Just days after a gunman killed four people in Nashville, Tennessee, and just hours after a man shot and wounded police officers at a Dallas Home Depot, dozens of churchgoers in Austin gathered for an active shooter response training.
Leaders at Oak Hill United Methodist Church told KXAN they scheduled the training before any of these shootings took place, but just how often we’re hearing about mass shootings is what led them to schedule the session in the first place.
“It breaks your heart,” said church member Mike Nipper. “Our concern is that it’s becoming more and more prevalent in our society.”
The 2.5-hour presentation they signed up for is called “CRASE,” which stands for “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event.”
Austin police officer Joshua Visi said every time there’s a tragedy like the Parkland, Florida school shooting, or the Sutherland Springs church shootings, the demand for CRASE spikes.
“It’s in the news. It’s on people’s minds. They want the training,” Visi said.
He said the first step is always recognizing that many places we frequent can be “soft targets.”
“By living in a free and open society, it’s a breeding ground, it’s a hotbed if you will for soft targets,” Visi explained.
Experts define soft targets as places that have multiple entrances and exits that are harder to secure.
Schools, workplaces and shopping centers meet the definition.
Visi said while there’s no one size fits all, “Every plan is going to be unique for the property type and the organization type. He recommends groups form an emergency response plan and practice it.
He also teaches the “A.D.D.” strategy.
A stands for Avoid. Staying away from the danger.
D stands for Deny. “You want to pile everything in a kitchen sink in front of that door, every chair, every desk,” Visi explained. Deny means doing the best you can to make sure the intruder cannot easily access the room you’re hiding in.
Then Defend. “If you’re confronted with a suspect, you can’t just give up and lay down,” Visi said. “There’s no reasoning with the suspect.”
According to Visi, “Their intent at that point is to kill as many people as possible, so you have to know you can’t talk them down.”
He said in that case, if you have to confront the gunman, act with a purpose.
He talked about a man who stopped the Waffle House gunman in the Nashville-area as an example. “He probably didn’t feel like he could get out safely,” Visi explained. “There wasn’t a place for him to shelter in place or protect himself from the shooter, so he had no choice and he took action.”
Visi said any organization can request a CRASE training by contacting the Austin Police Department.