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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The unthinkable can happen. We experienced it here in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent it, there are some ways to harden the target and stop the threat.
On Thursday, Salem Media Group hosted a conference with lessons and demonstrations at Christ Church in Sewickley.
Certainly nothing is infallible, but experts agree if you harden the target and are prepared to stop an incoming threat, you increase the chances of lives being saved.
“People are changing and there is a need for security in churches. Even though none of us really wants it there – it’s a necessity,” said Dale Hammon, of East Liverpool, Ohio.
Hammon is looking for security enhancement ideas to bring back to his church in Ohio.
“If a bad guy were to come into your congregation and start shooting, he will kill as many people as he wants to kill, and the only person that can stop him would be a good guy with a gun,” he said.
Cheryl Glus, of South Heights, was there for the same reason.
“Most shooters in the past go in thinking nobody has a gun, so they have all the power,” said Glus.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala was one of the expert presenters and made some security recommendations involving technology.
“There is technology, I call it a panic button. If the police department knows that I have pressed that button, and it’s this church, you better bring the cavalry real fast,” said Zappala.
He also recommended virtual gating with security cameras, as he has done in parts of the county and told the folks at the conference they used that technology to go back in time to track Robert Bowers’ vehicle.
“We used our system to track him to see if there was another target he was thinking about or spending too much time at a school or another facility. Unfortunately, there was no pattern,” said Zappala.
“I have never been offended by a camera knowing what I’m doing. It’s the bad people that usually don’t want the cameras,” said Glus.
Certainly, no plan is infallible, but everyone there agreed it’s best to have a plan in place.
“It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,” said Hammon.
The Salem Media Group conference included a simulated active shooter situation using blanks, of course. It was followed by a teaching lesson.
The whole idea is to help people form their own mental safety map of what to do if ever in those circumstances.