Planning helps prevent active shooter incidents

By Phil Reynolds

Burnet Bulletin

Law enforcement officers from all over Burnet County gave more than 100 people tips on staying alive during an active shooter incident Thursday evening at the Marble Falls High School auditorium.

Burnet County Deputy Sheriff Tracy Weems, who led the hour-long event, said the first big step toward avoiding being a victim is to have a plan.

In a prepared presentation, Weems played the tape of the call to 9-1-1 operators during the mass murder at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999. Listening to the tape, Weems said it was obvious no one had planned for such an event – and at that time, they had no reason to. Fewer students might have died if there had been a plan in effect, he hinted.

Since then, it’s become obvious that such events can happen, and while no one wants to be part of one, it’s important to decide ahead of time what to do if it does occur, he said.

Authorities say the plan can be broken down into three parts: Avoid, Deny and Defend.

Avoid means to stay away from the shooter when possible. Leave the building if a safe exit can be found, and – here’s that plan again – know where another exit is if the first one isn’t safe.

Denying the shooter access can be such things as locking room doors and turning out lights so it appears a room is unoccupied, often leading the offender past the room. It’s also often useful to use tables, chairs, or anything else weighty to barricade a door – but, Weems pointed out, that’s only useful if the door opens inward.

Defending is the last option; officers point out that someone caught in an incident has every right to protect himself or herself. In a dramatization, employees were shown surprising a gunman, tackling him and retrieving the weapon before he had a chance to shoot them.

In any case, Weems emphasized, call the 9-1-1 emergency number as soon as it’s safe, that is, while the gunman can’t overhear you.

Weems said it normally takes at least three minutes for officers to arrive, and often more. Those minutes are critical, he said.

And, in the only mention of civilian weapons during the hour-long presentation, Weems told holders of concealed weapons permits not to have a firearm in their hand when officers enter the building.

“I may have two or three different descriptions,” he said. “What I’m looking for is a shooter. So don’t look like one.”

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