A scary but very real topic was tackled Thursday night in Columbia, Lancaster County: active shooters in houses of worship.
Those who attended were reminded that not having a plan can cost lives.
“Coming from a small town, you never think anything can happen, but you never know,” said Lucille Keller, who lives in Wrightsville but grew up in Columbia.
Keller was one of about 100 people who attended the “How to Survive an Active Shooter” training session at St. Peter Catholic Church, hosted by the Columbia Police Department.
Ephrata police Chief Bill Harvey gave the presentation and described the topic of active shooter situations in America as “the new normal.”
“The definition of the new normal for me is to prepare for the possibility and train for the probability,” said Harvey. “Children have been trained how to respond in an active shooter event and the adults have not. We are trying to reverse those roles.”
Harvey stressed always taking in your surroundings, even if it’s somewhere familiar.
“Do you actually look when you walk into a building, say a convenience store? Do you scan when you go into places? Do you have a reunification plan when you go out?” he asked the audience.
Churches are innately vulnerable, according to Columbia Police Chief Jack Brommer.
“There is a sort of an openness with churches and lack-of-access control, if you will,” said Brommer.
Adding to the problem, he says, is a lack of civilian training as well as a lack of properly-prepared church volunteers.
Harvey even tested his audience.
“Where is the AED, first aid, fire extinguisher in this building?” he asked, pointing to random people for an answer. “I see the fire extinguisher … we have exits right here and we have exits in the back.”
The takeaway: demand action over inaction and spend time thinking about a problem before it happens.
The two men believe it can save lives.
For Keller, showing up to the training was half the battle.
“Who in our lifetime would’ve thought that we’d go to something like this?” she said. “It wouldn’t hurt to come to something like this so that you know in case it would happen here.”