Remember the good old days when helping people park their cars was part of the greeting ministry? A friendly wave, pointing to a parking spot, and answering questions about how to get to a Sunday school class or children’s ministry area were all these volunteers had to worry about.
The recent terror incident at Ohio State University is a lesson in caution for all of us, and signals the importance of the people in your parking lot.
The personnel standing out in the lot in all iterations of weather are, or should be, your first ring of security. They are the eyes, ears, and early warning system of any church security effort.
As you probably know, the OSU incident involved a probable self radicalized lone wolf, who intentionally ran his car into a crowd of people, and when they responded to try to help him, he exited the car and began slashing them with a knife.
At last count 10 people were hospitalized, a few seriously injured.
I monitor the ISIS propaganda tool DABIQ. It is a slick, glossy magazine calling on followers to use low tech equipment to injure and kill infidels. In one section, the editors recap successful jihadi operations throughout the world, praising the jihadists for their sacrifices.
In the OSU attack, ISIS claimed responsibility.
However, this is not the only activity your parking lot personnel should be monitoring for. In a recent blog post, I recounted a recent incident involving a distraught, armed man in the parking lot threatening suicide. The security team in this incident was praised for getting everyone to a safe area and sheltering in place.
In addition to high risk situations, parking lot personnel can be on the watch for suspicious persons to the area, crimes in progress, like vandalism, theft and robbery, AND anything parking lot related.
Of course, they are still the first friendly,smiling face everyone sees when coming onto your church property, but they are a great resource of information and should be briefed on any known problems like domestic abuse or child custody issues.
Here are a few considerations:
1. If the parking lot personnel fall under a helps ministry, suggest including them in your security team efforts, or move them under your responsibility.
2. Make sure they have an easy wasy to communicate via radio of any problems from weather to danger, and everything in between.
3. Give them permission to act and train them up to the level they need to be.
4. If part of their responsibilities include responding to dangerous situations, make sure they are trained up on self protection skills. If they are in a patrol situation and encounter a crime in progress, not having the skills to defensively respond isn’t fair.
5. If they are armed personnel, make sure they qualify in shooting every year and maintain proficiency with their weapons of choice.
6. Maintain vigilance. Agree anything can happen anywhere and at anytime. The most difficult part of any safety job is the 99% boredom we have to deal with. Maintaining sharpness is vital to an efficient response. Training regularly, at least monthly, will keep you sharp.
7. Realize training doesn’t have to be a 4 or 8 hour ordeal. It can be table top exercises, talk throughs, scenarios, really anything. Just make it practical and useable (no ninjas dropping out of ceiling tiles-yes, I’ve seen it all).
All we can do is try to build intelligence for our church family and develop reactions plans to minimize damage and loss of life. Start with your first line of defense, the parking lot minstry, train them, brief them and include them in your security efforts.