Shooting Incidents in Public Places

On the evening of June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Church and opened fire on a prayer group, killing nine church members. Shootings in public places, including houses of worship, are becoming increasingly more common. In fact, between 1999 and present day, 56% of violent acts in a place of worship have been committed with a gun.1 Due to their open and welcoming atmospheres inside the community, they are often identified as soft targets, or places vulnerable and unprotected from attacks.

We've conducted our Shooting Incident Marco Program with a few churches aound the region. Discussions often reveal several areas that leave members and guests without shelter or protection if an armed intruder entered the premises. Also, they often do not have a documented and rehearsed action policy for shooting incidents. Churches have a passion for providing a safe place for all, and many require actionable steps to develop a plan and to improve the physical security of their buildings as well as establishing recovery actions to provide support and relief to the community. Tom Maine from Cape Code Church in Massachusetts, the Director of Spiritual Development and Retired Coast Guard Captain, said: “The Marco Program was clearly the perfect tool to get useful, tailored, and action-based information in one short hour.”

What can your organization do today to be more prepared for an armed intruder?

Consider all the places in your building where there are few areas to hide, or where those trying to escape the danger could become trapped.

Check your entrances and exits. If you have a flow of people in and out of doors all day, how can you provide a method to monitor who comes into your building?

Determine how to communicate a threat, what tools you will use to alert individuals in the building, and what words you will say. Remember, it is important to give specific information alerts, rather than use code words, because it may confuse your members.

  • Map an evacuation plan and post it in a visible place.
  • Review your organization’s policy of how to respond to an armed intruder. Is it written down? Where is it kept? When is the last time your organization rehearsed it? Does it need to be updated?
  • Partner with local law enforcement officers to review your response procedures and work with them to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to your organization’s needs.
  • Discuss what role your organization will take after an incident has occurred. What support do you have in place for your staff or your community? How soon will you return to regular business after an event occurs?
  • The Marco Program covers all of these concerns, and more, in a 1-hour experience designed to help you find and react to threats. If you’re interested, please order from our products page or give us a call for a demo of the program. 


1Chinn, C. (2017). 2017 church violence statistics. Retrieved from

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