If church leaders remember nothing else from her Dec. 3 training on how to deal with an active shooter situation, the Rev. Hollie Tapley says, it’s three words.
Run. Hide. Fight.
“It’s our responsibility to prepare and be prepared,” Tapley, disaster response coordinator for the Great Plains Conference, told about 225 people at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita. The 90-minute training was livestreamed through the conference website in partnership with the host church.
With information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Transportation Security Administration, Tapley said churches need to be prepared for the possibility of an active shooter situation, recommending safety drills at least twice a year.
In a church or any public building, she said, exits should be noted and clearly marked.
Most shootings, she said, have taken place in less than two minutes.
“Education is our best line of defense,” Tapley said. “We have to know what to do and how to respond.”
There is no singular response that is best for all situations, she said, but the best options are to run, hide and fight.
Run away in the opposite direction from the activity, she said. Leave personal belongings behind and call 911 only when safe.
Hide in rooms with locked and/or barricaded doors, turning off all electronic devices and remaining silent. The best location is along a wall closest to the exit but out of view from the hallway.
Fight, Tapley said, is a last resort. She even suggested women using their purses as weapons, as well as available items including books.
“God would be OK if we threw a hymnal or a Bible at him at that time,” she said.
Dave Seely, conference co-chancellor based in Wichita, detailed the signage that should be on churches in Kansas and Nebraska regarding open-carry and closed-carry firearms.
Despite all the tension and hostility that may be faced in the situation, Tapley said, church congregation members must remember that they are Christians.
“We are faced with things we’d never dream we’d be faced with,” she said. “And yet we are still the church.
“As the church, our message has to be powerful. Our message has to be positive,” Tapley added.
Tapley is available for training in churches throughout the Great Plains. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org