Hall Schools announces hybrid start to school year
The Hall County School District has announced it will begin the first two weeks of the school year with a hybrid of in-person and virtual classes, beginning Aug. 24.
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Church gets trained on weapons, situational awareness
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Wearing red caps, Jeff Southerland, left, and Rodney Smith, middle, assist Tim Voyles and Houston Allen on the firing line, respectively. Smith taught members of Canaan Baptist Church Saturday in Murrayville on drawing from the holster to firing. - photo by Nick Watson

Behind the chicken houses of a Murrayville farm, a handful of Canaan Baptist Church members lined up Saturday in front of a set of green paper targets.

“If I say ‘threat,’ stab back out,” said Rodney Smith, director of the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy.

Smith and his instructors were leading a training session for the church members, who have been instructed on active threats, situational awareness, carry laws and the use of deadly force.

“As we know, presence is the No. 1 deterrent, because … people are going to deter from coming in,” Smith said.

In the last couple of months, Smith said he has trained representatives from 25 to 30 churches. The work will take him across the country, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“While the service is going on, you still have that internal security as well as external security, so that you can maintain surveillance throughout,” Smith said.

Some of the churches will send one or two people to get trained. Canaan, however, has around 20 people certified as of Saturday morning.

Pastor Ken Anderson said he became concerned following the June 2015 shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine people. At the time, a number of people in his church carried firearms.

“After that shooting, it increased, and it got me a little concerned because I wanted people to be trained,” he said.

The Antioch Campground Road church in Gainesville opens its doors multiple days of the week for different services or group meetings. Anderson said a number of people voluntarily wanted to go through the training.

“We do a lot within the community, so we make sure our guys are well-equipped and well-trained,” he said.

Since the November church shooting that killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Anderson said a number of trauma kits have been placed throughout his church.

“We’ve got some nurses in the church and … after the threat is gone, they can do their job,” he said.

Tim Voyles and Houston Allen, who have been going to the church for a number of years, were among those training Saturday morning in Murrayville.

“I thought I knew a lot more than I did, but I really didn’t,” Allen said.

Since Anderson told the media he planned to do the training, other church leaders have reached out to learn more or connect with Smith.

It’s not all about firearms, Smith said, as there are less-lethal options for pastors uncomfortable with guns in church. The training also concerns abductions, kidnappings and other emergency scenarios.

Out of Smith’s training, Anderson said he is glad to have the situational awareness in a society that is glued to smartphone screens.

“Everybody’s walking doing stuff on their phones. That situational awareness will wake you up to your surroundings and what’s going on around you,” he said.

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