BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - After the most recent church shooting on December 29th at the West freeway Church of Christ in a town outside Fort Worth, Texas, Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry says he’s holding church safety classes in hopes that churches in his area are prepared.
Church safety has been a personal crusade for Sheriff Matt Gentry over the last two years. Something his team has done for the religious community, is perform church assessments for 100 different churches.
“We’ll tell them hey, I would lock this door, maybe install cameras here, this is how your greeters will have to set up their safety team,” says Gentry.
Because in these situations, you are the first responders.
"In times of crisis, a lot of times law enforcement is minutes away and you only have seconds of survival.”
That’s why he’s decided to hold a church safety class Thursday night, to impart this knowledge of how best to treat the situation and how a church can be both safe and welcoming.
“So what we will do is teach you how to set up a team, how to look professional, because what you don’t want is a swat team out there walking around, because that’s not inviting for people.”
They’ll also go over what to do if violence does break out. You’ll be able to sign up to have the sheriff hold a class at your church or come talk to your security team.
As a sheriff who’s spent 20 years in law enforcement, he says he just wants everyone to think of safety the way he does.
“This gives our citizens a little bit of insight to make them safer, no matter if they’re at home, they’re at church, they’re at school, or just out in the community somewhere.”
Cullman County was one of the first in Alabama to hold these classes. Sheriff Gentry says the first class they held had 1,500 people from seven states attending, and they think tomorrow will be a big turnout as well.
The class will be held at 6:00 p.m. at Temple Baptist Church on Highway 157 in Cullman. If you’d like to contact the sheriff’s office about a safety class, call 256-734-0342 and ask for Deputy Brad Williams.