By Dedra Cordle
It was a tense situation.
Brenna Collins was at work in a retail store when an argument broke out.
As the verbal exchange grew more heated, she worried for her safety, the safety of her fellow employees and those customers milling about in the store.
She admits she had no idea what to do.
“Do I step between them and risk injury?” she wondered. “Do I call the police? Do either one of these people have a gun?”
Fortunately, she said, the situation resolved itself without an act of physical violence, but the situation left her shaken and confused.
“I realized at that moment I had no idea what to do in a stressful situation like that while at work, or anywhere else for that matter,” she said.
Wanting to be proactive, she sought out educational classes throughout the Columbus area to explore how to deal with unpredictable events should they arise.
On Oct. 21, she and her friend Melody Watts travelled to Grove City to visit Harrison College where the Grove City Division of Police was hosting an active shooter event.
There, there were met by the sight of nearly 30 other participants who also wanted to know how to react in situations where there is an elevated risk of violence or where violence has already touched.
The program, which is in its eighth year, is led by Sgt. Rick Hardy with an assist by Officer Justin Gallo, who often portrays the active shooter.
For nearly three hours, the two law enforcement officials discussed how to react during violence situations, offered demonstrations on takedown maneuvers and, and gave tips on everyday items to use to increase your chance of survival.
Hardy said one of the first things people should do is plan for a situation where violence spontaneously breaks out.
“There is no single place that is the center of violence,” he told the class. “Violence can happen anywhere.”
He said that randomness is why it is so important for people to plan ahead.
“Prior planning prevents poor performance,” he stated. “Remember those words, those five P’s.”
He added that one should make a quick plan in their head wherever they go.
“My son hates going to the movies with me because he knows we’re going to sit by the exit,” Hardy explained. “He also knows that I’m going to quiz him about our plan of escape should something happen and where we will meet if we get separated.”
He said his son thinks he is being dramatic, but he knows that “prior planning prevents poor performance.”
Hardy likened the active shooter planning to workplace fire and tornado drills.
“You may not like to do them, but they could save your life.”
In the event that one does find themselves in the middle of an active shooter situation, Hardy said the number one rule to remember is “to survive.”
“Do anything you can to survive the situation.”
He said you may get shot, you may get grazed and you may get injured during the rush to get away.
“But if you can feel pain, that means you’re still alive and you gotta get moving.”
He said in some active shooter situations, there may appear to be no way to escape. He used a retail store and a classroom as examples of close quarters with a seeming lack of escape routes.
Hardy suggested belts can be used to loop around the hinges of doors to provide more time. He also said furniture can be used to barricade the door and items can be used to throw at the shooter should they breach the room.
“You’re buying time,” he said. “Make it harder for them to commit an act of violence.”
Hardy also said people can work together to take down a suspect, but they have to come up with a plan and communicate with others.
“Tell them what you’re going to be doing.”
He said that message also applies to those with conceal and carry permits.
“If you have one of those, tell the people you are in a room with about it and what your intentions are,” said Hardy.
He also said those with permits should be advised they will likely be handcuffed when police arrive upon the scene.
“At that point, we don’t know if you’re involved with the shooter,” he said. “Listen to what we tell you and we’ll work it out later.”
If one should be injured in a shooting or violent incident, Hardy said you have to take an active role in your first aid.
“When we come upon an active shooter scene, our first response is to stop the killer,” he said. “We cannot render first aid and allow the killer to continue.”
He said people should learn the basics of first aid for themselves and others.
“If you are the first responder, and you likely will be in these situations, take an active role in the aid of others,” he suggested. “Apply pressure and tourniquets where needed and talk to them calmly. Tell them it’s going to be OK, that help will arrive soon.
“Be encouraging and help these people if you can.”
Hardy and Gallo recommended that citizens take additional safety and health classes that are offered by local law enforcement agencies and fire departments.
“You have to take an active participation in your safety,” said Hardy.
He also encouraged those who took the educational program to share the information they learned with others.
“We have to communicate with each other,” he said.
The Oct. 21 active shooter program was the last program the Grove City Division of Police intends to hold for the general public this year. Sgt. Rick Hardy said they will host more classes in 2018 so be sure to check their social media pages, as well as the City of Grove City’s website, for upcoming safety opportunities.