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Barbara Curry, director of preparedness, and Daniel Farrell, volunteer service specialist from the American Red Cross discuss before their presentation at a safety conference Thursday.

Local ministers attend safety conference here

In the wake of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting last month, ministers of local churches gathered Thursday to learn how they can be better prepared for emergencies.

A safety conference, organized by Bishop John Dunaway in collaboration with the City of Lawton, Lawton Public Schools and the American Red Cross, was held at Lawton City Hall.

Bishop John Dunaway shared his experience of dealing with such situations at his church.

"We are organizing this conference because of how things are going in the world. Lawton is not exempt from such situations," Dunaway said. "In 2011 there was a guy who came to our Wednesday night service. He sat down at the service and pulled out a knife. Another time there was a gentleman who came to a Sunday morning service from Wichita Falls. After the service was over and everyone was gone he attempted to assault me. We were able to handle both the situations."

Dunaway also talked about other emergency situations like health and natural disasters for which churches should have preparations on hand. 

"In one of the churches we recently had an unfortunate situation where a pastor passed away due to a heart attack," Dunaway said. "If there were people who had training on CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) before the first responders arrived that may have helped. We also need to be informed about fire safety."

Dunaway pointed out that the safety conference has been organized not because pastors are scared but because they need to be proactive about the safety and preventive measures.

"I encourage everyone to keep working together as a team and I think we have the greatest team in Southwest Oklahoma," Dunaway said. 

Pastor Rick Gettens from Mind of Christ attended the conference with the church Minister Jeff Elbert. He said the church has seen quite a few vandalism episodes in the past and this conference can be helpful in dealing with such situations at the church.

"We have had a battery taken out of vehicles, radios being stolen, a person coming off the street and taking away my wallet, among others. We also had some tools worth $1,000 stolen about two years ago," Gettens said. "We are here so that we can be partners with other churches and work together."

Gettens said the church has taken some safety measures in the last couple of years and the conference reminded them of some emergency situations for which the church should be prepared.

"We have not done much of the fire or tornado drills," Gettens said. "We also will have to make plans on how to keep the elderly population safe in case of an emergency."

Pastor Namon Melvin of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church said his church has had a couple of incidents this year.

The Lawton Constitution

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