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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

City, police department hold active shooter class


Evening Star

The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and Harker Heights Police Department teamed up to help educate local residents and business owners on how to react in an active shooter situation through a class offered Wednesday at the Harker Heights Activities Center.

Lt. Houston Johnson, the Criminal Investigations Commander with HHPD, shared several tips on how to act in an active shooter investigation and showed clips of video and audio taken from different mass shootings and disasters, such as the Columbine shooting, the Station nightclub fire and the Virginia Tech shooting, as well as facts and statistics from other shootings.

Lt. Houston Johnson speaks to residents and business owners about what to do in an active-shooter situation during a class Monday.

The class was called the Civilian Response to Active Shooting Events (CRASE) and featured information gathered by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) of Texas State University, whose curriculum has been adopted by the Justice Department as the standard for law enforcement response training in the U.S.

Since Columbine, the response time of law enforcement has improved from 10-12 minutes to three minutes, Johnson said. he class was to help civilians understand how to increase their probability of survival in those three minutes. It is designed for churches, businesses, hospitals and any location that has people.

Participants listened to a 911 call made by Patti Nelson during the Columbine High School shooting which included her telling students to get under tables and stay there.  After the clip finished,  Johnson compared tornado and fire drills to what should be done in an active shooter situation. Johnson showed another video that introduced what a person should do if faced with an active shooter situation which is Avoid, Deny, and Defend.

A person should avoid the attacker if they can, by being aware of their surroundings and making their way to the closest and safest exit.

If they can’t escape, they should deny the attacker access to their location by locking the door or blocking the door from opening, turning off the lights and staying out of sight. If a door opens outwards, belts or straps can be used to keep it closed, according to the video.

If avoiding or denying are not possible, the person should be prepared to use their right to defend themselves and be willing to be aggressive and avoid fighting fair.

When possible, the person should call 911 as soon as they can. Johnson later stressed that when calling 911, the dispatchers need detailed information regarding what is happening and where it is happening.

Other tips Johnson gave dealt with what to do when it comes to the police response.

“We need you to understand if you’re in a situation, say for instance you’re hiding behind a door and you see law enforcement come in, we may not be where we can help you. We may have to go past you instead of helping you get out,” Johnson said. “For us, that means that we may have to go past our own children, or children of friends or children in general who are laying on the floor dying, because they’ve been shot or injured.”

The first officers responding are looking for the threat. The next group of officers who go into the situation will team up with fire and EMS and go through and do triage, Johnson said.

Johnson also encouraged residents to seek immediate first responder training to learn how to control bleeding and deal with injuries until EMS can arrive. He mentioned the Stop the Bleed Campaign that was started in October 2015 by the White House to encourage bystanders to become trained and equipped to help in a situation where someone is bleeding.

Johnson brought up cognitive laziness and normalcy bias, where the brain tries to define disaster as something familiar, such as thinking gunfire is fireworks or thinking that the tear gas cannister that went off during the Aurora shooting was part of the film experience.

Johnson explained that there are two parts to the brain- the human brain and the lizard brain. When in a disaster situation, the lizard brain takes over and falls back on training, whether good or bad, he added.

He shared a principle called scripting and practicing, where a person thinks out scenarios and practices them. This should include looking for all the exits, as a person has a considerably higher probability of survival if they escape through an exit that they did not come in, Johnson said.

“What I need you to leave today with is a conceptual understanding in recognizing when your lizard brain has engaged and stop and go back and reengage your human brain for a minute,” Johnson said. “Think about your own survivability.”

Sonia Campos, who works at a pain management clinic in the area, said she heard about the event from her HR department and that she had concerns about what their staff would do in a situation. Some of the staff end up dealing with hostile patients and keeping them safe is the biggest concern, Campos said. The class helped her realize that educating everybody and encouraging them to listen to their “Spidey sense” were important, she added.

After the class, Campos also said she was going to call the daycare her youngest child attends and think about plans for her other children at school and at their home- if something were to happen, what would the plan be, she said.  The points that Johnson brought up were things she was going to take personally and professionally, she added.


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