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Local News

220 people, 53 churches represented at Barry County Safety and Security Summit

Church leaders are more and more concerned about safety and security for their church families these days with news of mass shootings, even in sacred places, now added to other emergencies they need to be prepared to handle.

The Barry County Safety and Security Summit held at Thornapple Valley Church Feb. 16 attracted 220 visitors and representatives from 53 churches in Michigan and Indiana. Presented by the

 

Thornapple Valley Churches Emergency Services, with help from the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, the event featured speakers from Barry Central Dispatch 911, Barry County Emergency Management, emergency medical services and information dealing with medical emergencies, communications, Smart 911, fires, accidents, severe weather and more.

 

The audience had advice from experts on how to deal with suspicious and dangerous people, the intoxicated, and domestic issues, how to build and keep volunteer teams and how to develop policies and procedures to address all types of emergencies.

 

“We no longer live in a world where the church, its people and its property are sanctuaries. As we deal with today’s humans, we are faced with an acceptance that we must also learn to deal with their mindsets as they react to issues and circumstance of life,” the introduction to the summit read. "Together, we can address the myriad issues each of us face. Together we can make a positive difference.”

 

Lyn Briel, leader of Thornapple Valley Churches Emergency Services since 2002, said when providing security and safety program to a church, every facility is different, but there are also basic similarities.

“It isn’t just about guns; it is any emergency that might happen. If you have a heart attack or other medical emergency, a gas leak, a fire; that’s why we have the emergency people here.

“You want people who are seeking support to feel welcome. Our world is full of challenges, and we have to be prepared,” Briel said.

 

Pam Dahlke is a member of the TVC Middleville campus. “I’m the TVC guest services leader. I heard about the summit and came to educate myself, learn more about the program. In this day and age, it’s definitely needed.”

 

Matt Amos, a member of the Living Waters Church in Hastings, lives in Battle Creek. He was asked to attend because, “the topics here are all being discussed in church. We wanted guidance from the summit; we want to move forward with programs that will protect our congregation.

“They are talking about hard and soft targets. We want to make sure the terrorists know that we’re not a soft target. The information is already here, we just need to put it together. I’ve already called my pastor and said, ‘we need to talk.’”

 

The sheriff’s office has offered security plans for individual churches since the Columbine shooting. Sheriff Dar Leaf said TVC was their first church security project. “We are happy to sponsor and help with the summit,” he said.

 

When Leaf became sheriff, he expanded the program in Barry County and neighboring counties, involving the Sheriff’s Posse and the Auxiliary.  “The auxiliary really stepped up; they enjoy helping churches,” he said. “The summit drew members from churches in other counties. Our hope is they bring back what they learned to their churches.”

 

Other organizations provided more information including “Emergency Preparedness…What to Do When Disaster Threatens,” Smart 911; West Michigan Church Security Network, “Strategos International…Church/Workplace Violence,” Compliance One Group, and “Critical Facility Information...How to Create a Profile for Your Organization.”

 

 

 

 

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