Local churches, synagogues receiving security training after Emanuel AME shooting

Updated: Aug. 24, 2015 at 10:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Two months after the Emanuel AME Church shooting, local churches and synagogues are learning how to protect their places of worship.

This week, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is sponsoring a week long series of seminars titled, "Protecting Your Place of Worship in an Uncertain World." The instructors are from Training Force USA based out of Orlando, Florida.

"As soon as the shooting happened here in Charleston, our phones began ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted something, they wanted to learn something, they wanted to get some information," instructor Thomas Gillan said.

"Out of a survey of 4,000 churches, we find about 20 percent of them say we don't need any security because we're protected, we have a higher power there."

To get his message across, Gillan showed the group some video of other incidents involving churches.

Some of the people in attendance have seen the violence first hand.

The Greater Bethel AME Church was one of three James Island churches that had shots fired into their buildings last month.

Officials have taken steps to make the church more secure.

"We have people outside of the church and in the rear of the church in and out, all doors are locked, you can come in only one entrance," church member Cynthia Smalls said.

Stewart Kaufman of BSBI Synagogue said his congregation will put into action what he learns at the seminar.

"We're a Jewish house of worship, there are many people out there who would like to see harm done to Jews, so we are extremely sensitive to that fact and we need to be prepared for any eventuality," Kaufman said.

Gillan says it's all about building relationships with law enforcement and other places of worship to prevent another church shooting.

"They need to hear that message that this is real and you need to be prepared for anything that happens," he said.

There are four more security seminars being held this week at the sheriff's office. They are all filled, but there is a waiting list just in case someone drops out.

Call the sheriff's office at (843) 554-2231 for more information.

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