Church members learn self-defense and prepare for potential threats in York County

RED LION, YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- Just one day after a deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, people at a local church trained for a potential attack.

The training took place at Bethany United Methodist Church in Red Lion, and it focused on recognizing perpetrators and what to do in dangerous situations.

It didn't just have handouts and a PowerPoint presentation; people actually learned hand-to-hand combat methods in case of an attack.

Gary Smith, a former pastor, is a Certified NRA Handgun Instructor, who teaches hand-to-hand self-defense in places of worship and other places.

"I always tell churches, even if you have multiple entrances and exits, narrow it down to two when the service starts so you funnel people in, instead of someone slipping in the back door," he explained.

"Were they ducks on a pond? Did he just continue shooting while they were just running in chaos... or did they have some type of plan where it's a natural instinct this is where to go?" questioned Smith.

"We have to protect our people from those people," said Jim Miller, a participant.

Miller is also in charge of safety at the church, where security is already a priority.

"We took the front pews away, all the way across, which gives us more room to get out, to escape," explained Miller.

There's walkie talkies for members to communicate, pepper gel to spray at an attacker, cameras all throughout the facility, and even a special doorbell outside the children's room which captures people on camera.

Miller says he's well-aware of what can happen if someone's not ready. That's because a machete attack took place back in February, 2001 at Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary, where he was working as a gym teacher .

"Everybody thinks it's not going to happen here. We didn't think anything would happen there. Well, it did. Just like in Pittsburgh - Who thought that was going to happen? You just never know, so it's better to be prepared. It's just like having a fire extinguisher in your church. You hope you never have to use it, but it's there," he explained.

Bethany United Methodist Church has a plan; members just hope they never need to use it.

The training was put on by Point Blank Defense; the company offers a range of self-defense classes including a basic pistol training course and attack-prevention courses.

More on Point Blank Defense: here.

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