Taylor Hayes is the former publisher of the Ky New Era with more than 40-years experience. Working with the media requires understanding what the reporter needs are and what your role and responsibilities are. Mr. Hayes provides insights in this 7:30 video. #PayItForward #CrisisLeadership #CrisisManagement #MediaRelations #Workingwithmedia #UnitedAmerica #TeamTybeeStrong @DoctorDarryl http://www.ldarrylarmstrong.com FB – ArmstrongPublicRelations
Bring something of value to your customers and employees during a crisis. This value can be emotional, physical, or financial. It can be hope, reassurance, leadership, peace of mind for a given moment. People will remember what you do and how you make them feel not what you say.
#crisiscommunications #crisisleadership #crisismanagement #payitforward
Interview with Jim McCamy, a 30-year crisis, and emergency management professional provides you perspectives and insights from his experience and to update folks on what is going on in North Alabama. We have been fortunate to have built a successful consulting business in the past 25-years. The crisis communications and planning advice at this site may help you as a small business, or non-profit that is struggling to communicate with your employees and customers. If you find it helpful, please share it through your social media sites. Let’s all, “pay it forward.” http://www.ldarrylarmstrong.com – L. Darryl and Kay Armstrong #UnitedAmerica @DoctorDarryl #Crisiscommunications #Crisisleadership #Crisismanagement
Planning for Emergencies and Crises at Your Church
In our last column, we discussed the phases necessary to develop your church security plan.
- Develop a planning team.
- Facilitate a discussion and risk assessment using the Collaborative Informed Consent model.
- Draft your goals and objectives.
To write and use your plan, use the six specific steps explained below.
Consult with Community Partners
“Without prophetic vision, the people shall perish …” Proverbs 29:18
All planning begins with a vision. Your team should develop the vision and understand it well enough to easily explain it to any congregant.
A “shared vision” is critical to achieving desired results.
One church’s vision was: “When you come to church here, you will feel safe; our ‘sheepdogs’ are protecting our flock.”
Engage local emergency management, first responders, and law enforcement partners. Explain what you want to accomplish, and ask them to join your planning group.
Seek out “fence-line” neighbors who may share a property line with the church. Ask them to help you “keep an eye out” on unusual activity and immediately report it to authorities and the church contact. Encourage them that if they “see something, say something.”
The active shooter in Texas parked his vehicle, walked 50 plus yards dressed in battle gear and carrying a rifle before spraying rounds of fire into two sides of the building. Then he entered the church. The church’s parking lot is the first and one of the most important locations to have “eyes and ears”.
Risk Assessment Considerations
The planning committee must consider threats and prioritize them. For example, tornadoes are likely to happen in the spring or summer. Consider what damage could occur, how much time is available to warn the congregants, and how long the threat could last.
Consider the “after-shocks” and follow-on effects of the threat. Robberies, assaults, and active shooters could turn your church into a crime scene, which means it could be cordoned off for days, maybe weeks, and the media demands will be incessant.
Setting Goals and Desired Outcomes
Prioritize each threat from high to low. Set goals (general statements about the desired outcome) for your highest priorities.
An objective is a step to take to achieve the goal. If your goal is to prevent fires, objectives could be providing fire prevention training to cooks, ensuring the church has available fire extinguishers and that congregants know how to use them as well as an evacuation plan, if necessary.
Developing and using table-top scenarios
Specific plan scenarios should be outlined based on priority. What do you do in the event of an active shooter, tornado or medical emergency? The responses and responders will be different for each.
Consider length of response time (particularly in rural areas), who in the church will make the decisions, and what the courses of action are.
Use facilitated table-top exercises with your committee to develop specific action steps. Look under “Resources” at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com for an example. If your church membership has first-aid responders who attend regularly, involve them and explain how they can help.
Plan Preparation, Review and Approval
Determine courses of action for each high priority threat (include active shooter scenarios). Compare the costs and benefits. Present the draft of the written plan to the organization’s leadership for approval or changes.
Plan Implementation and Maintenance
Share the plan before finalizing with a review group of your community partners, emergency responders, and law enforcement. Get their feedback and include all genders and ages as third-party insights are extremely valuable.
