Some 125 people attended a safety course Saturday offered to local church congregations that might face an active-shooter situation in Laurens County.
The number of attendees, which represented more than 40 local churches, was about double what was expected for the four-hour training session at the Laurens County Judicial Complex at Hillcrest.
“We were prepared for 135, so we had 10 less than that,” said Laurens Count Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jarvis Reeder.
The LCSO held pre-registration for the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training and initially expected about 60 people to attend.
“We had a few people register and not show up, but we had a lot more than that not register and come,” Reeder said.
The class was led by LCSO Lt. Don Evans, a U.S. military veteran. Evans said prior to the course that he wanted to help church leaders formulate security plans.
“We think it went really well,” Reeder said. “Now, the churches are aware of the dangers that can possibly exist in their congregations and their community. We want to help recognize any issues that may arise and teach them how to deal with them.
Interest in church safety became an issue for local congregations following a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twenty-six people died in that shooting incident, and nearly as many were wounded.
Local church leaders reached out to the LCSO and Sheriff Don Reynolds with their safety concerns. During an informational meeting in late November, the decision was made to offer an ALICE training class to local congregations.
Reeder said due to the overwhelming response to Saturday’s training session, the LCSO will host more of them in the future.
“We’re planning on one in mid-January or early February,” he said. “We’ll probably try to do one quarterly after that, at least until interest dies away a little. We’re hoping a church or two will help us out and host it because it’s not just for their congregations, it’s for the whole community.”