Houses of worship like churches, mosques and synagogues are meant to be welcoming safe havens. But this also means they can be vulnerable targets. Shootings in the last year in Pittsburgh and New Zealand have brought this reality into focus.
It’s for this reason, faith leaders from across the Front Range gathered in Denver on Thursday for a training that would prepare them for an active shooter situation.
About 200 participants from varying religions attended the Red Cross training at Temple Sinai, a synagogue in south Denver that also doubles as a disaster shelter. Recent shootings at places of worship made organizers feel like the training was imperative.
“I would say that active threat is a fear that's been burned into the psyche of the average American, given a lot of events that transpired, given how much coverage it gets,” said Paul Westman, preparedness program administrator for the region’s Red Cross.
The sentiment was echoed by some faith leaders at the training. Melinda Quiat with Judaism Your Way was excited that the room was filled with people from many different faiths.
“For me it’s all about building community,” she said. Quiat also added that the best way to face these difficult situations is by doing it together.
Throughout the day, participants were trained on run, hide, fight and basic first aid techniques like hands-on CPR and bleeding control. Westman said the idea was for these leaders and members to bring what they learned back to their congregations.
This is something Grzegorz Wójcik, the pastor at St. William Catholic Church in Fort Lupton, hoped to do. He said on top of being a spiritual guide, he wants to be able to lead his congregation in disaster situations too.
“I want to make sure we're safe, that they know how to defend themselves wherever there are,” Wójcik said. “Also that if we go to some concert, we go to some other locations we know how to help them, we know how to react.”
Every attendee was given a bleeding control kit to take home, which contained things like tourniquets, gloves and an instruction handbook.
“Our community is feeling threatened and I think it’s very important that we find a way to help ourselves feel safe,” Quiat said.