Mich. Churches Train for Active Shooter Incidents
Nov. 10—HOLLAND—In light of a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, citizens of the 650-person small town are telling the U.S. that mass shootings can happen anywhere at any time. The Texas shooting killed 26 people, injuring at least 19 others. This is a lesson law enforcement officials know well.
The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Holland Department of Public Safety and the Michigan State Police all train for mass shooting events every year. Along with internal training, the sheriff's office and the Michigan State Police offer training for citizens and church officials about what to do in active shooter situations.
In Holland, Ottawa County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Brent Converse teaches a Citizen Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training session to church officials. Last week, Converse ran the training session at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church on 152nd Avenue in Holland. Converse said about 25 church members attended the session, which was the second time he gave the presentation at Our Lady of the Lake.
Church Parish Nurse Pat Whitaker participated in the training from Converse, calling it "extremely informative."
"It brought about a whole new way of looking at the situation and we're looking at ways to implement more safety measures," Whitaker said. "There are steps you can take without panicking people."
Along with the CRASE training, Converse said the sheriff's office also will perform Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) inspections of properties in the county.
"Basically, we conduct a safety (and) security inspection of the property and building and look at possible security concerns," Converse said. "I've completed several of these inspections on local churches and businesses in the Holland area."
Some of the security concerns can include landscaping, lighting, access control and natural surveillance of the property. Next week, Converse is teaching the CRASE course at Harderwyk Church in Park Township.
Whitaker said since the shooting in Texas, several congregants have asked about their safety in church.
"We've had a lot of concern," she said. "We have several doors locked now that were not before and we're working on a plan of how we can use our PA system to warn people."
On Dec. 14, the Michigan State Police Training Academy is hosting a one-day seminar about security issues for places of worship geared toward clergy and other church leaders. The training is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Lansing. The cost is $100, and the class is limited to 200 students. For more information about the seminar, contact Jamie Hansen at 517-626-0464.
The Holland Department of Public Safety has internal instructors that lead training sessions each year for all its officers about active shooter situations, which can become a particular concern during Tulip Time with such large crowds in the city.
"We have trained in and for a variety of settings, such as churches, schools, theaters, office (and) commercial buildings," said Holland police Capt. Keith Mulder.
Whitaker encouraged all church leaders to participate in some type of safety training and to formulate a plan for its congregants' safety.
"We need to be more proactive and actually plan," she said. "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The best thing anybody can do right now is get informed. We may save lives."