TAYLOR COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV/Gray News) - Last week, a deadly Texas shooting left two dead. Now, Taylor County residents work to ensure this does not happen in West Virginia.
Taylor County Sheriff Terry Austin says he has both churches and individual church-goers reaching out to him to participate in his active shooter training.
Taylor County Sheriff Terry Austin says a new initiative, in collaboration with the FBI, prepares armed churchgoers for the worst-case scenario.
"It is making people safe. Making that facility safe that chooses to have people that will be armed," Austin said.
The three-phase program begins with deputies understanding the church.
"We need to know the layout of these churches in case something does happen," said Austin.
Next, deputies show the reality of a life-or-death situation.
"We will come back in, we will put on a scenario in the church, kind of a shock and awe, how things like this could happen and how quickly they can happen," Austin said.
Finally, congregation members who carry will be trained by FBI agents and sheriff's deputies.
"We hear stories all the time, 'I have carried a weapon for 20 years,' whatever. That's great, but how proficient are you with it?" Austin asked. "It is not just shooting at a paper target. To make this decision, to possibly have to take someone's life, it is within a split second."
Unarmed Taylor County congregation members can also learn what to do in critical moments.
"Ephesians 6:11 says put the full armor of God on so you can stand up to your enemies," said Eric Swick.
Swick created the Armor of God program to prepare Grafton congregations before an emergency situation.
"I like to give them awareness, give them an action plan in case something would happen," Swick said.
He works with churches on plans ranging from active shooters to fire drills.
"The last thing you want is something as simple as a fire, 'Oh my God, a fire,' you know? Everybody go crazy and lose their mind. This way, it is calm, collected, let's get to safety," Swick said.
The Armor of God program is free for church congregations.
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