INDIANAPOLIS — It has become an ever-present reality for Americans across the county. Active shooter situations are happening and the threat has remained constant in houses of worship.
That's creating a conversation happening in faith communities around the country that deals less with faith and more on what to do — in case.
"Some of us have said well we're an easy target if somebody wanted to come in an make a statement," Tery Battema said. "What can we do to lessen the risk and protect ourselves and make our parishioners feel more secure."
That's what brought Tery and Marlys Battema of Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church out to an event sponsored by the nonprofit One Cop where the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Marion County Sheriff's Office and FBI took turns educating the faithful about how to stay safe at their place of worship.
"We want to make sure that all our congregations are prepared and that they have the information necessary that hopefully they'll never use," One Cop's Ryan Yarrel said.
Presenters shared that just about 4% of all active shooter situations target houses of worship, a figure that has held steady through the years.
Bishop Charles Finnel is working to protect his congregants at Christ Temple Apostolic Church.
"It's sad to say that you'd have to get security for a place of worship or a school where children are but that's where we are," Finnel said. "One of the main things they emphasized is preventive actions."
The presentation included characteristics to look for in potential attackers called pre-attack indicators. Nearly all attackers engaged in prior threatening or concerning communications and exhibited behavior that caused concern in others.
"With the education we're going to take some steps to first try to prevent anything from happening, so we won't be reacting after the fact God forbid that any of us have to be in that situation," Finnel said.
And if that most awful of situations does occur, the educators said to remember three words: avoid, deny, defend. Avoid the conflict, if possible. Deny entry to your location and look for another way out. And defend yourself if faced with an attacker.
The presenters emphasized the importance of trying to remain calm by controlling your breathing and shifting your emotions to try and take control of a dangerous situation.
"We just need to pray for our nation and pray that we have no more incidents like this and we won't have to have any more meetings like this," Finnel said.