Creating a safe sanctuary, minimizing risk

Posted at 5:51 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-06 17:51:19-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The shooting tragedy in Texas prompted First United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids to open its doors on Monday to the public and allowed anyone desiring to pray for the innocent lives lost.

"My first response was 'Oh no, another tragedy,'" Pastor Tim Tutthill said.

"We can't control the actions of other people, but we really want to be committed to creating a safe sanctuary for people to come and that was really our intent today was to open up the church and to say that we are here," he said.

Tutthill added, "We are here to be people of prayer and to pray for different outcomes than the outcome we saw."

Security expert and former secret service agent Jason Russell runs Secure Education Consultants in Grand Rapids. He said it seems schools and churches have lately been popular targets by mass shooting suspects, as killing sprees continue to make headlines.

"Unfortunately, they're not surprising anymore. It seems to be almost a weekly occurrence," Russell said.

So it's by studying tragedies like this one that Russell hopes strategies for prevention can arise for his clients. For example, he advises churches put together safety teams.

Russell said, "One of the things we commonly tell churches to do is have some people observing, especially outside."​

He said anything that comes inside, of course, originates on the outside. While a person with ill-intent can't necessarily be stopped from wreaking havoc, Russell said the risks can be minimized.

"You know, generally when you're in church everybody's facing one direction. So we usually suggest that we have some people paying attention. Not necessarily closing their eyes or putting their heads down during the prayer and really just serving that observation role," Russell explained.