Security checks available at Flagler County churches

by: Mike Springer, WFTV Web Staff Updated:

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office have offered to perform security checks at places of worship following the mass shooting at a Texas church.

Read: Survivors recount horror of Texas church shooting: 'He shot anyone who got in the way'

“Pastors and faith-based leaders have a responsibility to protect their congregation,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Unfortunately, there is no single answer to prevent a violent crime or traumatic incident so it is important that all organizations are prepared to respond to whatever happens in or around their establishment. Develop an emergency response plan today – and let us help you.” 

Staly said churches are open to the public, meet at regularly scheduled times and could present vulnerabilities.

Read: Texas church shooting: How to help Sutherland Springs victims, families

Deputies said they will conduct on-site security surveys at places of worship to determine their security status, identify deficiencies and make suggested improvements.

Staly suggested all places of worship should have evacuation procedures in place and that church staff should be trained.

"Men are becoming more wicked. Men are becoming more destructive, and there are certain targets that are easy to get into and churches, unfortunately, happen to be one of them," pastor Bill Elias, with Flagler Beach Community Church, said.

Elias sees 140 people every Sunday at his church. He is one of several people working with Flagler County deputies to make their buildings safer. He said after last Sunday's deadly shooting in Texas and the 2015 church shooting in South Carolina, he knew changes needed to be made.

"We need to do something to make sure our people are safe as we can possibly make them," Elias said.

Elias said there are cameras inside his church, there are security guards  outside the church and people attending service carry concealed weapons.

"We need to be wise in what we do and how we protect people, but we also can't be showing guns and making it look like it's the Old West," Elias said.

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