State College

Resisting ‘It’s never going to happen here’: Active shooter trainings on the rise

A law enforcement officer is deployed at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and educators were shot to death on Feb. 14, 2018.
A law enforcement officer is deployed at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and educators were shot to death on Feb. 14, 2018. Sun Sentinel

The State College Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security hosted an active shooter training for houses of worship on Friday, but it was just one of the trainings that have become more frequent in the State College area.

“Over the past year or two years, there had been several high-profile cases across the country of active shooter events,” State College police community relations officer and crime prevention specialist Adam Salyards said. “When there seems to be some type of an active shooter event at a different venue, then it’s like that particular type of venue is then calling and making a request. I would say it’s probably the No. 1 presentation or training that I actually go out and do.”

Schools have been the most active and regular participants in the training, typically hosting them on a yearly basis. Salyards said he has provided training for preschools, high schools and each level in between.

He said preschools are a “unique situation” and said some faculty and staff talk to children as if there’s a skunk or bear in the school. Salyards said it’s a way to address the situation with younger children without actually talking about active shooter events.

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High school students, meanwhile, have asked for more trainings that are more realistic.

“They want it straight. What are we doing by not talking to them about it and educating them about it? They’re on the Internet. The worst part of it — it’s out there. Knowledge is power. Give them that knowledge,” Salyards said. “I would rather my child has an idea of a bad situation and how to respond than to never, ever think about it. It is up to the parents to make that decision, but I would want my child informed.”

He also rejected the argument that, “It’s never going to happen here.”

It happened on Penn State’s campus [22] years ago. We’ve had active shooter events in State College so you can’t say, ‘No, it’s never going to happen here,’” Salyards said. “Pretty much every shooting that occurs, especially in the rural areas, you hear from those people, ‘I never dreamt it would happen here.’ I think everyone has to be prepared.”

There are varying methods of preparedness for active shooter trainings. The DHS teaches run, hide, fight, while others teach ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) or the three Es (Events, Experienes, Effects).

“It is super easy, super simple to remember. If you can remember those three words — run, hide, fight — it’s very basic. I don’t want somebody in a high-stress situation sitting there trying to think about, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ Just get down to the very basic concept. Pretty much anybody can remember that,” Salyards said.

While run, hide, fight is the DHS’s preferred method, Salyards said it’s important to slow down the shooter because it gives law enforcement time to arrive.

“Over the many different shooting events, once the police arrive on scene, the shooting or the harm being done usually stops because the shooter usually goes from being the hunter to the hunted. It changes the dynamic a lot,” Salyards said.

About 120 people were expected to attend the training at Centre LifeLink, but Salyards said he encourages everyone to attend a training at some point.

“This is training for life,” Salyards said. “It’s not just schools, it’s not just government buildings, it’s not just churches. We’ve had the shooting in Las Vegas. It’s happened in shopping malls. You need to live in a sense of comfort, but there should always be that sense of awareness.”