JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Law enforcement estimates that the average police response time to an active shooter situation is three minutes.
In those crucial moments, police way training can save lives.
The quick actions of two people inside a Texas church Sunday made all the difference.
Investigators said they confronted a shooter seconds after he shot and killed two parishioners.
In Johnson City, local law enforcement stresses that knowing what to do in an active shooter situation can help bystanders take action.
The Johnson City Police Department works with local places of worship, providing them with guidelines on how to keep their congregations safe.
Officers say in 2018 they had over two doze active shooter situation trainings.
“Our program goes off of the Department of Homeland Security active shooter recommendations and the FBI has a similar program,” said Officer Keith Sexton with JCPD.
Officer Sexton said when it comes to security in places of worship, look out for suspicious activity.
“Churches are just a target-rich environment because of very open spaces with people who are more than happy to see visitors come in, as they should be, and that gets taken advantage of,” said Sexton.
He says JCPD’s training consists of- run, hide, fight.
“Run being when an active shooter occurs, get out of the building. Get as far away as you can. Don’t take time to pick up your belongings, your cell phone, and all that kind of thing. The second step is to hide, and within hide it also means barricade. Get in a room, barricade the door, turn the lights off. Turn your cell phone off, be quiet, with the hopes of if there’s an active shooter taking place that if they come to a locked door they’re not going to take a lot of time to get inside that locked door and that they move on. And the last step is- fight, which means that you have no other choice, that they’re either standing over you and you fight with everything you have,” said Sexton.
Munsey United Methodist Church in Downtown Johnson City has attended several of JCPD’s security programs.
“We do not have an actual security team. We work in cooperation with the Johnson City Police Department and their off duty police officers. We’ve participated in the trainings that the police department has offered to local churches,” said Senior Pastor Carol Wilson.
Wilson says it’s always heartbreaking to hear about attacks on places of worship,
“It’s very hard to put into words the amount of pain and sadness we feel when persons are injured who have gathered for worship or who are injured because of their religious faith.”
Both JCPD and congregations in Johnson City say it’s important to have a plan in place but hope they never have to use it.
“We work very hard not to be paralyzed by fear. We’re going to be the church. We’re going to be a community. We’re going to worship, we’re going to welcome. We’re going to be informed. We’re going to be seeking to be supportive anytime there’s a time of pain or hurt,” said Wilson.