HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Houses of worship have been targets of mass shooters across the country and here in Pennsylvania. To arm themselves with more than prayers, faith leaders gathered in Harrisburg for training that most wished was unnecessary, but sadly, it is.
“Unfortunately, even a church isn’t a safe haven anymore,” said Brad Bowers, a pastor at Freedom Bike Church.
On Tuesday, threat assessment specialist, Dr. Aaron Cotkin, with the Secret Service, spent hours preaching preparedness to leaders of churches, synagogues, and temples.
“Security is always important for any kind of congregation where you’re gonna have a lot of people. We can’t trust everybody unfortunately even in a church setting,” Bowers said.
Congressman Scott Perry organized the event.
“There’s a concern in our faith community that they’re unsafe and we wanted to share some best practices,” Perry said.
Bowers says the biggest practice for him is threat assessment.
“It’s important to know who’s walking through your doors and be able to assess it and decide what’s the best course of action for it,” Bowers said.
Tips for congregants include knowing where the exits are and being aware of their surroundings. Plus, as York County District Attorney Dave Sunday says, “communicate, communicate, communicate. If there’s anything you think is a concern make sure you call the police because they are in a position to look into it and see if it’s real.”
The day concluded with security experts taking specific questions on safety and arming the faithful with more than prayers to fight evil.
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“We can show people what they can do to take some control over their lives. Not only does that make them feel better but it also makes them safer,” Sunday said.
When asked about the role of mental health, the York District attorney responded it is woefully and inadequately funded across Pennsylvania.