Communications Internally and Externally
Disseminate understandable, concise information to the internal and external audiences. Use the church website or social media to push out the information. Inform your local media. If the church has a website for members, this information can be shared there.
Choose volunteers who meet your criteria and who agree to train. Use table-top exercises to hold practice drills. Review and update the plan at least every two-years or if there are changes to buildings, policies or personnel.
Finally, arrange for crisis communications and media relations training for at least three members of the team, In the event of an active shooter, your pastor, deacons, and critical leadership will need it.
These columns share the expertise and ideas gleaned from our experience and those involved in church security. We challenge you and your leadership to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship — safety and security for those who come to worship.
Interested persons can find additional information including a video introduction on church security, podcasts, and materials designed to inform and educate at www.churchsafetyministry.com. A series of webinars are under development, and those interested in attending these online seminars can register at the website to receive announcements on dates.
(L. Darryl Armstrong Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC. His firm provides crisis communications and prevention consulting services and training to clients nation-wide. He has more than 40-years of experience in helping clients prepare for emergencies and crisis. A graduate of Murray State University in communications and behavioral psychology and the Executive Security Institute with an emphasis in security planning, he holds a doctoral degree in neuro-linguistics. He is available for limited speaking engagements and consulting. 1.888.340.2006, email@example.com and www.ldarrylarmstrong.com.)
A OneNewsNow.com survey of 4000 churches in 2008 found that 75% of them had no security plans!
“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
“More guns are not the simple answer,” says Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org.
After the November Texas shooting, many small churches reacted by seeking a qualified Carry Concealed Weapons holder. A reaction is not a church safety and security plan.
Assessing your church’s vulnerabilities is the foundational step in understanding what your risks are and how to prepare.
Become Proactive Instead of Reactive in the Process
A thoughtfully written, communicated, and exercised plan of action for church safety and security is a much better and safer solution and it begins with a facilitated discussion with your congregation.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises identifying threats, developing goals, and planning courses of action. Then implement, review and consistently maintain your plan.
Take into account your geographic region. Are you subject to natural disasters like the New Madrid Fault in Western Kentucky or hurricanes at Tybee Island, Georgia? Perhaps you worship at a church in tornado alley, or you are subject to fires or floods.
Active shooters, disgruntled congregants, angry church members, sexual predators and hate groups are always possible threats.
Churches are “Soft Targets”
The American Crime Prevention Institute notes that criminals see houses of worship as “soft targets” for theft, robbery, embezzlement, vandalism, arson, and violence from hate crimes. They are “soft targets” because many don’t have security systems, are meagerly staffed, leave their doors unlocked, and never think of robbery when taking up an offering.
Jimmy Meeks, who retired after 35 years in law enforcement and has been a minister for 44 years, is a consultant with Sheepdog Seminars for Churches, a training firm focused on teaching church security measures. He notes that sexual abuse can and does occur in the church, citing 23 sexual crimes reported at Protestant Churches every day.
Sadly, the recent Texas church shooting points out the vulnerability of congregations when it comes to active shooters seeking revenge and the importance of being prepared even in a small country congregation.
Three Initial Planning Phases
Regardless of the size of your church, now is the time to implement a six-step emergency planning process starting with three general phases.
The first phase is to form a collaborative planning “ministry safety and security” team. Collaborative teams are made up of congregant volunteers who are willing to “co-labor” and get the job done. Choose this team wisely. We will discuss criteria for such teams in a future column.
This team should consist of your pastor, deacons, principal leadership, local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, an attorney, and your insurance agent. Others to consider are people with private security, teaching, counseling, and crisis communications experience.
Whenever possible, your team should have a right mix of genders and ages on this team because people in their 60s will see issues differently than those in their 20s.
In the second phase, facilitate your planning dialogue and risk assessment using the Collaborative, Informed Consent model. This model starts with the premise that the team “agrees” to provide their consent to the plan because they collaborate to design it and become well informed about its use.
