The Importance of Pre-Planned Responses.

The recent tragic, deadly shooting in a Cincinnati bank building is a poignant reminder of the need to consider the use of cover and concealment when confronting an active killer.  In a newly posted article on the subject, Larry McVay, a retired FBI agent and FSN Board Member, highlights the need for situational awareness of cover and concealment when engaging an active threat.  Video of the brief engagement of the unflinching, textbook response of Cincinnati police officers underscores the critical importance of tactical training and pre-planned responses.

Watch the video here

Just over six months ago, Faith Safety Network launched its unique website to begin serving the Colorado faith community with free safety and security information as well as the FSN Alert System.  The response to both has been extremely positive.  Yet, there’s more to be done to protect houses of worship in the increasingly threatening environment we face today.

To that end, our next goal is to launch the FSN Training Academy to provide relevant, in-depth training on key topics involving safety and security, such as identifying pre-attack indicators, security team legal liability, insurance pitfalls, and child-safety best practices, among others.   Course content from FSN seminars would be uploaded to our website for churches across Colorado to access, free of charge.

Our goal has been to keep FSN resources free to the faith community.  To do this, however, we do need a few more partners willing to support financially FSN’s vision.  We are operating on a very small budget but need more resources to take FSN to the next level.

If you share in our vision to serve the faith community, please consider making a donation.  You can do so our our website.  We also welcome select sponsors who may have products and services of value to our members.  For more information on how you might support our mission, please contact Dave@faithsafetycolorado.org

We are grateful for your prayers and support of Faith Safety Network’s mission.

Some of you will remember that in 1961, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to Cuba’s request to place nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter a future U.S. invasion attempt.

Publicly, the USSR denied any presence or buildup of these missiles in Cuba. A disbelieving President Kennedy, in October of 1962, ordered an Air Force U-2 spy plane to fly over Cuba and take photographs to prove them wrong. The presence of medium– and long-range ballistic missiles was confirmed. In response, the United States announced it would not allow offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and missiles already in place had to be dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union.

The Soviet government blinked, ending a tense, 13-day standoff. It was U.S. vigilance – in the form of a U-2 that helped thwart the potential impending nuclear threat 90 miles from our shores.

The importance of vigilance is no less important, albeit on a smaller scale, to houses of worship.

Houses of worship are under attack on a weekly basis. They face vandalism, theft, assault, abuse of children, and, in extreme situations, shootings resulting in injury or death.

You must not allow this to happen where you worship, and the following steps can help you reduce the odds of having these things happen.

Step 1: Measuring your interactions with those who come to worship

Safety teams, security teams, sentries, and others dedicated to protecting the congregants should be listening more and talking less. It is easy to get caught up in distracting conversations with those who walk in. Of course, it natural for congregants to approach you and be friendly, have a conversation and tell you what has been happening with them. To avoid being distracted from your observing activities, you need to measure your conversation and keep it to a minimum. You can be friendly, shake hands, and exchange very brief pleasantries, but the more time you spend focused on them, the less time you are vigilant to surroundings.

Step 2: Recognizing and dealing with suspicious people

Suspicious people can often be identified by their behavior. While no one behavioral activity is proof that someone is planning to act out, there are some factors that can help you assess whether someone may pose a threat. Watch for the following:

  • Nervousness, nervous glancing, or other signs of mental discomfort/being ill-at-ease. This may include sweating, staring forward inappropriately, repeating inappropriate prayer or muttering. It could also include repeated entrances and exits from the building with no focus.
  • Inappropriate, oversize, loose fitting clothing (for example; a heavy overcoat on a warm day)
  • Keeping hands in their pockets or cupping their hands (as in handling a triggering device)Constantly favoring one side of their body or one area of the body as if wearing something unusual/uncomfortable (e.g. a holster). Pay attention to someone constantly adjusting their waistbands, ankles or other clothing. Projected angles under clothing may be indicative of a firearm, especially at the waist or ankle.
  • Carrying packages. It is recommended that you approach these individuals and ask them about the contents. You need to decide if you are going to allow them in or offer storage at some appropriate area. You can ask to inspect the contents. If they refuse, ask them to take the bag or box back to their vehicle.
  • Someone on the outside should be observing people as they exit their car and see how they are adjusting their clothing and how they are approaching the building. Look for signs that they may be carrying a weapon.

