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Gathering packs church to learn what to do in active shooting

Posted 4/11/18

WESTMORELAND — When a suspected mass shooter opens fire in your vicinity, state police suggest three courses of action: run, hide or fight.Run to safety as quickly as possible. Hide where the …

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Gathering packs church to learn what to do in active shooting


WESTMORELAND — When a suspected mass shooter opens fire in your vicinity, state police suggest three courses of action: run, hide or fight.

Run to safety as quickly as possible. Hide where the shooter can’t find you, but in such a way that you can easily escape. And as a last resort, fight the shooter for your survival.

This advice was presented in a public forum Tuesday evening at the Westmoreland United Methodist Church. Trooper Brian DeRochie, school and community outreach coordinator for Troop D, spoke to a packed house for a little more than an hour with advice, tips and general information about surviving an active shooter situation.

“ Denial will kill. If you deny the fact that you will ever be in an active shooter situation, it can kill you if you are,” DeRochie told the gathered crowd. The event was hosted by the church and was free and open to the public.

DeRochie said an active shooter incident is, statistically, unlikely to happen, but recent history has sparked enough fear that more than 100 people filled the church seeking information.

“We have a lot of families that come here, and god forbid, someone were to come here, they could take out a whole family.” said Christine Golden, president of the church’s board of trustees. She helped organize the seminar.

“People are more aware that this is our new normal, unfortunately. This is a new life skill that our kids need. They may not like it, but it might save their life.”

Golden said she reached out to several local law enforcement agencies for information, and the state police offered DeRochie. As school and community outreach coordinator, DeRochie works with schools across Central New York to discuss safety plans and tactics. He said he gives a similar seminar to schools and churches throughout the area.

DeRochie faced a bit of trouble with his Power Point presentation on Tuesday because the church’s sanctuary was too bright for anyone to see the slides, but he powered ahead from memory.

Tips and advice:

• Active shooter situations are more likely to occur in a business than in a church or school. DeRochie said this is because most active shooter situations stem from domestic disputes at home, which spill over into work. Spouses are rarely stopped by building security because of familiarity.

DeRochie said to advise your supervisors if you are having trouble at home.

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times, even familiar locations. Since shootings often occur in the workplace, DeRochie advised learning the full layout of your office or building. In a high stress situation, while fleeing for your life, you may get lost in unfamiliar hallways.

“it’s not being paranoid, it’s situational awareness,” DeRochie stated.

“You’ve got to have a place to go. If you stay out in the open, you’re going to be a target. You’ve got to keep moving.”

• Running to safety should be the first course of action. Hiding is an option, especially behind closed doors. DeRochie said your chance of survival increase dramatically if you can get behind a locked door. He said not to hide under a chair or a desk because it might limit your mobility. Hide in a way that you can easily switch to running or fighting, if necessary.

• If you have to fight for your life, commit to the fight, he said. Use whatever items are on hand as weapons and don’t give up against the shooter. The fight instinct is strong regardless of age or injury.

“You will never, ever, ever negotiate with an active shooter. You’re not going to talk them out of it,” DeRochie stated.

• A responding police officer’s first and only goal is to stop the shooter. Helping people or asking questions come later, he said.

“If there’s an active shooter situation and people are getting injured, we’re coming right in,” DeRochie stated. “When we come in, we have just one job: taking care of the threat.”

• Don’t use your cell phones to film the shooting. DeRochie said too many people try to film or photograph the shooting, or try to update social media on what is happening, rather than getting themselves to safety. Cell phones in hands might also be mistaken for weapons when police rush to a scene. “When police come in, we want to see your hands up and your fingers spread apart,” DeRochie stated. “I’m not looking at your face, I’m looking at your hands.”

DeRochie advised to call 9-1-1 on your cell phone and put it away. If you have a concealed carry handgun, he advised to put it on the ground and let law enforcement know it is there.

• Leave your personal belongings behind. DeRochie said saving your life is more important than making sure you still have your jacket. Any personal items can be returned after police have cleared the scene.

• The “see something, say something” campaign works, DeRochie said. Notify law enforcement if you notice something suspicious, especially if friends, family or people you know start acting differently. DeRochie said 90-percent of active shooter crimes are foiled before they even occur because the public tipped off law enforcement in advance, launching an investigation.

State police and church officials said more such seminars will be scheduled later this year.


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