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SMITHFIELD — Nearly 100 business and community leaders participated in an active shooter training session co-sponsored by the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday at the Johnston Medical Mall.
Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Caldwell led the training session.
“We needed to bring this training to you,” said Triangle East Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Mancuso. “I hope this is training you never need to use. But if you do use it, you’ll be saving lives.”
Caldwell began by showing a video produced by the city of Houston, Texas, which provided statistics, described the devastating effects of an active shooter incident and stressed that “survival depends on having a plan.”
The video offered a three-point plan: Should an active shooter enter a business, school or church, the three steps are run, hide and fight.
“The one thing you need to realize is that an active shooter is a murdering coward,” said Caldwell. “He preys on places and people who are unprepared to deal with him.”
Shootings can take place wherever people shop, exercise their right of free speech, where they learn and work, said Caldwell.
“Churches, schools and workplaces are all locations (that may be) active shooter targets,” said Caldwell. “These incidents are unpredictable, they happen quickly and continue until the shooter is either stopped by law enforcement, commits suicide or is stopped by a third party.”
Caldwell said it’s important to have an escape route planned, leave personal belongings behind, help others, if possible, and evacuate.
“Don’t attempt to move the wounded; first responders are headed to the scene to treat them,” said Caldwell. “Call 911 if it’s safe. When police arrive, follow their instructions, keep your hands visible at all times and your fingers spread. That tells the police that you aren’t the threat.”
Caldwell said people shouldn’t assume someone else has called 911. Call or text when it’s safe.
“When a shooter is nearby, lock your door and hide behind a large item, a cabinet or a desk,” said Caldwell. “Silence your phones and pagers and remain quiet. It’s important to hide because if the shooter hears a noise and fires, his bullets can penetrate a door or wall. So, stay down.”
Caldwell said 911 callers should give dispatchers as much specific information as possible.
“We need the location. Don’t just say ‘He’s at the hospital,’ it’s a big place. Tell the dispatcher where he’s located,” said Caldwell. “We need to know how many shooters are involved. Also, give us as a good a physical description of the shooter as possible. We also need to know the number of and types of weapons being used and the number of potential victims. You can’t be too descriptive when you call .”
The last resort is to fight or take action, said Caldwell.
“Should you need to take action, you must act aggressively — it’s either you or the shooter,” said Caldwell. “Improvise, find something in your hiding place that you can use as a weapon. Throw objects at him, yell and commit to your actions. You will either die fighting or kill while fighting.”
Caldwell explained law enforcement’s role in an active shooter situation.
“Our immediate purpose is to stop the shooter,” said Caldwell. “We’ll proceed to where the last shots were heard. Our first priority is to eliminate the threat.”
When an active shooting is dispatched, Caldwell said witnesses can expect several law enforcement agencies and emergency medical services agencies from surrounding counties.
Caldwell said law enforcement agencies have completed rapid deployment training.
“All law enforcement agencies are on the same page and work together,” said Caldwell. “These officers may be wearing bulletproof vests and helmets. They will be heavily armed, shouting commands and may push people to the floor for their safety.”
Caldwell explained how people should react when law enforcement arrives.
“Remain calm, put down anything you’re holding — you don’t want police to mistake it for a weapon,” said Caldwell. “Raise your hands, spread your fingers and avoid any quick movements. Don’t panic and start screaming and yelling. Exit the scene in the direction in which the police arrived.”
When the situation is under control, all witnesses need to remain at the scene for identification purposes and questioning. Don’t leave until law enforcement releases you, said Caldwell.
Caldwell said the best way to prepare for an active shooter situation is to develop an emergency action plan, conduct training and recognize indicators of potential workplace violence.
“If you have an employee going through a difficult marital situation, and they seem to be upset and have a spouse that also works there, you need to tell your boss,” said Caldwell. “Every active shooting has follow-up consequences. You need to identify people who are missing or injured. If someone dies, law enforcement needs to make the notification to the family. They don’t need to find out through social media messages.
“It’s important to assess the psychological impact on those involved and identify and fill any critical or operational personnel gaps,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell said that when people go to busy places like Walmart or a restaurant, they should look for two nearest exits and be aware of their environment and any potential dangers.
“Trust your gut and if anything seems off, call 911 immediately,” said Caldwell. “It may turn out to be nothing, but we don’t mind — that’s our job.”
Organizations interested in hosting an active shooter preparedness presentation for employees or community groups can call the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5010.