The most important step is just to be observant. For example, the Israelis have become aware that some suicide bombers shaved off their beards prior to committing their acts, thus leaving untanned skin and unusual facial tans lines. While I wouldn’t expect this particular event at a house of worship, it just goes to show how methodic some actors are when they are carrying out an evil mission.

Step 3: Reporting and Communicating

The first part of vigilance is observation, and the second part involves reporting it. Seeing something without reporting it could bring grave consequences. There should be someone in a leadership position that can take the information and make immediate decisions on how to proceed, whether to call law enforcement or handle it themselves.

It is possible that the individual you are suspicious of could be totally safe. They may have Parkinson’s disease; they may have some other disability, and/or they might be wearing a prosthetic device. They could be intoxicated or taking prescription or illicit drugs. It’s a chance you must take when encountering others who arouse suspicion.

But remember this important fact: Your vigilance is like an early warning system. It is necessary to anticipate and prepare for acts against your flock or property. When people know that you are watching, it lessens your institution’s reputation as a soft target, and a potential wrongdoer may as a result decide to go elsewhere to commit crimes.

Dave Smith

Executive Director

Faith Safety Network

The age of technology is changing the way we connect with law enforcement,
and while that is nothing new, you may be unaware of a new initiative spearheaded by
Arapahoe County. ArapAlert is a new portal that allows community members to
subscribe to an emergency mailing list called CodeRED Community Notification
System. This allows law enforcement to email subscribers about important and critical
information ranging from severe weather reports, police activities, and missing persons.
Instead of waiting for news from your local news channel, information is sent directly to
you. It is the ideal reverse 911. The new program allows for agencies to call, text, or
email multiple individuals and/or businesses to warn them of dangerous suspects,
floods, chemical spills, or fires.
ArapAlert pulls contact information from two different sources: landlines, listed
and unlisted, and Comcast Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP*) numbers. If you have a
bundled internet/phone/ television service, you probably have a VoIP line. If you have
neither a VoIP nor a landline, you can freely opt into the service.
Through the app, you can also specify any locations that you frequent in
Arapahoe County. Specializing your office, child’s school or even favorite coffee shop,
you will be alerted about any emergency activities that occurs within the vicinity of the
specialized location.
ArapAlert works with any CodeRED account. If you already have one for another
city, programing Arapahoe County should be relatively easy. Below is the official site
that can answer any other questions and concerns.
If you’re outside of Arapahoe County, fingers crossed that it’ll make its way
toward you.

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/ace911/arapalert-citizen-notifications

In a May 25, 2018, article in National Review, David French reviews a recent FBI report on active shooters showing that an increasing number were thwarted or lessened by an armed citizen (links below).  There’s no escaping the sad fact we’re facing a disturbing trend of active shootings in this country.  But, encouragingly, as French notes, armed citizens are part of the solution, not the problem.

There were 50 active-shootings in 2016 and 2017 (i.e., one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area).  These incidents resulted in 221 people killed and 943 casualties.  These numbers are up significantly from an annual average of 11.4 incidents between 2000 and 2013.

Interestingly, the number that also increased was interventions by an armed citizen in 2016-2017 period:

“From 2000 to 2013, only five times did an armed citizen (who was not a police officer) exchange fire with the shooter.  Three times the citizen killed the shooter, once the shooter committed suicide, and once the shooter was wounded.  Fast forward to 2016-2017.  In that time period, six armed citizens confronted active shooters.  They stopped the shooting four times (in one case, the shooter fled to a different site and continued shooting, and in the other the armed citizen was wounded before he could stop the shooting,” according to French.

