Summit held to help keep churches safe

Safety and Security Summit held at the Rosen Centre

By Mark Lehman - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Church leaders across Central Florida are meeting up with law enforcement for a special seminar on security.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office invited all local places of worship to attend the Safety and Security Summit at the Rosen Centre at 9840 International Drive.

According to deputies, the summit is designed to help places of worship develop an emergency action plan and build connections with law enforcement.

"There is a fine balance there for places of worship to have open doors, but at the same time, they have this responsibility to protect their parishioners as well," Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

The topics covered at the free seminar ranged from crime prevention to worship-place violence and active shooters at places of worship.

"When our congregates come to worship, we want them to feel secure," said Octavius Smith, pastor of AME Church of Sanford.  "For quite some time, we've been working and trying to figure out how to better secure our places of worship."

The summit comes nearly three months after a gunman killed 26 people and wounded several others at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Since then, the Orange County Sheriff's Office says it has received calls from several congregations about additional security.

Deputies said there haven't been any violent attacks at local places of worship, but there have been isolated reports of burglary and vandalism.

"The main key here is to make certain that they have a plan," Demings said.  "It takes a village to take care of the people and that's what we're talking about today."

In December, a similar workshop was held with more than 30 churches in Seminole County.
Organizers said the goal was to share safety plans and help set up or improve safety procedures at each facility.

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