AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local mosque went through an active shooter training Saturday and learned what you do in pivotal moments matter.
Imam Islam Mossaad at the North Austin Muslim Community Center said he felt he had to plan the training session after 50 people lost their lives in New Zealand when a suspected white supremacist opened fire at a mosque.
He said it’s the sad reality.
“We don’t want to even imagine that, but we know it’s happened in a mosque in Canada. It’s happened before in a mosque in Palestine. Happened in a mosque in New Zealand,” Mossaad said.
Michael DeLeon, Senior Deputy at the Travis County Constable’s Office, taught people the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” program developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University.
He said if you ever come face to face with a shooter, you have three options.
First, you can avoid by finding the closest, safest exit right away and leaving the area.
“It’s just a reminder to stay aware of your surroundings, and when something does happen, don’t go to with the flow of traffic where everyone’s going,” DeLeon explained. “There’s other ways, exits out of a community. There’s other ways to do different things.”
Second, deny means locking the doors, and if you can, shut off the lights and your phone, so the shooter won’t easily be able to find you.
DeLeon said if the doors don’t lock, you can use your belt to secure the door.
The third option is defend, meaning fighting back. DeLeon said at the training, you have to tell yourself “We will survive.”
“Have a plan. Be ready. Think outside the box,” he said.
Mossaad said his heart aches for the lives lost in the New Zealand attack. “Immediately we had that pain of losing our brothers and sisters,” he said.
He hopes something like that will never happen here, but knowing what to do, if it does, is important.
“We have men, women, and children. [It’s] very lively, very active, people here all times of the day and night,” Mossaad said.
In the week since the shootings in New Zealand, the North Austin Muslim Community Center received a lot of letters from neighbors and other religious groups showing love and support.
Any houses of worship, schools or organizations can reach out to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center [ALERRT] at Texas State University to receive active shooter training.
DeLeon said local law enforcement officials trained by ALERRT can come out and conduct the training for free.