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Dane County deputies pushing for more active shooter preparedness training in communities

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 12:37 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - In the wake of two recent mass shootings in the country, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office wants to make sure every citizen knows what to do if they are ever in an active shooter situation.

Deputy Josalyn Longley has worked in law enforcement for 20 years and started the Emergency Preparedness Program with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in 2016.

“The goal is to be out in the community working with churches, businesses, schools, community groups just on preparedness for an active assailant event,” said Deputy Longley.

The free training teaches survival and safety tactics, so that citizens can stay safe until authorities arrive on scene. According to Deputy Longley, it takes law enforcement an average of three minutes to respond to an event.

“Number one is survival,” Longley said. “Law enforcement is coming, they’re getting there as quick as they can, the key is what can you do to keep yourself safe.”

As difficult as these events are to talk about, Deputy Longley firmly believes that preparation and training can save lives. “It’s really powerful to hear a surviving victim say I had thought about it prior and I was prepared and I survived.”

Part of the session includes “Run, Hide, Fight” training. Deputy Longley explained, “If you can run, if you can get away from the threat, you need to do that.”

She said if running is not an option, you should hide. Part of the “hide” process is to lock doors and make barricades using whatever objects you can, so the assailant cannot get to you.

“As a last resort, if it comes down to it, is the fight portion. It may be just throwing things if that door were to open,” told Longley.

Part of the training also includes learning the importance of situational awareness, like taking note of where exits, first aid kits and AEDs are located. Longley said to use all of your senses in this process. “What are you hearing, what are you seeing, what are you smelling.”

Mental rehearsal is another strategy that can also help you act rationally and stay calm. “We often say the body can’t go where the mind hasn’t been. So, if it’s something you’ve thought about and you’ve maybe somewhat prepared for you may be a little more calm.”

When deputies provide this training to a specific workplace or school, they will help employers and employees tailor these strategies to their specific environment. That includes making sure everyone knows where emergency exits are, where AEDs and first aid kits are, how to lock doors, how to use the intercom system and how to dial 911 on a landline.

Deputy Longley also notes that you can text 911 in Dane County and dispatchers will respond. This is especially useful if you are hiding and need to remain quiet. “The important thing with that text is to immediately get out what is happening and where.”

A separate training that Deputy Longley said is also vital and wants more residents to learn, is Stop The Bleed. This can save a life, as Deputy Longley said, “you can bleed out in as little as three minutes.”

If an individual is shot or injured, Stop the Bleed teaches you to apply direct presser to the wound with your hands and dressing and then secure a tourniquet.

Another separate training involves learning de-escalation techniques. This is not necessarily for an active shooter situation, but rather to use within the workplace. “Having ways to you know use active listening, or the tone of your voice. Just to talk to people and deescalate so that it doesn’t become physical,” said Longley.

Dr. Beth Lonergan, the Director of UW Health Behavioral Health Services, said the mental rehearsal portion of preparing for this possible situation is key.

She explained that in those initial moments, people can experience, “everything from shock and disbelief, which can cause people to freeze, to extreme fear, panic, anxiety.”

Dr. Lonergan said that mental scripting ahead of time can help you avoid panicking.

“In the moment I think people might think they have the wherewithal to choose how to respond, but if you’re not prepared emotionally and psychologically, you will probably act fairly impulsively.”

For many people, thinking about this situation can be emotionally taxing or traumatizing, so Dr. Lonergan encourages professional training or counseling during this mental rehearsal process.

“If you have rehearsed and you are well-equipped with being able to calm yourself and you’ve got some ways, some tools in your toolkit to help deescalate, then that’s going to prepare you to do that.”

When speaking to children about this, Dr. Lonergan said it is important to keep it realistic, but age appropriate.

“Talking to a 7-year-old or under, you want to keep things pretty simple vs. a teen who really has a lot more layers of ability to do moral reasoning and all of that.”

With children, she also feels it is important to be, “reassuring around this is a problem,” and remind them that it is something, “that a lot of people are working on and trying to solve.”

For a survivor of an active shooting, Dr. Longley said, “there will be people who have survivor guilt or sort of the Monday morning quarterback. Second guessing why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that.”

She said it is important to normalize these feelings and take time to debrief with a professional. “It really doesn’t require people to re-live every moment of the event, but it does give people the opportunity to come together and talk about whatever it is they are experiencing, if they choose to.”

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