OAK CREEK -- How safe is your church? What would you do if it was targeted by an active shooter? Places of worship have become the scene of tragedies in Wisconsin and across the country -- from the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, where on Aug. 5, 2012, a gunman fatally shot six people and wounded four others, as they worshiped, to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine people were killed on June 17, 2015, to the First Baptist church in Sutherland, Texas, where 26 were killed and 20 others were injured on Nov. 5, 2017.
"We live in a day where this is something we have to think about," said Pastor Dean Noonan with the Faith Baptist Church in Oak Creek.
Making his congregation's safety a top priority, Noonan said he wanted to be proactive.
"We wanted to be sure we took the steps to prepare," said Noonan.
Oak Creek Police Captain Michael Bolender
To do that, he helped coordinate a conference which included members from more than 25 churches -- focused on active shooter and threat protocol.
"We are basically going through active threat-type situations and what places of worship can do to help their parishioners and staff stay safe during the incidents," said Oak Creek Police Captain Michael Bolender, lead instructor and founder of the Peaceful Warrior Training Group.
Bolender, a 23-year veteran with the Oak Creek Police Department, has been involved in two active shooter incidents. He spent hours Sunday, April 29 at Faith Baptist Church in Oak Creek going over techniques that can mitigate a potential tragedy, with prevention being most effective.
"Helping that member of our community that's struggling with whatever is going on in their life -- the byproduct of helping that person is we possibly avoid targeted violence. These events do not spontaneously occur, so we talk about warning behaviors and concerning behaviors that people are going to see -- creating a reporting mechanism as well -- who they are reporting to," said Captain Bolender.
From response, self-defense tactics, emergency first aid and decision making -- the Peaceful Warrior Training Group provided tools to help protect congregations from evil.
The next training course will be held on June 9 at the Racine Community Church of the Nazarene. To learn more, and/or to register, CLICK HERE.