Sheriff’s captain offers active shooter safety tips for workers

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SMITHFIELD — Some 25 people from area businesses and organizations took part in an active shooter training session co-sponsored by the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Thursday at Sleep Inn and Suites.

The program was designed to teach people how to respond to active shooter situations in the workplace and was conducted by Capt. Jeff Caldwell of the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, who had spoken earlier this year to a similar group of businesspeople.

“We hope everyone will walk out of here with a different mindset,” Caldwell said prior to beginning the session.

“When dealing with an active shooter,” the captain explained, “you need to be prepared for the worst.”

Caldwell said while active shooter situations are unpredictable, assailants generally target locations where there are lots of people such as malls, churches, workplaces, schools and businesses.

“They are cowards and don’t look for places like the police station or sheriff’s office,” said Caldwell.

As a teaching tool, Caldwell showed a six-minute video prepared by the city of Houston, Texas, that described various scenarios and centered around a three-point plan of “Run, Hide, Fight.”

“The first line of defense is to try to exit the building and warn others if possible,” Caldwell said. “When a shooter is nearby, lock your door and hide behind a large item like a cabinet or a desk and stay down. Silence your phones and pagers and remain quiet.”

When a shooting in progress is dispatched, Caldwell said witnesses can expect law enforcement agencies who have had rapid deployment training to arrive on the scene.

“Our immediate purpose is to stop the shooter,” said Caldwell. “Our first priority is to eliminate the threat.”

Caldwell said when police and deputies arrive, they may not yet have the shooter’s description. People should remain calm and drop anything they are holding, raise their hands and spread their fingers so officers won’t mistake them for the shooter.

“Prior to that, people should not assume someone else has called 911,” said Caldwell. “Call or text when it is safe and when police arrive, follow their instructions.”

Caldwell said 911 callers should give dispatchers as much specific information as possible including the shooter’s location and physical description, the number of shooters involved, the number and types of weapons and the number of potential victims.

“No detail is too small,” said Caldwell.“When the situation is under control, all witnesses should remain at the scene for identification purposes and questioning and should not leave until they are released.”

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, use common sense and be smart.

Companies and groups interested in holding an active shooter preparedness training session can call the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5010.