FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH)–If a violent intruder stepped into your church, would you be prepared to help save lives?
This is the question officials in Fairfield County posed to residents.
Hundreds of church pastors, ushers, deacons and just plain members came to a workshop in Lancaster tonight at the Fairfield Christian Church not to worship, but to look for answers to a question that has been plaguing the country since earlier this summer, when a man is alleged to have gone into a South Carolina church and murdered nine parishioners.
It’s a concept that would have been unthinkable not that long ago: what to do if your place of worship becomes a battleground.
Tonight, members from at least 60 churches from Fairfield county and as far as Columbus came to hear what to do when the unthinkable happens.
“An active shooter is no different than an active tornado,” said Frank Longo, who was attending the workshop. “You have to have a plan and I think that’s why all these people are here. They want to develop a plan to do the right thing.”
Everything from armed guards to an unarmed group of volunteers to a evacuation plan was discussed.
Experts say that, no matter what the plan is…have a plan.
With nearly 500 children attending school at Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, Pastor Ken Mulpas says he just wants to make sure everyone is safe.
“For the past several months we’ve been talking about how can we improve security, so that we can put in place safe guards so that nothing tragic happens here,” said Mulpas.
“For us to think that things are going to get worse that’s pretty hard to accept. So we’re not going to give in to the culture and to the evils of the day. We’re going to do our best to try and make things better and spread the good news of Jesus.”
It is very frustrating, confusing and sad reality that is now part of our reality: that a church could be a killing ground.
“Whoever thought we would have to do these kind of educational things at schools for staff and students?” asked Lieutenant Alex Lape with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office. “Now we’re at churches.”
There is no one plan that is right for all churches. Some are large enough to hire security. Some are small enough that everyone will know everyone. But all need to at least talk about it and discuss what to do when the unthinkable is real.
“We always took for granted that God would protect us when we came to the doors of the church, we’re understanding now he may call us home a little bit sooner” said Jeremy Sharp, the police chief of Buchtel.
This program is called Church Response To Emergency Situation training (C.R.E.S.T) and has been done by law enforcement agencies throughout Ohio.
Tuesday’s C.R.E.S.T workshop in Fairfield County was one of the first large-scale training events to happen since the tragedy where nine people were shot and killed during a bible study session in Charleston, South Carolina.
Leaders from the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office say they will also put 950 Fairfield County employees through a training program that is similar to C.R.E.S.T.