HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) -- They should be places of sanctuary, but many fear their houses of worship have become targets of attack.
Safety and security are now priorities for those at churches, mosques and synagogues.
"Gone are the days of, ‘Oh, it can't happen here,’" said Captain Valerie Wiess with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
Too many times we have seen attacks on places of worship in recent years; that’s why Ottawa County is holding emergency response preparation workshops for local places of worship.
“It’s unfortunate, but it's the world we live in today -- and hopefully it never happens here," Weiss said. "The big piece everyone needs to leave here today is let's be as prepared as possible.”
The sheriff's department hosted more than 300 people, representing more than 100 churches, mosques, and temples in West Michigan Thursday night.
People are supposed to feel safe and welcome in places like this, and preparation can help keep that peace.
“It’s a little different role in the church. Our role is to welcome people in, to be warm, to show grace, so it’s kind of a different approach," said Grace Community Church security leader Gary Brand. "We're not walking around like security guards.”
While scenes like the Charleston shooting are still fresh in our memories, this training is broader than that.
“This is not just about active shooter events," Weiss pointed out. "We could have a tornado, or we could have a fire or a medical emergency.”
Anytime you bring hundreds of people together, you will deal with medical emergencies or theft, too. With that many people, panic can sink in if there is no prepared plan.
Security in a church may not seem right, but we have it where we learn and play, so why not where we pray, asked Brand. “Not just when we have service, but during the week, we have concerts here, off-site activities, so we're thinking of all those things.”