Never before has The Colony Police Department hosted a class dedicated solely on what to do if people find themselves in the midst of an active shooter situation.
But times are changing.
Thursday, TCPD hosted its first Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, or CRASE, class.
Officer Brian Lee said the Citizens Police Academy typically includes several classes dedicated to personal safety. He said in light of an increasing number of mass shootings those safety classes have morphed into a class on active shooters.
He said out of the nine different classes at the academy, the active shooter topic is the only one that has turned into its class.
“We just felt like it was time,” Lee said. “We have the resources, and we want the citizens to know that we're here to prepare them for anything.”
According to an ABC News report there have been 19 mass shootings in the United States this year.
About 25 people attended the class in which Lee and Sgt. Aaron Woodard presented data about mass shootings and stories from some of the more publicized shootings across the country in recent years, such as those at Virginia Tech, First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Then they provided valuable information on what to do if someone is faced with that situation.
Much of the class centered on the concept of Avoid, Deny, Defend.
“What you do can save your life,” Lee said. “What you do matters.”
Lee said part of avoiding the situation is to know your surroundings. That includes knowing the primary and secondary exits for a quick getaway.
Lee said he knows his surroundings even when he's not on duty, such as when he goes to a restaurant. He'll always sit facing the front door so he can see who's coming in.
If leaving the scene isn't possible, Lee said the next option is to deny the shooter's access – find a closet, barricade yourself in a room and shut off the lights.
The last resort is to defend – fighting by any means necessary.
But Lee said for any of those to work one must have a clear frame of mind and not freeze, which he said many people do.
“If you freeze, even for three seconds, he's going to shoot you,” Lee said.
Some of the residents who attended the class said they were already familiar with safety programs offered by the police department but wanted to dive deeper into the citizen response to an active shooter.
Resident Tammy Ruffner said she heard about the class by attending the 10-week Citizens Police Academy.
“Most people freeze in these situations,” Ruffner said. “You have to rethink that.”
Resident Oti Marsden has also attended the Citizens Police Academy and said she wanted to learn more about what to do should an active shooter incident occur.
“With the current situation of the shootings, and the frequency of them, we don't have a way to keep people safe yet,” Marsden said.
Marsden said she didn't know about Avoid, Deny, Defend until Thursday's class.
“I also didn't know that police officers usually sit facing the door when they go to restaurants,” Marsden said. “So I think I'll do that from now on.”
In addition to Avoid, Deny, Defend, Lee and Woodard also talked about the importance of knowing basic lifesaving skills, such as CPR and Stop the Bleed.
Ruffner said she hopes the police department will have more classes like this in the future and incorporate a program like this in schools.
Lee said he plans to have another active shooter class toward the end of the year.
The next citizens police academy begins Sept. 12. Anyone interested in participating can email Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.