A Kalamazoo Church trains for worst-case scenario

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In the wake of this week's tragic shooting there's been a renewed focus on gun violence and how to prevent it.

Newschannel 3's Amy Hybels visited a church in Kalamazoo that's way ahead of the curve in this regard.

A retired cop at Kalamazoo Community Church started a "safety team" about four years ago and this all volunteer group was looking for a way to increase their skill level, so they hired a security consultant to help them avoid being a soft target.

"This place is full of liars," yells someone in the pews during a mock training drill.

Today's lesson focuses on how to deal with someone trying to disrupt a church service.

A member of the safety team tries to convince the disruptive individual to leave the sanctuary with him.

Another safety team member instructs someone to call 9-1-1

Another team member blocks the person's path. However, Security Consultant Jason Russell, who was role playing the bad guy, advises the team they need to act quicker.

"More directly direct me in a different direction because i was getting really close to the pastor," Russell explains.

In this mock training drill the disruptive individual was not armed.

Team members are also learning how to read verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate danger may be on the horizon.

"If you look at the South Carolina situation; It was June, it was 90 degrees, and he was wearing a sweater and a shirt underneath that so his clothing didn't match the weather," noted Russell, president and CEO of Security Education Consultants.

Kalamazoo community church is ahead of the curve. They've had a safety team in place for four years and thought it was time to get some professional training.

Safety team leader Fred Langeland explains, "We just wanted to increase our skill level, we're all volunteers, but we want to just do a better job, make us a safer place, safer environment."

Russell says places that are willing to train their staff and have someone look at their vulnerabilities and shore up those weaknesses can make themselves a "harder" target.

"Many churches are soft targets, they're designed to be open inviting places where you can come in and we accept you," he remarks. "We're saying still do that, but pay attention to what's going on because we need to be prepared for these situations."

Russell, whose resume includes police work and a decade with the secret service, says the most common mistake made when he does these trainings is lack of communication between team members.

He also says in regards to threat assessment, most shooters follow a typical path: They gather weapons, they practice, and in most cases, they share the intent to launch an attack with somebody. The key is picking up these warning signs before the person gets to the attack portion of the plan.