By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
There wasn’t a sound in the room save for the audio from the computer.
A crowd of parents, school officials, and citizens sat silently as a re-enactment of the deadly Columbine shooting was displayed on a television screen, showing the chaos and deadly actions of two “active shooters” that stunned the nation in 1999.
The video was a sobering start to a seminar presented by Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Sgt. Steve Jones Tuesday at the Collins Middle School Auditorium, aimed at teaching civilians how to act, and react, should they face the deadly scenario of an “active shooter” in a school or business.
CISD trustee Barbara Kelley, herself a DART employee, sponsored the multi-media presentation, giving an in-depth look at the ways people tend to react in such situations, and how to overcome fear and shock and survive such a horrible event.
Jones, a career law enforcement officer, stressed the presentation shown Tuesday was not the “law enforcement version,” but rather an educational piece.
“It teaches you to plan ahead,” Jones said. The people who commit such violent acts do just that – plan far in advance all the details of their crime.
“The two boys that did the Columbine attack planned it out for over a year,” Jones said. He added that the gunman in the Newton school shooting earlier this year studied the actions of a gunman who killed over 70 students in Norway.
“They will be prepared,” he said. “That’s why we teach this.”
Three steps, Jones said, were key - avoid the shooter; deny him access to you; and defend yourself.
Most people give no advance thought to such scenarios in their everyday lives, he said.
Understanding how the mind works in stressful situations, and planning ahead for how a person should react to a shooter in a workplace, school, restaurant or other public place can mean the difference between surviving, or becoming part of “the body count,” Jones said.
“You need to make up your mind how you’ll act before it happens,” he said.
Many of the suggestions shared in the two-hour presentation could apply not only to a shooting incident, but for everyday security, Jones said.
“Every time you walk into a building, look around and find the exits,” he stressed. Knowing more than one way to escape – such as sitting near a kitchen entrance in a restaurant to have access to the restaurant’s rear door – is only one of many such tips shared.
He also suggested “breaking patterns” that people tend to fall in, such as always taking the same route to and from work, always using the same entry and exit points at the same time, and keeping a routine schedule.
While stress levels will likely run high, Jones talked about the importance of trying to keep calm, allowing the brain to be able to think decisively and follow that thinking with action.
And having a plan of what steps to take – again referencing the A-D-D approach of avoiding the perpetrator, denying him access, and defending yourself – is a big step in being more likely to get out of a bad situation alive.
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner joined Jones in fielding questions from the audience. Tanner said after reviewing the DART presentation ahead of time, he felt it was vital to share the program with everyone.
“We need to get this out to the public,” Tanner said.
Tanner explained that the law enforcement approach is a coordinated effort.
“Every agency trains the same way, so they can react together,” Tanner explained, which allows an off-duty officer who may be at the scene of a shooting to be able to join responding officers in a tactical attack on a shooter.
“The world changed after 9-11,” Tanner said.
“These things are happening.”
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