After Las Vegas And Antioch, Middle Tennessee Police Ramp Up Classes In How To Respond To Shooters | Nashville Public Radio

After Las Vegas And Antioch, Middle Tennessee Police Ramp Up Classes In How To Respond To Shooters

Oct 13, 2017

Midday at the senior center in Dickson, and Police Sergeant David Cole is giving his audience a pep talk.

He admits that seemingly random killings have injected an element of fear into public life. One that could lead people to conclude that they're defenseless any time they gather together.

"And some people would say, 'I can defend against it. I won't go,'" he says, triggering a knowing chuckle from the audience. "Well, if you don't do that, they win. They win."

Many in this crowd of about 80 people nod in agreement.

Dickson and some other police departments in Middle Tennessee are ramping up efforts to prepare the public for the unlikely event of a mass shooting. And, in the wake of last month's attack on an Antioch church and the massacre of 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas, interest appears to be on the rise.

One big message law enforcement hopes to get across is that potential victims can help their chances of survival, even if unarmed.

While mass shootings have been a part of American life for decades — Virginia Tech and San Bernardino,  Fort Hood and Columbine, back even to the 1986 massacre in Oklahoma that gave birth to the phrase "going postal" — Cole says those events offer case studies in how to respond to an attacker, whether carrying a rifle, wielding a knife or driving a truck.

It comes down to the concept of "situational awareness."

"Don't wait until it happens," Cole advises. "Go ahead and start paying attention to things now. Make yourself a better observer."

His tips include knowing the location of emergency exits, watching for suspicious behavior, and if there is a shooter, not necessarily trying to hide or play dead. Instead, Cole teaches the mnemonic ADD, for "Avoid. Deny. Defend."

Avoid the shooter by running away if possible. Deny entry by locking or barricading a door. And if all else fails defend yourself, even if your only weapon is your bare hands.

"Take some martial arts class. Get in shape. Take some physical fitness classes," he says, "and start paying attention to your surroundings."

Dickson Police use a 90-minute curriculum developed by Wal-Mart and Texas State University.

Police in Franklin and Gallatin have also added classes in active shooter preparation. Other departments are considering doing so.

Dickson Police have long offered active shooter training to companies and institutions, and they've used this particular curriculum for about one year. But Sergeant Cole says, in the past, these sessions drew no more than a couple dozen people — often workers required by their employers to attend.

Recent events have changed that. Craig Batts, the pastor of a Freewill Baptist church, came out from Bellevue for this training. He says his church now has a sense of urgency about developing a security plan, one that still jives with Biblical teachings.

"It's unfortunate. But we're told to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, and so that's what we're trying to do."

Already Dickson Police are planning their next session — in the 100-plus seat council chambers of Dickson City Hall. They expect it to be standing room only.