in carrying out a violent act and needs a path of least resistance. Knowing what to look for and responding immediately can deter and effect an individual’s desire and ability to carry out a violent act.”
Mark then shared some advice that he offers at his venue training classes.
“The important thing to do is practice visualization and mental preparation in advance to build upon scenarios with an immediate response to avoid loop reset or the ability to orientate to a condition that was never in the planning phase. “Hesitation and complacency in the world today are not options.”
Scary thoughts, huh? Hesitation and complacency. How many of us go anywhere where the public assembles and even give fleeting thought to what COULD happen? I raise my own hand as a guilty party to that question. We just don’t think it can happen, but it can, and it does, even in what we consider the most safe and sacred of places, our houses of worship.
“We must continue to look beyond the traditional security measures and equip others with the ability to increase observational capabilities,” Mark concluded. “Condition inoculation by actually being involved, if survived, equips others to better prepare for future situations similar to the one encountered. “Mental preparation and visualization with at least three response objectives will build upon the subconscious mind and allow an individual to immediately respond to crisis.
“It’s about being fully committed to any potential situation.”
As we sadly continue to see in a world of evil.