For houses of worship, these numbers should give renewed focus on “minding the gap” — the interval from when an active shooting begins until law enforcement arrives to engage the shooter.  This critical void can be filled by highly trained and vigilant armed safety team members.  The reality is that police officers are not likely to be in the immediate vicinity when an active shooting starts.  So the gap must be filled by trained citizens if the disturbing trend line of active shooters is to be bent downward any time soon.

https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-us-2016-2017.pdf/view

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/fbi-active-shooter-data-shows-importance-of-armed-citizens/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Saturday%202018-05-26&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives

Since the launch of Faith Safety Network’s website last December, we have been working to implement FSN’s Alert System. We wanted to update you on our progress. We are operational. Fortunately, there has not been a need to send out an alert, but we are prepared to do so should the need arise. FSN Alerts are designed to provide timely, pertinent information about incidents or suspicious activity that has occurred at a church or other religious venue in Colorado. Information provided to us will be vetted and shared with appropriate law enforcement entities prior to it being disseminated to the FSN Alert member list. We have met with key law-enforcement officials about the FSN Alert System and have received encouraging support and feedback. We will also be receiving information from law enforcement that, when appropriate, will be disseminated through an FSN Alert.

The effectiveness of FSN Alerts depends, in a large part, on member partners reporting suspicious, concerning, or criminal activity to FSN. Please share this with other faith groups’ safety and security leadership who may be interested in joining FSN’s Alert System.

 

Please report the following types of information to FSN for review:

  • crimes, whether against a person or property
  • suspicious activity, such as unwelcome visitors who appear to be engaged in inappropriate or suspicious activity
  • individuals trying to gain inappropriate access to children’s programs, including those who have been denied access due having the status of a registered sex offender
  • persons who disrupt a worship service or otherwise interfere with the activities of a house of worship or make threats against leadership or the institution
  • other concerning behavior or activities that appear to be out-of-place
Photos and/surveillance footage of individuals involved in these activities are critical, as is the license plate numbers of vehicles. (Remember, anyone entering onto your facility’s property may be photographed/videoed given its public nature.)
When in doubt, please err on the side of reporting an incident or concerning behavior.
Promptly send reports to: info@faithsafetycolorado.org
We will treat all reports confidentially and not disclose the identities of those reporting the information.
We appreciate your assistance in our goal of protecting houses of worship. For more information about FSN, please visit our website: www.faithsafetycolorado.org
Thank you,
Dave Smith
Executive Director
Faith Safety Network

 

It’s with much excitement that I announce the launch of the Faith Safety Network (FSN).  This unique, nonprofit collaborative has been in the works for many months, being built by an experienced slate of contributors, safety experts, and board members.  Our shared goal is to serve the entire Colorado faith community that contributes so much to our state.

FSN seeks to be a go-to source for free, valuable safety and security information for churches and other houses of worship.  Whether your place of worship is starting a safety or security team, or interested in upgrading an existing program, we are ready to help with pertinent and practical website content.

Our plan is to update the website, designed to be user friendly – no log in is required.  We will also be sending out periodic FSN Updates regarding events and training, as well as safety tips.  To receive these updates, you will need to sign up on the website.

We hope that you will find the information on FSN’s website useful.  We very much welcome your candid feedback on the content, and solicit your requests to address specific topics and issues.  We recognize that there are many experts in the faith safety arena and hope to incorporate their wealth of knowledge and experience going forward.

Another unique feature of FSN will be its Alert System, which will provide to members, time-sensitive and relevant information about incidents and suspicious activity occurring at religious institutions in Colorado.  Instead of a general threat reminder with little value, FSN Alerts will provide specific first-hand information observed by member institutions.  Past alerts by other local safety coalitions has led to the arrest of several criminals who were targeting area churches and helped thwart other incidents.  We hope that an expanded, state-wide Alert network will be more beneficial with ever-increasing threats to the faith community.

We also realize that not every church has the funding to hire a security expert to review their needs or implement a program.  That is a key reason we created FSN’s website to be a free resource.  However, to continue to provide original, cutting-edge information, we hope for support (both financial and in-kind) from the Colorado faith community.  FSN is currently an all-volunteer nonprofit with a very low overhead.

Our heart is to help foster safer places of worship in Colorado that others may worship in peace.

Sincerely,

Dave Smith

Executive Director