There's been a spike in active shooter training at Oklahoma churches


Churches in Oklahoma are taking action. The number of congregations training for active shooters is up more than 500% since the deadly church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and that's just for training offered by Oklahoma Homeland Security.

Wilmont Place Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City, is one of the churches that has hosted a training session since the shooting.

"We knew they were going to be dealing with some areas we needed to work through and we needed to improve some of our policies," said senior pastor Shawn Nichols.

The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security will offer free training to houses of worship, so long as there are more than 25 people in attendance, and so long as the host-church invites other churches from all denominations to join.

Jim McBride organizes the training sessions.

"We talk about the old proverb about teaching them to fish, instead of giving them a fish," he said.

McBride said there are three elements to being prepared for an active shooter situation:

  1. Mindset
  2. Emergency operation planning
  3. Vulnerability assessments.

When it comes to mindset, McBride teaches what church members should be looking out for, including signs to recognize in people at the church.

"A little over a third of the shooters are from internal of it. So, if it's somebody who goes to the church, a normal member of your congregation, and starts having issues, it's a little easier to see some of the red flags with those people," McBride said.

He teaches churches tips like locking doors once service starts, posting people by the doors to let late-comers in, but keeping potential threats out. He also tells churches to take advantage of any members who may be current or retired law enforcement officers.

McBride has had a busy two months. He said more and more churches are requesting presentations from him.

"Most churches had the 'it's not going to happen here' mindset before the shooting down in Texas," he said.

On November 5th, in Southerland Springs, a shooter stormed a sanctuary in the middle of Sunday service. He killed 26 people.

Active shooter training for churches, has been something long-offered at Oklahoma Homeland Security, but few had taken advantage, McBride said. Last year before the shooting McBride made presentations at two churches. Since the shooting, he's been to twelve. Each presentation has included five to 25 congregations.

"I think it's a little disheartening to think that we do have to plan about what we're going to do," he said. "We do have to consider having armed people, inside the congregation, inside the church in case it does happen; in case all of the things we do to prevent it from happening have failed and it does happen."

Pastor Nichols said his church had a security team in place before the shooting.

"Sutherland Springs didn't start the process for us, but it surely heightened the process for us," he said.

Since November, and since the training with Homeland Security, Wilmont Place has added many new safety procedures and made formal plans.

"We have some safety procedures in place that we want the entire church to be aware of, and then we have some safety procedures in place that we don't want the entire church to be aware of," Nichols said.

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