Coast churches take preventative safety measures

Coast churches take preventative safety measures

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Before the next worship services, churches on the Coast are taking action to prevent a tragedy from happening.

"Doing nothing is no longer an option," said church security consultant Tom Payne. "We have to respond to the threat."

For Payne, responding to the threat is teaching others about what can be done to stop acts of violence. He holds security training sessions for church personnel and believes the shooter in Texas could have been stopped.

"Had somebody been on duty at the front of the church and simply locked the front door, that could have slowed the gunman down enough to where first responders could get there," said Payne.

At First Baptist Church Gulfport, the deadly incident in Texas is just the latest unfortunate reminder for Sr. Associate Pastor Eric Smith of what can happen.

"It's something that every time we open the doors at our church campus that we're aware of," Smith said.

As part of the awareness, Smith says people are in place to step up in emergencies.

"We do have a Gulfport Police officer on hand on the church campus, and we also have a team of security personnel that is constantly monitoring the church campus, and monitoring those that are coming on the campus so that we can keep our families safe," Smith said.

In many cases, churches don't have to look far to find members qualified to serve on a security team.

"I have law enforcement officers in my church. I have military personnel in my church and all these men and women really seek to do the service and they have great skills," Payne said. "We just need to tap into those resources."

Payne says being prepared before going into a church is the biggest defense against disaster.

"Know what you're going to do before the incident occurs because it's too late once it happens," Payne said.

The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security posted on its Facebook page that the agency can offer help in security training for churches in the state.

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