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Thinking Outside of the Box

Fall Winter 2019/2020

Bascom United Methodist Church

Reading the headlines, it seems as though bomb threats, shootings and other hate crimes are becoming more common. We get the impression that places like schools, churches and malls are unsafe and are soft targets for an attack.

Dean Durant, Pastor at Bascom United Methodist Church became concerned about the safety of his church. He reached out to Dr. Lacy Ellis, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Tiffin University, to create strategies for an emergency response if an attack occurred.

“We tend to have a mindset that shootings won’t happen in our small community,” said Pastor Dean. “But we live in a different world now, and we have to prepare.”

Dr. Ellis assigned one of her classes to perform a service learning project to help Pastor Dean. The students visited the church, conducted a walkthrough and documented areas for safety improvements. They then developed a plan to improve physical space, resources, training and a response plan. A few of the student recommendations were to keep all church entrances secure aside from the main entrance, installing several doors to limit open access areas, improving communication using ushers, technology and apps and determining a safe zone to meet. The students also recommended reaching out to the community to invite local police and fire to train with the church to practice their response as well.

Even when a plan is in place, Dr. Ellis advises everyone to keep their options open. “During a time of crisis, you have to think outside the box and use what is available to survive,” she said. “Although you may have a plan, things may not go accordingly, and you have to be able to adapt.”

Dr. Ellis revisited the church to conduct a free ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) training and demonstrated how to implement the emergency response plan her students created. Additionally, her students donated $75 to the church to allow them to purchase items that would improve their safety.

Students shared their experience

Tristen Wiley

“This service learning project added value to my overall experience at TU by becoming involved with the local community. I developed useful skills and it added value to my life and future career. Because it was hands-on learning, I believe it enhanced my leadership skills as well. Critical thinking skills are very important in instances of an emergency such as knowing where all the doors are in a building.”

Lynnae Krantz

“I feel I got to know a little more about the Tiffin Community and how sometimes just a small adjustment in an emergency plan can make a huge difference in safety and security. Sometimes, in case of an emergency, it is hard to think fast. By being able to sit down and think out different plans for different scenarios with a group of people, I realized the importance of listening because more ideas just bring more options—kind of like a second opinion. I realized the strength of the community and I want to go back home and help my community.”

Bradley Woods

“This project has contributed to my learning because our main goal was to make the church safer in case of a situation of an intruder. This has contributed to my future goals because I want to become a police officer. The police have to be involved with the response team and with the training of the community. I can use what I’ve learned in my home and in my dorm by being prepared and having knowledge of a safe place in case of a disaster. And even in the classroom, I now think about knowing where I can exit a room just by looking around and thinking about what would work to block a door to make sure nobody can get in. During this project, I also learned how expensive some of the safety materials are and how hard it can be for small organizations such as the Bascom United Methodist Church is to purchase some life-saving materials.”