How concerned are churches about security?
Recently a Texas church ordered a bulletproof pulpit from a Missouri company that makes lecterns for the federal government.
“Their fear was that an active shooter would come in and shoot the place,” said Paul Alexander, founder of Executive Wood Products in Sullivan, Mo., which makes anti-ballistic lecterns.
What they feared did happen at another church in Texas. A shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Nov. 5 left 26 dead and 20 wounded. That same day, a shooting at a church in Fresno, California left two dead. A shooting at a church in Antioch, Tennessee on Sept. 24 killed one and left several injured.
More than 91 people have been killed in 22 church-related shootings since 1999.
With three fatal shootings in 2017, this has been the deadliest year for killings at U.S. churches. It has been a recurring problem, from seven dead at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Texas in 1999 to nine killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
The recent Texas shooting has churches nationwide reviewing their security policies to see if there are precautions they can take to prevent attacks against churchgoers.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is offering safety awareness training to area churches.
“In light of incidents we have seen in other areas of our country we want to insure we are as prepared as we can be here,” said Sheriff Mike Hale. “My prayer is that the training is highly attended and effective but never ever needed.”
A similar program by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office last month drew about 1,000 people and forced them to move to a larger venue.
But how far will churches go for a sense of safety?
“We’ve gotten a lot of interest,” said Alexander, the bullet-proof pulpit maker, who advises churches, recruiting stations and courthouses on how to increase security through anti-ballistic furniture. “I think safe havens are really important. It can be anti-ballistic pews, anti-ballistic lecterns, active shooting preparedness planning.”
The anti-ballistic lecterns, desks, wall panels and pews are mostly used in political settings and courthouses, but they work in churches too, Alexander said.
“If we build an anti-ballistic pew, you couldn’t tell it,” Alexander said.
Church members can be taught how to use safe havens in the event of an active shooter, he said.
“There would need to be some way for the congregation to know where they can go,” he said.
“A lot of churches are ramping up their security,” said Tina Siebenman, vice president of Executive Wood Products. “You can do it with a basic lectern and a couple of pews. You can do a ballistic-resistant lectern the pastor can hide behind. You don’t have to make every pew anti-ballistic. You can strategically stagger them. If an active shooter walks in, you can hide behind them. We’re looking for a way to retrofit pews. They want to keep their church pews they’ve had for 80 years.”
Alexander also recommends rolling bulletproof panels.
“For recruiting stations, we’re doing anti-ballistic panels and they’re mobile, 4-foot-by-six-foot panels on mobile casters, either wood paneled or fabric, and you can put it wherever you want,” he said. “You could roll that up to that person. You could retreat behind it. We’ve got 184 in production. They weigh 300 pounds apiece. They just look like a panel that you would put posters on.”
Full story at Brinkwire.