Marshalltown Police training community members for worst case scenario

In the aftermath of highly publicized mass shootings, police are working to change public perception about the appropriate action to take, representing a shift in procedure that began after the 1999 Columbine massacre.

The Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. shootings have heightened awareness of how best to be prepared for an attack. However, police philosophy draws from research that shows victims have a better chance to survive an attack if they are proactive.

The Marshalltown Police Department has been conducting active shooter training in area businesses and schools. The training, titled “Run. Hide. Fight.,” represents a departure from the perception that potential victims of mass shootings should simply wait for police.

“There is a time and a place for a lock-down,” Police Chief Mike Tupper said. “But that may not be the best option in protecting yourself in some situations.”

Tupper said he has given the training to schools and businesses for the past six-to-seven months, including the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA.

Carol Hibbs, executive director at the Y, said the 1.5 hour training Tupper gave last month to her staff involved a Power Point presentation and hands-on scenarios.

“It was probably more a case of being prepared, thinking ahead of what you would do and actually prepare and plan for it,” she said. “Even though it is somewhat disturbing information to think about, our staff found it was very helpful.”

The program’s title is a hierarchy of sorts, Tupper said, signifying what people should do and in what order they should do them. If possible, people should run. If they can’t run, they should hide. If neither of those choices is possible, only then should people fight.

The training advocates violence only as a last resort, Tupper said. Too often, people in active shooter situations sit around and wait for police to arrive, which studies show is not the best course of action.

Texas State University researchers who studied 84 active shooter cases between 2000 and 2010 found that it took police an average of three minutes to respond to the call. Taking action as soon as possible often makes a big difference. For instance, during the 2007 Virginia Tech University shooting, casualties were minimal in two classrooms where people barricaded themselves inside and tried to escape.

“These events happen so quickly that you have to take immediate action to protect yourself,” Tupper said. “You can’t stay in the room that you are in and hope the gunman isn’t going to come to you.”

The MPD will hold active shooter training for Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce businesses from noon to 1 p.m. Monday at the Fisher Community Center.

Lynn Olberding, vice president of the chamber, said roughly 40 people have already signed up but spots are still available.

“A lot of the instances that have happened recently, have happened in places where people feel very comfortable, places like schools or businesses,” she said. “We want to make sure people are armed with the proper information.”

Although Monday’s program is geared toward a business setting, Olberding said, it is general enough that it can benefit nearly anyone. The chamber will continue to offer training of interest to its members, she added.

Tupper said programs can range from 30 minutes to three hours and can be customized to accommodate different settings.

“You have to have a plan,” Tupper said. “Violent events can happen anytime, anywhere for any reason, and we need to be prepared.”

The chamber training cost $10, which includes lunch. To partake in the training, call the chamber at 641-753-6645. To schedule an active shooter training, call the MPD 641-754-5725.