Local churches learn how to stay safe - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Local churches learn how to stay safe

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MARION -- It's been nearly a month since a gunman opened fire in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people, showing that no where is exempt from violence.

Now local churches are taking steps to keep their congregations safe. 

"We need to make sure congregations know they are a place where violence could happen," Reverend John Holst said.

Holst is the pastor of the Zion United Church of Christ in Marion.

Over 100 members of local churches came together in the basement of the church to learn from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department how to prevent the worst.

"There are a lot of things in Church we should be talking about and certainly security is one of them," Holst said.

The national emergency response time is between five and six minutes, but in rural areas on weekends it could be much more so being prepared is key, said Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick.

"You can have people in the parking lot, not actually just on guard duty, but assisting people. You know maybe put them in a cart where they can haul people to the door," Vick said.

Churches have often prided on keeping their doors open and being welcoming, but Saturday's presentation was about making those doors a little bit safer.

"That door can be locked so long as there's somebody there to open it up and greet them. You can have a locked door, but we've found it's important to be open and welcoming," said Holst.

He said the goal is to remain an open environment but also to make sure local congregations stay safe.

"We want to have a welcoming presence so we make sure people are feeling very welcome," he said.

The Williamson County Sheriff's Department have been putting on safety seminars like this one for the past several years for schools and daycare centers.

Deputy Brian Murrah said Saturday's presentation was the first one educating such large group and they had to cut off registration because of the interest.

The Sheriff's Department will hold another seminar on Dec.11.

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