Columbia Police Department hopes to expand training for shooting attacks

Friday, December 14, 2012 | 6:03 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department teaches officers, city supervisors and Columbia Public School teachers and staff how to react to shootings such as the one that killed 27 people in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.

According to School Resource Officer John Warner, the police department hopes to provide training sessions for every public school building.

The training program includes discussion and active-shooter attack simulation, and uses tactics from the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate program. Warner also recommends the video, "Run, Hide, Fight," which is available on YouTube. 

"Those are the three things to do. Run, hide or fight," Warner said. "And it gives you at least some thought process about looking around the space you're in."

Warner said the goal is to make teachers aware of what they can do in an active-shooter attack. However, no single plan is appropriate for every situation, Warner said, and much of his training focuses on learning how to think through your options during an attack.

"The idea is we know that these things happen in workplaces," Warner said. "And we want to start giving them some information that would help them in these kinds of situations."

City of Columbia Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe participated in a training session for city supervisors this week. The training did not include a simulation of an active-shooter attack, but Buffaloe found the program to be eye-opening. 

During one demonstration, everyone at the meeting was given a Koosh ball. When someone from the hallway walked into the room, all of the participants threw their ball at the person. 

"He was just supposed to come up and tell you a little bit about himself," Buffaloe said. "He just froze and put his hands up because automatically everyone just started throwing things at him."

The demonstration showed that even someone coming into a room with a plan can be thrown off by the element of surprise, Buffaloe said.

"You've taken away their control in that instance and then they just have to naturally react," she said. 

Buffaloe said she also learned it's sometimes better to run. She plans to have something on hand to throw at a perpetrator. 

"I'm serious," she said. "Just throw whatever you have." 

A large part of preparing for such a traumatic circumstance is assessing your own responsiveness, Warner said. In other words, he doesn't expect everyone to come out of the program being a "high-end combatant fighter." 

"There’s so many factors that go into this," he said. "I think that the best thing people can do is think for themselves what they're best at."

Buffaloe believes the program would be beneficial to others. 

"I want everybody I know and come in contact with to know this training," she said.

The MU Police Department also has an active-shooter training program for faculty, staff and students called Citizens' Response to Active Threat Incidents. The instructors have held an estimated 40 classes and served 595 people.

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