An increased number of active shooter cases at concerts, churches, schools and other public places have reinforced the need for more public education promoting safety.
The Monroe County Chamber of Commerce took the lead last week with seminars in Aberdeen and Amory focusing on awareness and reaction to such instances.
“You don’t think these things can happen here and you don’t want to be complacent since what we show is from different areas. I’m not saying we live in a bad county by any means, but I’m just saying there’s a potential for that to happen,” said Tim Oswalt of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, who helped teach the course.
Being aware of your surroundings was an important talking point.
“Staying buried in your cell phones, that’s fine, but you need to be aware of your surroundings,” said law enforcement officer John Bishop, who helped teach the course.
Attackers don’t fit certain profiles, as Bishop said a workplace shooting could stem from someone losing his or her job.
He said threatening behavior, isolation, negative family dynamics, a history of violence, exposure to violence, mental illness, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts are warning signs of a potential attacker.
The course included surveillance footage, 911 calls, photographs and survivor testimonials linked to national tragedies such as the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas and Sandy Hook shootings.
Oswalt stressed it’s important to keep doors locked as a safety measure.
There are three stages of disaster response – denial, deliberation and the decisive moments when people take action.
“When bad things happen, you go through that denial stage. We’ve got to get out of that denial phase as quickly as possible. You hear loud noises down the road or in the building and hear loud noises…‘Somebody dropped something, or that might be fireworks.’ Don’t be in denial,” Bishop said.
He urged people not to freeze up in a bad situation as reacting to the fight or flight instinct is important. In cases of fires and active shooters, people need to leave as soon as possible, be aware of where exits are and call 911 as quickly as possible.
Defending yourself in an active shooter situation is the last resort.
“When it’s time to fight, you don’t have to fight scared. You can fight mad. I’m not going to be scared, I’m going to get mad. I’m going to take care of me and my family,” Oswalt said.
In normal situations, the human heart rate is 60 beats per minute, but dire situations lead to higher heart rates, which could inhabit motor skills.
Oswalt said people need to know their safe places and ways to escape from public places such as malls. He also suggested people stop at a safe distance behind cars at red lights in the event of situations they need to get away from quickly.
In interacting with people, he also suggested making eye contact with others as to be able to give their descriptions if necessary.