An all too familiar scene unfolded once again on Sunday.
A mass shooter entered the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He gunned down 26 people and injured many more before fleeing the scene. He was later found dead with a gunshot wound.
His victims range in age from 5 to 72, and include the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.
The church is a very typical for Southern Baptists, the largest denomination in the United States. It averages just under 100 in worship on any given Sunday. The congregation is likely made up of many family members, and many others who feel like family.
The population of Sutherland Springs, an unincorporated community southeast of San Antonio, is just a few hundred. The loss of these 26 people is incredibly deep in this community and in this church.
According to a story posted by Christianity Today, the incident is the 14th mass murder at an American house of worship since 1963. It is the worst church shooting in U.S. history, according to church security expert Carl Chinn. It’s the worst mass shooting in Texas history.
According to Chinn’s analysis, attacks of all types on houses of worship have become more frequent in recent years, and more deadly.
What can churches and houses of worship do to protect themselves? Resources are available from a variety of sources. Most major church insurers offer comprehensive guidebooks and training (see here and here), as do many denominational organizations. Houses of worship should also work with local law enforcement agencies for advice and training.
Houses of worship may also consider enhancements to facilities by adding security features such as video surveillance and gunshot detection, both of which are offered by ECT Services.
The Guardian gunshot detection system developed by Shooter Detection Systems, which works by using acoustic and infrared sensors to instantly identify gunshots. The precise location of the gunshots is noted, and authorities are alerted immediately. Warnings are also instantly sent out to people in the facility and vicinity advising them to evacuate or take cover. This video demonstrates the basics of the system.
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