Kay Armstrong, a senior consultant at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates, explains, “This engagement model uses a structured facilitation process that allows for a candid discussion about the pros and cons of having a plan for church safety and security. Participants can freely talk about their fears, current issues, and the perceived risks. This process helps them realize the possible emergency scenarios that could face the church; how to prioritize them; and how to develop options to handle them.”
Once the numerous situations are listed, discussed, vetted and prioritized, the committee can develop well-defined goals and objectives, which is the third phase.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and from experts in church safety and security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vital role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security – and to realize that just carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is not enough.
Find additional information including an introductory video on church safety and security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. anyone interested in participating in a pilot webinar can register at our website for future presentation dates.
Churches, like any other businesses in today’s environment, must take steps to ensure the safety of their congregations.
Because emergencies happen to all businesses, a thoughtful and resilient emergency plan of action is prudent.
As of December 19, 108 people were killed in churches in 2017.
When an active shooter on November 5, 2017, killed 26 people and wounded 20 at a rural Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, media, public, and political concerns reached a new high.
This church attack was the deadliest active shooting by an individual in Texas history and the fifth-deadliest in the United States. It is the most devastating active shooting in an American place of worship in our history.
Such events disappear quickly from the front pages of mainstream media, and many people, including pastors and congregants, resort to thinking, “it can’t happen to us.” Hopefully, it won’t.
Although the chances that your congregants will be involved in such an attack are slim, church leadership must accept the possibility and plan for this and all other possible emergencies.
Having worked in the field of crisis communications, prevention, and management for 40-years, I believe in and practice with my clients “ praying for the best while preparing for the worse.”
Organizations that do so will survive and recover; those that don’t suffer severe and often irreparable consequences.
This series of columns will provide insight into the questions that church leaders and pastors must consider as they plan for the safety of their congregants.
Planning for the necessary personnel to respond, the communication of the event, training church personnel, and the event follow-up should cover issues such as:
- Why houses of worship need an emergency response plan and the types of emergencies to include.
- The importance of a facilitated dialogue with leadership and congregants about developing an action plan that includes law enforcement, emergency response, legal and insurance personnel a process we call “Collaborative Informed Consent.”
- Considerations of hiring professional security personnel or using volunteers, including a “talent inventory” from your congregants.
- Conducting a risk analysis and evaluation of your church facility, parking lot, and personnel.
- Why your institution is a “soft target” and how to “harden” it by quickly achieving “soft” and “hard” lockdowns.
- Having trained “screeners” and the options for action they must take when an incident develops.
- Understanding your internal and external communication needs and venues before, during, and after a crisis.
- Considering non-lethal and lethal options.
- How to gather intelligence and ensure confidentiality.
- How to protect children and seniors who are the most vulnerable members of your congregation.
- Understanding what an active shooter is and how they think.
- The times of day and the days of the week your church is most vulnerable.
- The role of active or retired military, law enforcement, and concealed carry permit holders on your security team.
- What you must communicate to your congregation about your plan and what they must do in the event of an emergency, including an active shooter.
- Whether you should post signage, and, if so, what should it say?
- Establishing proactive establishment of post-event counseling and recovery assistance.
- Teaching self-awareness and using the “see something, say something” strategy.
- Pros and cons of “Run, hide and fight.”
- The need for “Stop the Bleed” first-aid kits and training.
These columns share the expertise gleaned from our four decades of experience in crisis planning and management and those involved in church security nationwide. We challenge you to explore what has become a vitally important role in today’s houses of worship – safety and security and not just to conclude that carrying a weapon in a house of prayer is all you have to do to protect your congregants.
Interested persons can find additional information including an introductory video on church security, podcasts, and downloadable materials at www.ldarrylarmstrong.com. A pilot webinar is under development, and those interested in participating in this pilot can register at our website to receive announcements of future presentation dates.
(L. Darryl Armstrong Ph.D. is the principal at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates LLC, a firm providing crisis communications and consulting training nation-wide. Dr. Armstrong, who holds a doctoral degree in neuro-linguistics, graduated from Murray State University in communications and behavioral psychology and the Executive Security Institute with an emphasis in security planning. For limited speaking engagements and consulting, contact him at 1.888.340.2006, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ldarrylarmstrong.com.)