Protecting congregations from active shooter incidents

In light of the recent shootings in public spaces, especially in churches, the Southern Ohio Synod office has received inquiries about what congregations can do to prevent and defend themselves in the event of an active shooting event.

The following resources are provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security and Church Mutual Insurance. These are resources for you and your congregation to prayerfully consider and discuss. The Southern Ohio Synod Office of the Bishop cannot advise you regarding what action to take or not to take as these decisions must be made in coordination with local law enforcement, as well as congregational members. 

See also resources on the ELCA webite at


Preparing for an Active Shooter Incident

Please go to the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA)/Homeland Security website and download,

Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship – June 2013

This guide covers how to prepare of all sorts of emergencies, not just active shooter incidents. It's a great resource to help you prepare for and deter emergencies that can effect any congregation and is worth the time to read the material.

The following takeaways are from the FEMA Document. Please note that many local law enforcement agencies offer active shooter defense training and may come to your congregation to hold the training. Always work with your local law enforcement first. They are trained to help and know the best ways to keep you safe.

Here are some basic takeaways from the FEMA document:

Develop a basic plan:

  • How to evacuate or lockdown your building
  • Set up security cameras throughout the building and have at least one person monitor them when people are in the building
  • Clear brush away from building so attackers have no place to hide
  • Have members take a Red Cross First Aid course and have a good basic trauma kit on hand
  • Share with local First Responders your plan and also share a basic floor plan of the building
  • Practice your plan!


How to respond to an active shooter:

  • Respond immediately – call 911
  • Forcefully communicate the danger (“Gun! Get Out!”)
  • Run – Hide – Fight (i.e. Throw your hymnal at the shooter)
  • Cooperate with the First Responders
  • Obey all of the First Responders commands


Should you want to have a security team:

  • Must have a current conceal carry license and have personal conceal carry insurance


  • Must wear a colorful I.D. Badge


  • No other guns will be allowed in the building, should be locked in cars


  • Share everything with local First Responders




The following are articles and videos from Church Mutual Insurance that may help your congregation start a helpful discussion on how you would like to proceed with a plan or not to proceed.


This information will continue to be available to congregations under the 'Congregations' tab in the 'Congregational Safety' section.