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Businesses drawn to active-shooter training

Popular session returns to Missouri Association of Manufacturers’ annual conference

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Acting Cpl. Eric Schroeder of the Springfield Police Department is returning for a third year to offer active-shooter training during the Missouri Association of Manufacturers’ upcoming safety conference.

This year will be the first time the popular hours-long session will be open to businesses outside of the manufacturing industry, said MAM CEO Kim Inman.

“Each year, we’re seeing that attendance and interest growing,” Inman said. “This is the first year we’ve opened it up to others, outside of the event.”

The group’s annual Mid-America Safety, Health & Environmental Conference & Expo runs May 2-4 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex.

On the final day, Schroeder will take command, offering insight on what to do and not do when a shooter enters the workplace.

“He’s extremely interactive,” Inman said of Schroeder. “He also trains, not just on the active shooter, but violence in the workplace – how to identify it and how to handle situations.

“The focus originally was for your managers, your supervisors and executives,” she said of the scope of the training session. “Now, we’re expanding that breadth. It’s different people within your organization who often need that training.”

During a recent interview with sbjLive, Schroeder said there’s no one profile for a potential shooter, though there are noteworthy warning signs.

Those characteristics, he said, include changes in behavior, odd social media postings and abnormal statements to co-workers that might indicate a violent shift in one’s mental well-being.

Schroeder highlighted SPD’s See Something, Say Something campaign, which encourages residents to speak out on odd behaviors and avoid complacency when seeing seemingly at-risk behavior.

“We have a lot of witnesses out there that see things all the time and sometimes don’t pick up the phone to notify 911,” he said. “We don’t know about those issues until someone does report it to us.”

Having to dial 911 isn’t always the case, Schroeder noted, employer, manager or co-workers should be notified immediately.

“Getting conversations started can really help investigate things on a low level,” he said. “And at that point, if it’s something that’s more serious – someone’s making threats online (or) direct threats to harm people – then that’s something we should really be reporting to the police department,” Schroeder said.

He isn’t the only Springfield-based expert on the what-ifs of a potential shooting. Dennis Lewis, co-founder of Edu-Safe LLC, has more than 30 years of providing training to bolster safe schools and communities.

Lewis, who will not be presenting during the MAM conference, said topping the punch list of shooter preparedness is being conscious of warning signs, particularly of those who are in the process of being terminated or face hard financial times.

“It doesn’t seem like, anymore, it takes a whole lot to set people off,” Lewis said. “And oftentimes, especially when there’s employment issues involved, they’re looking for someone to establish blame to.”

In other instances, establishing blame is apparent in the early April shooting at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, where a woman allegedly gunned down three strangers because the video-streaming website restricted her videos.

The shooter, Nasim Aghdam, then shot herself. The three victims survived.

“For the normal person, we can handle disappointment. We can handle challenges in various ways,” Lewis said. “They don’t.”

He said, it’s important to be aware of new surroundings, in case a shooting occurred.

The incidents often last between two to five minutes, according to an extensive 2013 Federal Bureau of Investigation study, and those who survive often do so by taking shelter or hiding out during an attack.

“Most of these active shooters are looking for easy targets and easy access,” Lewis said. “In many cases – if you can secure yourself into an area, whether it be locking a door or taking a step further and barricading – you’re going to survive these events.”

If faced with confronting a shooter, he said, go for the eyes. And for that, a fire extinguisher could be key.

“The fighting piece becomes difficult,” Lewis said, noting that victims likely will not be armed. “At lot of the employer groups that we work with, we remind them that, based on fire code, they will typically have ready access to a fire extinguisher. If you can quickly douse them at face level, you can pretty much incapacitate them instantaneously.”

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