STERLING, Va. - In the aftermath of another mass shooting at a church, houses of worship in Virginia are teaming up with police departments to increase security measures through a worship watch program.
The Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield has placed security plan packets in every room of the building with steps on what to do if faced with an active shooter situation or even severe weather.
The church’s security cameras also keep watch both inside and outside the building and many doors require a key card to gain access. The Immanuel Bible Church now has the technology to monitor who comes in and out of the property, which also includes a school.
Rev. Steve Holly said the church began implementing the security updates after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
“Since 9/11, law enforcement usually carry 24/7 and we know who they are in the congregation. We don’t broadcast who they are to the rest of the church and so they are ready to assist. We hope they are never called upon to but we feel protected,” Holly told FOX 5. “We have a safety and security team that our people are instructed to listen to them and follow their instructions. Certainly if a horrific event takes place then it’s to protect themselves as quickly as they possibly can. Get down, get low and get safe. We can’t practice that on a Sunday morning in church, but our team practices and goes through the various scenarios and they are ready to address any situation.”
Holly said he encourages other houses of worship to have similar plans in place and to coordinate with their local law enforcement in establishing those plans.
“A lot of our churches reach out to us, we reach out to them when we have certain crimes that happen. We’re reaching out to churches today actually and yesterday after the events in that occurred in Texas,” Sgt. Johnathon Perok with the Prince William County Police Department explained. “We already have those relationships in place. Our officers attend these churches, on their private time, with their own families. So there needs to be that connection there.”
The Prince William County Police Department organizes quarterly meetings with their local faith based community to teach safety strategies and even active shooter training. Their next worship watch meeting is set for later in November.