5 Mid-Michigan churches participate in security forum in wake of deadly church shootings

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FRANKENMUTH (WJRT) (11/29/2017) - A Mid-Michigan church put safety in the forefront, hosting a security seminar for five congregations on Wednesday.

"We don't want to have any incidents, that's our goal," said Father Robert Byrne, the pastor of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Frankenmuth.

The event was actually planned months before the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month, but registration jumped after the recent tragedy.

The goal: To know how to plan and respond before the unthinkable happens.

No. 1 on the list, always have an escape plan.

Knowing where the closest exit is, moving quickly and being less of a target could save lives in the event of an active shooter in the sanctuary.

"If you can find something to shield you, head to that," said Tom Mynsberge, the president of Critical Incident Management Team. "If you hear a lull in the gunfire, chances are he's reloading. That's your chance to exit and run quickly."

He broke down the steps into the acronym SEA.

S stands for seek secured shelter, a safe room that can be locked or barricaded.

E stands for escape if the safe room is compromised or no safe spaces are available.

A stands for attack with vengeance if there is no other option.

"If you have no other option, grab a chair to use as a diversion, take the bad guy down and keep him down," said Mynsberge.

He said churches also need to designate personnel who can direct people during an emergency situation. That means utilizing ushers and locking the doors after the service begins.

That is a big change for churches that traditionally pride themselves on opening their doors to everyone. But following the recent shootings at churches in Texas and Tennessee, safety is now top of mind.

"The way things have happened in other incidents, the talk has to turn into action and to have a response plan and a plan for our regular services on weekends in place," Byrne said.

His church plans to hold meetings in the future to decide how they will proceed following the security seminar.

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