NJ Religious Leaders Learn to Protect Houses of Worship From Harm
PLEASANTVILLE — Places of worship are not off-limits for those wishing to inflict harm on others. The most recent proof — an early November church shooting that took 26 lives in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Here in New Jersey, in response to concerns from members of the community about their safety and the safety of the buildings where they go to pray, a forum is scheduled for Tuesday night to discuss how these spots can avoid and/or handle an emergency such as an active shooter.
"We don't really know what to do. In most cases, there's no plan," said Perry Mays, chairman of the Coalition for a Safe Community in Atlantic County. "This is something that we wanted to be trained on, and be proactive rather than reactive."
Mays' coalition, the county prosecutor's office and the Fellowship of Churches are hosting the event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the WinSan Center on South New Road.
The forum is open to all faiths, Mays noted. Beyond faith leaders, members of houses of worship such as parking lot attendants and security personnel are invited to attend.
The event will feature a presentation from local law enforcement and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
"We work very closely with members of our interfaith community across the state of New Jersey," said OHSP spokesman Patrick Rigby.
Rigby said the office provides the interfaith community with resources and training opportunities upon request. The office also provides on-site facility assessments for faith leaders concerned about their property's safety.
On a quarterly basis, OHSP hosts an interfaith advisory council meeting where members of the religious community can ask questions and discuss concerns.