Pastor grateful for ALICE training

WEATHERSFIELD — When Pastor Ron Blakeman of Mineral Ridge Church of Christ was approached about the possibility of receiving ALICE training through the police department, he welcomed the opportunity.

Blakeman, 57, is one of several church leaders in Weathersfield who will participate in the training at Mineral Ridge High School Dec. 7.

ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate — the five principles ALICE proponents believe empower those who might find themselves in an active shooter scenario.

Several police officers are members of the 192-person congregation, Blakeman said, and after the mass church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 25 people dead, the decision to lock and guard doors during services was made. If someone arrives late, or a newcomer appears, the individual must knock on the door and a congregant who is an off-duty sheriff’s deputy will check to see who it is.

Blakeman said he wasn’t sure how his congregation would take the news that doors would be locked, but he said many were relieved and thanked him when he told them. Churchgoers had found themselves nervous in light of recent shootings at public gatherings and places of worship, he said.

“If you decide to do something evil you won’t be able to get in,” Blakeman said.

Blakeman said like many churches, the Church of Christ is not only filled with people during services, there are a number of community gatherings throughout the year where more than 100 people might be present. People should feel safe in church, Blakeman said, yet churches seem to be an enemy of unbalanced people who are unhappy in their own lives.

“We know the Bible tells us people are going to be increasingly more evil, and that people do bad things,” Blakeman said. “There’s nothing necessarily you can do if someone wants to hurt you, but we pray the hand of God is on us and watches over us. We don’t live in fear, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful.”

Dan Lowery, a Weathersfield police detective, said township police department has conducted ALICE training in schools in Trumbull County but this is the first time churches were approached. The training gives people options, Lowery said, and helps them prepare as best as possible for an active shooter scenario.

Weathersfield Trustee Gil Blair, who attends services at the Church of Christ, said it’s disheartening that deadly shootings occur in places of worship, but he’s pleased church leaders and the police are taking the issue seriously. Blair said he’s never attended an ALICE training, but he will this time.

“I think everybody had concern after what happened in Texas,” Blair said. “In Weathersfield we have an officer who is a trained ALICE instructor, so as a township we are happy to provide it.”