By Shirin Rajaee

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is rolling out a series of safety training events starting this week geared towards the leaders of various congregations.

The agency is equipping the faith community with tools to protect against potential active shooters.

“Houses of worship are where these things have happened, so we feel vulnerable,” said Pastor Rick Cole.

It was less than four months ago when a gunman opened fire on worshippers at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people. And just two weeks ago, a gunman terrorized students at a Florida high school.

“We’re heartbroken we pray for them, what we want to do is avoid having those kinds of things visit us, and to prepare to protect in every way that we can,” said Cole.

Capitol Christian Center in Sacramento will be the host venue for the six safety training sessions. The training is open to the leaders of all congregations, big or small, in the Sacramento region. The goal is to raise awareness and to help empower communities to understand the potential hazards and to reduce the chances of a tragic event.

“How would you know what to do in that situation in such a panic, so to be prepared and trained in advance….we’re hungry for that information,” he said.

Deputies conducting the training say they’ve done extensive research on active shooters and have noticed patterns in how they act and react. And they’re hoping to pass on this knowledge to leaders of all faiths.

“We teach them what to look for. Here are the things you’ll see leading up to violence, and when you see these things, you need to know where to report them, and how to report them,” said Lt. Matthew Reali.

Reali says the training will focus on helping congregation leaders set up systems of protection.

“We don’t just say run, but here’s how you run. You run to the peripheral because an active shooter has tunnel vision just like a police officer in a critical incident. We talk about hiding, and if you’re gonna hide, make sure you have doors that can lock,” said Reali.

Over at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Pastor Alan Jones says he hopes the training doesn’t add more fear within the community but instead acts as a tool to be more vigilant.

“We’re always looking for loving and compassionate nonviolent solutions and even in the face of great violence, meeting that violence with nonviolence,” said Jones.

All the while hoping it never hits close to home.

“We want to do our due diligence on the front end of things and not react after it’s too late,” said Pastor Cole.

The first training is March 1, Thursday night at 5:30, at Capitol Christian center at 9470 Micron Avenue. They’re expecting about 100 people per session.

And the invite is open to leaders of not only congregations but school administrators and business leaders to join as well.


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