West Point hosts active shooter training

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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On Wednesday, the West Point Police and Court Services building held an ‘Active Shooter in the Workplace’ training. Jorge Olmonovoa, the Chief Marshall of Troup County, provided information to community members and business leaders about how to handle active shooter scenarios. 

The event was hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce as a part of its monthly safety council. The city of West Point Economic Development office helped to put on the breakfast meeting. 

“I think it’s important that we keep safety a priority within our industries, obviously, for people to be able to have a safe place to work,” said Meghan Richardson, the director of West Point economic development.

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Olmonovoa walked the group through how to handle potential or actual active shooter scenarios in the workplace.  The Chief Marshall highlighted the importance of preparedness, institutional knowledge and security protocols. 

Preparedness can minimize casualties. If individuals can understand the dynamics of an active shooter event, they can better address the situation in the moment. Having key people who not only know the security protocol but can execute the protocol ensures better outcomes. 

Some ways for companies and organizations to prepare for an event are to conduct training, create an emergency response plan (EAP) and have local first responders do walk-throughs of the facility. 

Olmonovoa explained that walk-throughs of the workplace give police, fire departments and emergency medical personnel knowledge of the layout of the building, allowing for a faster and more effective response should an incident happen. Providing first responders with building plans and having clear ways of communication with first responders, aside from 911, is also important. 

A big lesson from the talk was getting to know your employees. Employers or supervisors who know the day-to-day demeanor of their employees are able to pick up on changes. During emergency situations, Olmonovoa said the first responders rely on the knowledge of the people who go to work every day in those buildings.

“Your best homefront is those first supervisors, they get to mingle with everybody every day. They get to talk to everybody, every day, and they get to see everybody’s behavior, everybody’s attitude,” said Olmonovoa. 

Some of the signs of someone who could become an active shooter are drastic life changes, religious or political affiliations, expressing hate or verbal abuse toward others, and mental disorders.

The number one rule, according to the law enforcement officer, is to not panic in an active shooter scenario. He acknowledges that remaining calm is difficult, but it can also save lives. 

“Look at the event that happened at Callaway Stadium that long ago. All that happened was a pop; two or three [people] panic and it is contagious. Now you’re having a stampede. They don’t know what they’re running for. All they saw was all these people panic and said, ‘Well, God, let’s run with them,’” Olmonovoa said referring to a football game that happened last season, when something sounding like a gunshot went off, and those in attendance ran out of the stadium.

If possible calling 911 is the first thing to do in an emergency, however the next step would be to run. Olmonovoa said if you can escape the situation that should be your first response. He adds that people should always have their hands visible for law enforcement, and only run if there is a “clear path to safety.”

The next viable option would be to hide. Find somewhere out of sight and try to barricade yourself inside. Shut the door, turn off the lights, and silence cell phones until help arrives. The last resort should be to fight the intruder.

Unfortunately, Olmonovoa said, shooters sometimes pretend to be law enforcement. He encourages supervisors to accompany first responders when the scene is clear to notify their coworkers. This way people only come out of hiding when they hear a familiar voice. 

For the same reason, he discourages employers from sharing EAPs with everyone. If the shooter is an employee and knows the meeting points and evacuation routes then everyone is easier to target. Instead, have a leader who knows the plan and can share it within their team, if it is a big company. 

When your people see that you’re a strong leader, and you develop that trust in a moment of panic. Guess what they look for?…Guidance,” said Olmonovoa. “We look for that individual who can tell us what to do, where to go, and how to do it.”