Seminar preaches church safety

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

In recent months, there has been a spate of sudden, violent attacks in public places, ranging from a movie theater in Louisiana to a military recruiting center in Tennessee to a church here in South Carolina. The loss of life and grievous injuries are tragic and often senseless, but after the shock fades and the news coverage moves on to something else, do we carry away any lessons from what we’ve seen? Does awareness of these possibilities alter the way we perceive and react to potential threats?

One local personal security and firearms trainer says the first step to protecting yourself and your loved ones is understanding that no one is exempt from potential violent attack.

“The most important survival skill is situational awareness,” says Steve Cooper, founder of Paladin Training. “People who recognize the possibility of violence and prepare for it are less likely to have to use a gun or need training than people who aren’t prepared. Being aware and accepting the possibility that it might happen to you, that’s the first step.”

Cooper says that quite often, people might experience unease or suspicion about “an anomaly” or potential threat, but fail to act because they doubt their perception or don’t want to risk embarrassment if they are wrong. He says that “honoring your instincts” in these situations is crucial.

“In any environment, whether it’s a mall or restaurant or church, there is a baseline behavior, which is behavior that’s normal for that setting,” says Cooper. “We teach people to be aware of that so that when someone enters that environment who is not exhibiting baseline behavior, they can pick up on it.”

Knowing what to do next, whether that’s calling for help, leaving the scene, or intervening somehow, is more problematic. Calm deliberation in the presence of potential danger can be difficult, but Cooper says that reviewing our options rationally can become second nature. He advises staying alert (not stressed out, merely aware of our surroundings) and mentally planning out responses to developing threats – even in places where we long to feel peaceful and secure.

To that end, Cooper and fellow instructor Terry Gainey will teach a church safety seminar Saturday, Aug. 22, at the First Church of God in Hartsville. Topics will include how to recognize predators and prepare for their strengths and weaknesses, physiological responses to stress – such as tunnel vision – and how to compensate for them, and fundamentals of situational awareness.

The seminar will also examine church-specific safety issues, like the pros and cons of establishing a church security team, arming church members, and installing surveillance cameras.

Cost for the seminar is $20 in advance, $25 at the door. It begins at 10 a.m. and should conclude at 2:30 p.m. with an optional discussion period to follow. First Church of God is located at 1823 Kelleytown Road in Hartsville.

For more information or tickets, contact Pastor John Kakish at (843) 610-7069 or write to

Author: Duane Childers

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