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Surviving A Mass Shooting

Many people view church on Sunday morning as a sanctuary place. But in recent years, those sanctuaries have become targets for mass shootings.

“Hopefully it never happens obviously, but it’s one of those things where we want to be prepared,” said Richland Baptist pastor Nick Drake.

Drake said less than two years ago, church leaders decided to bring in the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office to have officers teach them what to do if a shooter were to show up at their doors.

“You always think if a shooter comes, you should just take cover or run, but actually one of the things they will teach you is start throwing things at them,” he said. “Grab a hymnal and start chucking it.”

Drake said the walk-through training prompted them to start locking all the exterior doors to the church during services. He said they were already locking the front entrance doors to the church.

“Obviously it’s not a way to keep people out, but it’s a way to know when people are coming in and out,” he said.

Churches aren’t the only places taking safety precautions.

State law that went into effect in 2014 requires school districts to do active shooter training. Columbia Public Schools’ Safety and Security Director John White said the district was already practicing drills before it was required.

“It’s almost weekly that we hear about some mass casualty incident somewhere,” White said. “The kids have grown up with it. I think it’s important for them to know what to do.”

The district follows ALICE, which stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.” The training institute teaches people how to respond to an active intruder.

“I’ve been through a lot of training and really this is the most important, because it trains those that are truly involved in the mix,” ALICE instructor Kenny Mayberry said.

New data from the FBI shows there were 220 active shooter incidents in the United States from 2000 to 2016, with 661 people killed and 825 hurt.

The report released last month shows 13.75 incidents on average happening each year. The data does not include the latest mass shooting incident in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed at an outdoor country concert last month.

Law enforcement officials, both current and former, said the tactics to surviving an active shooter incident have changed drastically.

“We used to teach lock downs where you just literally locked down in your room, you pulled the shades and you hid in the corner,” White said. “That’s just not the right thing.”

“The thing you should do most is run, is get out,” said John Warner, emergency planning coordinator at the Center for Education Safety. “Get out and away from the danger area.”

Holts Summit Assistant Police Chief Shannon Jeffries said law enforcement agencies have changed how they respond to active shooters as well.

“We’re not waiting for a SWAT team,” he said. “When that first officer gets that call and he arrives on scene, he’s coming in. He or she is coming in without backup.”

New Holts Summit police officers and Callaway County sheriff’s deputies went through a required eights hours of training at North Elementary School on Oct. 14. Jeffries said over the past few years, he’s had more schools, churches and businesses coming to him for training.

“It’s probably just because of today’s day and age and having more active shooting events across the country,” he said. “A lot of people are starting to prepare themselves better.”

According to FBI, 27 percent of all active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2016, happened between 2013 and 2016.

“Things like this happen all the time and you can’t take the mindset that it’s not going to happen where we are,” said Steve Jostes, a teacher at St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia. “You have to be ready for anything.”

Jostes and other teachers, law enforcement, social workers and business people attended a two-day ALICE training at Boonville High School on Oct. 26. After passing an online test, they’ll be able to teach what they learned at the training to their communities.

“The individuals that are truly involved, they’re truly the first responders,” Mayberry said. “They need to be able to make those decisions to save their lives.”

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