In a way, I regret having to write this because I never dreamed (and perhaps neither did you) that a person intent on creating terror in our lives would slaughter nine people in a small Bible study class in the basement of a church in Charleston, South Carolina. But in a way, I am pleased to write this because I attended a training hastily convened by the Suffolk County (New York) Police Department on “Protecting Your Religious and Communal Institutions” through “Security Best Practices.” The mosque, synagogue and church clergy members and lay leaders at the meeting were also educated in “Operation Safeguard” sponsored by the New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services Office of Counter Terrorism.
I learned at the training that while it is unnecessary to be overly alarmed, it is very important to be prepared by having a few plans in place in the very unlikely event of an incident occurring in our/your church.
I now know some simply, effective and inexpensive things we can do to protect and notify our congregation of possible threats against our church. Additionally, we have registered with the Suffolk County Police Department to receive immediate notification of situations as they develop (for example, an event happened and the suspect is still at large).
Once again, I left the training not particularly alarmed, although sad but reassured by what I learned. I extend my appreciation to the Suffolk County Police Department for creating and hosting this event. Additionally, I have been an active member of the Suffolk County Police/Clergy Council since its inception a few months ago and shall remain so.