The incident at Wal-Mart Monday night was first reported as an active shooter in the building, and while it turned out that was not the case, it was still a very scary situation for the shoppers that were present at the time.
Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer spoke with Vicksburg Daily News Tuesday to advise the public on the best course of action should you find yourself in an actual active shooter situation.
Active shooters are a person or people who are actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill as many people as they can. Usually, this occurs in a confined space like a mall, church, school or open public spaces like parks, ball fields, etc.
“We have three options: you can run, you can hide, or you can fight,” Elfer said. “We encourage people to get as far away from the shooter as possible.”
Elfer says it is important to identify exits when entering an unfamiliar facility. In the event that a situation breaks out, one or more exits may be blocked and you may have to resort to a back-up plan.
While it is best to remove yourself from the situation or find a place out of sight to hide, preferably behind a locked or barricaded door, that is not always an option. Elfer says that is when people should be prepared to fight back.
“Don’t be a victim. Don’t lay there and be executed,” Elfer said. “Might you be injured? It is very likely you might be injured, but if you work as a group…often times we’ve seen where a group can take down someone that is trying to do harm to somebody.”
Planning ahead is important, while also understanding that active shooter situations are dynamic, varied incidents and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You may have to think and act quickly or improvise weapons to defend yourself, such as scissors or fire extinguishers.
In regards to firearms, Elfer warns that while in many cases citizen have been able to resolve a situation with the use of a firearm, it could also escalate the situation and make things worse. The best way to ensure that you are ready in the event of an active shooter, with or without a firearm, is to receive quality training.
Elfer encourages the public to educate themselves by taking courses available in not only active shooter situations but also general self-defense. You never know when it could save a life.
While his training initially targeted law enforcement, Elfer says that the focus has now shifted to educating the public on how to stay safe when put in these kinds of situations.