Protecting people from attack: Churches gather for training in Sebring

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SEBRING, Ohio (WKBN) – A federal jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death this week for killing nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.

That attack and other shootings are making church leaders look at their own security.

Some churches fall under the category of “soft targets.” Those are buildings that draw a lot of people, but don’t have a lot of security. Think about Sunday mass at your church. A big crowd of people, and almost all facing away from the main entrance.

“They are not ready for the shock. They are not ready for the crisis. They are not ready for the attack,” said Barry Young, lead instructor with Strategos International.

About 20 local churches participated Friday in a security training seminar in Sebring. Representatives from four different parishes attended.

The training was organized by Deacon Lloyd Burt with Pine Lakes Christian Church.  He says by their nature, churches welcome people who are desperate and in need, but can make themselves vulnerable.

“We want to be open to them. We want to help them, but we also want to protect them and their children,” Burt said. “Most of this training is really focused to protecting your children’s area and making sure nothing happens to the children.”

Young teaches people about building a church security team. He says about 90 percent of Americans don’t have a church security team or a church security ministry.

“Public schools have a lock down procedure. Public schools have security plan, but guess who hasn’t changed? Churches haven’t changed,” Young said.

Along with church staff being trained, Young says parishioners need to be aware, too.

“Attackers and criminals aren’t looking for defenders. They are looking for victims. We tell people don’t be a good little victim,” Young said.

Young says there are three keys to preventing a violent attack in places like a church:

  1. Look out… For anything that looks suspicious or out of place.
  2. Get out… If something happens, have a plan to escape quickly.
  3. Take out… As a last resort, be prepared to take out a violent intruder.

Young says the biggest mistake people make is thinking it can’t happen to them.

“If you have a plan and don’t need it, then you are okay. But if you need a plan and don’t have a plan, that’s where the problem is at,” Young said.

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