Safety in our churches

From left, Deputy Terri Tolbert, Chief Deputy Mike Lambert, DA Steve Billy, Deputy Bill Green

It’s another of those times when I think, “Why are we even having this conversation?”

But there we were – sitting in the Escambia County High School auditorium, listening to deputies tell us how to be safe in church. In church.

Fact is, no institution, no building, no group of people – no place, no one is safe now. Not even our churches.

Chief Deputy Mike Lambert, Deputy Bill Green, Deputy Terri Tolbert and District Attorney Steve Billy presented Safety & Security in Your Place of Worship Tuesday, April 3.

They didn’t give us any ironclad “do this, do that” procedures. As Deputy Lambert said, “This is your church. This is your congregation. We are here to make recommendations.”

He talked about locking the church doors after the service begins, adding that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we want the church doors open for someone who may be sincerely looking for a church service. And then there are the members who are late.

“You can get to work on time,” he said. “Get to church on time.”

They talked about planning ideas, safety and security teams, patrols, and more.

They talked about scenarios – some that recently played out in Escambia County and elsewhere. And what-if scenarios – a 12-year-old with a gun, not impossible, perhaps not even improbable now. An armed teacher facing an armed student, maybe a student he/she taught in previous years, now a teen with a gun.

There were questions from the audience – everyone trying to figure out the best way to be secure and keep others secure – with or without weapons.

And then it came down to the bottom line – when Deputy Lambert said, “You have to decide what you can and can’t do.”

We may think we know what we would do. But unless we are faced with the situation, we don’t know. I pray none of us ever have to find out.

About 60 attended the meeting. The presenters were well-versed in their subjects, but they too are looking for answers.

Deputy Lambert said people ask him what we can do about school shootings. He’s honest to say he doesn’t have the answers, but wishes he did.

Deputy Green’s presentation was Plan, Prepare and Protect. He stressed the possibility of forming security teams.

Several other roles of a security team were discussed – escorting offerings, medical emergencies, fire alarms, evacuation, severe weather, electrical outages, bomb threats, confrontational person, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping.

Steve Billy talked about sentencing guidelines that keep some people on the street who should be behind bars, stolen weapons, stand your ground law, and more.

Lambert said they will come to your church and talk to your congregation about safety and security. He even offered to take members to a shooting range and work with them.

News photo by Ditto Gorme