Protecting Your Congregation When the Unthinkable Happens

Protecting Your Congregation When the Unthinkable Happens


United Methodist Insurance, in an effort to help you provide a safe haven for your ministries, provides the following guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and in the event of an active shooter on the premises. Click here to access a downloadable pamphlet from the Department of Homeland Security.

Your local law enforcement organization may also have information for your particular area.    

In the event of an active shooter at your church, here is what you should do: 

RUN and escape, if possible. 

  • Safely get out of the church at the nearest exit. 
  • Encourage others to go with you, but do not hesitate. 
  • Leave your belongings behind.  What is important is your safety. 
  • Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
  • Call 911 when you are safe, and describe shooter, location, and weapons.

HIDE, if escape is not possible.

  • Take shelter in a safe room or closet, under furniture, behind a large object or outside.
  • Silence ringers on mobile devices and make sure they won’t vibrate  
  • Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off lights.
  • Remain quiet
  • Don’t hide in groups
  • Act quickly
  • Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear.
  • Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

FIGHT as an absolute last resort.

  • When there are no other options, commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against him/her.
  • Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc. to distract and disarm the shooter.
  • Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the shooter.


  • Keep hands visible and empty
  • Know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the incident, and they may have to pass injured along the way.
  • Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they come from.
  • Officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
  • Officers will shout commands and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.
  • Consider seeking professional help for you and your family to cope with the long-term effects of the trauma.

HELPING the Wounded

  • Take care of yourself first, and then you may be able to help the wounded before first responders arrive.
  • If the injured are in immediate danger, help get them to safety.
  • While you wait for first responder to arrive, provide first aid- apply direct pressure to wounded and use tourniquets if you have been trained to do so.
  • Turn wounded people onto their sides if they are unconscious and keep them warm.

Events may evolve quickly.  The safety of your congregation may depend upon your preparedness. Create an action plan now in the event the unthinkable happens so that you, your staff, and congregation are prepared. 

Ephesians 6:13 - Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.