Montgomery County leaders discuss safety during papal visit

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The papal visit has increased security across our region and Montgomery County leaders gathered in Norristown Wednesday to discuss ways to keep houses of worship safe. (WPVI)

The papal visit has increased security across our region and Montgomery County leaders gathered in Norristown Wednesday to discuss ways to keep houses of worship safe.

The scenario they presented at the meeting involved an active shooter situation inside a church.

The message from county leaders is to run, hide, or fight:

Run from the danger, if possible.

Hide from a shooter's view and provide protection from shots fired.

And in a situation of last resort - fight, act with aggression and commit.

"It's easy to implement and it makes common sense to stay away from danger," Tim Elbertson of the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety said.

"We've already done an internal threat assessment and so we've already started marching toward getting most of the questions answered," Pastor Marshall Mitchell of the Salem Baptist Church said.

Pastor Mitchell says law enforcement told him he's a primary target as a lead pastor.

He's already developed an escape plan. But in the event of an attack, his goal is to draw an active shooter away from the congregation.

"We are being smarter about which doors are being locked. We are careful about cameras. We are careful about making sure everybody who works in the nursery has gone through training and background checks," Mitchell said.

"We are working hand in hand with all the intelligence community to make sure that residents of Montgomery County are safe," Mike Vest of the Montgomery County Homeland Security said.

Roughly a dozen church leaders from different denominations attended the morning planning session.

It was a key reminder for everyone during the papal visit if you see something, say something.

"This is as good a time as any to bring up the level of awareness," Elbertson said.

County officials say a recent study of active shooter incidents from 2000-2013 shows only 4% of those shootings in houses of worship. Still, leaders around our region are making sure their places are safe.

Related Topics:
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