Law enforcement offering free active shooter training
by Emily McLain
TALLADEGA COUNTY – Local law enforcement is participating in an innovative program to train the public how to react in an active shooter situation.

Eight officers from Sylacauga Police Department and one from Talladega police, as well as two deputies from the County Sheriff’s Office, completed instructor certification for the “Run, Hide, Fight!” program last month in Sylacauga.

An initiative of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, the new course allows certified officers to teach personnel from businesses, public agencies and organizations to protect themselves in the event of an active shooter, which is defined as a person engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically with a firearm.

“It’s not when it’s going to happen again, it’s where,” Talladega Police Chief Alan Watson said. “The media seems to focus on these events at schools, but it happens other places. The same thing can happen at your place of employment, when you’re out shopping, at the movie theater. If you take this kind of training, then hopefully if that situation does occur, some of what you learned, you can act on.”

The three entities are now offering the free training to groups by request. Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said preparedness for a shooting event is more important than ever for citizens, and law enforcement not only welcomes, but encourages, companies to participate.

“Based on recent events around the country, it’s not something we like to think about or like to think would happen here, but at the same time, it’s a reality that we have to train and prepare for,” Kilgore said. “It’s something we feel we need to educate and prepare communities to face. When these events occur, every second counts, and the response and the actions people take may save their lives or the lives of others.”

Sylacauga Police Chief Chris Carden said their officers are also ready for any requests and hope to schedule courses open to the public in the near future.

“This is a great tool for us to have,” Carden said. “It involves cops teaching active shooter response to the people of Sylacauga, gets us in the businesses and local agencies one-on-one with the folks addressing a very important issue. This is innovative, groundbreaking progress, and I’m so excited to get started.”

The course lasts only about an hour and a half and focuses, as the name suggests, on three approaches an individual should take in the event of an active shooter: run, hide or fight. The Department of Homeland Security advises that you first assess if you can run to safety. If this is not an option, find a good hiding place, preferably behind a piece of furniture in a dark, locked room. If the first two options fail, use your own discretion about when to engage the shooter. Make a plan, commit to the action and act as a group if possible. The course goes into extensive detail on these, and other, actions one should take during an emergency.

Complementing the public training, officials from Sylacauga and Talladega police and the Sheriff’s Office also completed state-mandated active shooter training for law enforcement in June. Kilgore said it is important for both law enforcement and citizens to stay informed and updated on this serious public safety issue.

“I don’t think there is an absolute safety net, but I think we, and we being the law enforcement community, have learned from the experiences of those who have encountered these situations,” he said. “We’ve learned some best practices of what to do and what not to do, and hopefully we can share some of that with employees and employers in the private sector and try to help them be prepared.”

For scheduling inquiries in Sylacauga, contact Capt. Kelley Johnson at 256-401-2461 or Contact Talladega Police Department at 256-362-4162 and the County Sheriff’s Office at 256-362-2748.

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© 2013