Ohio EMA releases worship toolkit

Staff report

As part of Governor Mike DeWine’s STRONG Ohio initiative, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency is releasing its “Houses of Worship: Targeted Disruption” tabletop exercise toolkit. The toolkit is designed to help all houses of worship prepare for active aggressors at their location.

“Ohioans should feel comfortable and safe when they gather to worship,” DeWine said. “As attacks on houses of worship continue to escalate, it is incumbent on our religious institutions to be prepared.”

Ohio EMA Executive Director Sima Merick said the state runs the gamut from mega churches and large synagogues to small country churches. “This all-inclusive exercise toolkit gives them everything they need to sit down and have a healthy, detailed discussion about how to protect their congregation.”

Recently in Texas another deadly attack of houses of worship occurred. The attack on a Baptist congregation in the community of Sutherland in 2017 killed 26, and is one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Less than a year later, a gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Unfortunately, DeWine said, it appears that more houses of worship are being targeted, and the number of those killed and wounded are increasing. He said due to this there is an increasing need for these facilities, which are perceived as “soft targets,” to take measures to protect themselves.

The governor said the toolkit was developed to provide a free product for those communities to better prepare staff, worshipers, first responders, and other partners to plan for and respond to such incidents.

He said the Houses of Worship: Targeted Disruption Toolkit will provide all of the information and materials needed to easily plan for and host a tabletop exercise.

Ohio EMA’s three previous toolkits – Mall Active Shooter, Business Continuity: Disaster in the Workplace, and the Higher Education Active Aggressor Tabletop Exercise Toolkit – have been downloaded a combined total of nearly 700 times in 42 states and nine countries. The toolkits are available at ema.ohio.gov/Exercise_TableTop_Toolkit.aspx.

Staff report