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Safety panel offers shooting survival tips

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Published on: Wednesday, October 09, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

Following the deaths of 13 people at the Washington Navy Yard by an active shooter in September, a panel convened at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden for the 2013 Emergency Preparedness Conference to teach citizens how to avoid a similar tragedy in Prince George’s County.

“If you see something, say something,” said Barry Stanton, Prince George’s deputy chief administrative office for public safety. “What happened at the Navy Yard can happen in Prince George’s County.”

Added as a last minute addition to the all-day conference, speakers at the “Active Shooter” panel shared tips with an audience of approximately 100 Prince George’s residents on what steps to take in the event of a mass shooting.

According to the experts on the panel, an active shooter is someone engaged in killing or attempting to kill someone in a defined and populated area. There is usually no pattern for where the person actively shoots.

“If you’ve got a good escape path, find it,” Stanton said. “If you’ve been in a building for years, you should know every escape path, if you don’t, you’re not paying attention.”

Stanton said that if an active shooter enters your building, you should find any way to leave that building. If that isn’t possible, find a secure place to hide and dial 911 on your cell phone. It’s also important to remember that after you make that call to authorities to turn off the ringer on your phone.

Authorities also offered escape strategies for people confronted by an active shooter. If you find yourself in a room in the first floor of a building with a shooter approaching, but you can’t run out, as a last resort, break the window and jump out.

Last June, the Prince George’s County Police Department conducted an active shooter drill at High Point High School, which simulated a scenario that involved multiple shooters. The drill is held annually by the department.

Last year, Neil Prescott was arrested for making shooting threats to his Capitol Heights employer, Pitney Bowes. Ultimately, he was only charged with telephone misuse, but the incident did raise the antennas of Prince George’s police.

“We try to understand how people are motivated and what they may do, so that we can formulate plans and develop strategies to prevent them from doing the most harm they possibly can,” said Henry Stanwinski, Prince George’s patrol bureau deputy chief. “The quicker we can intervene … the less harm will come.”

With regard to handling active shooters, the older strategy used by Prince George’s police is to contain the scene, negotiate with the shooter and use force only when necessary. After recent high profile shootings, the department adopted a more proactive tactic of engaging the shooter as soon as possible.

Much of the address focused on how to handle a situation with an active shooter within the school system. Rex Barrett is acting director for the Prince George’s County school security services. He said know authorities are working on a streamlined approach to deal with potential active shooting situations.

The county is installing panic buttons in school so that teachers and administrators don’t have to dial 911. Also, they are installing a system at each school that requires visitors to buzz in and address the front office through an intercom.

But to mitigate much of the confusion that can ensue during an active shooting circumstance, Barrett offers this advice to parents.

“If there is a lockdown situation … if you get an e-alert that there’s a lockdown at your child’s school, we’re advising you not to rush to the school,” Barrett said.

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