BURNET — In what seems like a less secure world, safety has become a topic at many churches and other places where people gather.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Schaefer hopes to alleviate those concerns by addressing what churches and other organizations can do in case of an active shooter situation.
“If you are a church of 30 people and have no funds at all, there are things you can do to help keep you church and congregation safe,” Schaefer said. “This topic (church safety) has been on the increase of interest due to recent events. We’ve decided to make a push to help churches.”
Schaefer is leading an active shooter seminar, hosted by First Baptist Church of Burnet’s Safety Team, on Saturday, March 3, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the church sanctuary, 108 S. Vanderveer St. The event is free to attend.
This isn’t a new topic for Schaefer, who has provided safety and security programs for businesses, organizations, schools, and churches for almost 10 years. Since taking office, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has made this program as well as resident safety and self-defense top priorities.
“Sheriff Chody really believes in this, and that’s why he lets us take it to places outside of Williamson County,” Schaefer said.
In November, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office hosted a church safety seminar after the deadly shooting at a Sutherland Springs church. Schaefer led most of that program and will cover similar material during the Burnet seminar.
While the Saturday program focuses on churches, Schaefer said much of the material would also benefit businesses and other organizations.
“The training is relevant across the board,” he added, “but part of it is specifically geared for churches. Anyone who wants to learn about making their business or office safer, they can come.”
It’s not a one-size-fits-all plan for churches due to the differences in congregation size and layout, so the deputy will help guide church leadership in building a safety program and/or team to fit their needs. He can also provide feedback to churches that already have safety teams in place to make them even more effective.
A particular tool Schaefer believes every church should use is a “roving usher.”
“I’m very adamant about a roving usher or roving ambassador,” he said about a person who often stands outside the church building greeting people while observing what is happening and who is approaching. “If you observe someone in the parking lot with a gun then you can take some actions that could save lives. It might be locking down the building, or a number of things, depending on your church’s plan.
“Early detection saves live,” Schaefer added. “The sooner we are aware of an issue, the sooner we can respond.”
As with all the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office safety programs, the seminar is free.
Schaefer said anyone interested in hosting a similar program may contact him at email@example.com for more information.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office also offers a Self-Defense Academy for groups interested in learning situational awareness and self-protection. Schaefer said he has taught children as young as 4 in those programs.