Apr 24, 2014 5:21 PM by Maddie Garrett

Pueblo Religious Leaders Preparing for Possible Security Threats

Places of worship in Southern Colorado are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to security and emergencies. A recent shooting at a Kansas City synagogue served as a reminder of the real and possible threat of violence against religious institutions. Churches and synagogues in Pueblo County are taking measures to make sure they're ready if violence or a crisis hits.

"We have to be prepared," said Rebbe Michael Marks of Shammash Ariel Messianic Synagogue in Pueblo.

His synagogue is a holy place, unfortunately it isn't always peaceful.

"We've had threats, I've had threats," said Rebbe Marks. "We have people who would be obscene towards us and towards synagogue."

Rebbe Marks doesn't want to alarm people, only to be wise when it comes to potential violence or emergencies.

"It's something that is part of our world, it's something we have to face," he explained.

Anti-semetism, violence, or even an emergency are all things he's preparing for.

"We want to create a flip chart that deals with potential emergencies," said Rebbe Marks.

It all started about a month ago, when the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office sponsored a safety workshop for religious leaders. Rebbe Marks was one of roughly a hundred people there.

"Much like we do active shooter (drills) in the school it's so important the churches have a plan as well," said Captain David Lucero with the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Division.

A plan is the first step religious institutions should have.

"What they're going to do if something happens, and not just a shooting but a fire," said Capt. Lucero.

But taking action and practicing that plan is the next step.

"We encourage churches to run the drills much like schools run the drills," he said.

Because in this day and age, it can happen here.

"It's much like lightening you don't know when or where it's going to strike but the possibility still exists," said Capt. Lucero.

Rebbe Marks is ready, knowing full well his faith could be a target simply because of who they are.

"How can we quit being Jews, how can Christians quit being Christians? It's who we are, it's what we are," he said.

The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is also doing threat assessments at churches and other places of worship. They look at possible vulnerabilities, such as how seating is arranged, entrances and exits, and even firing blanks inside the buildings so congregations and leaders will know what a gunshot inside sounds like.



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