By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
In light of all the national media coverage of the ever-growing numbers of mass shootings, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department has decided to be proactive in educating the public on how to best respond to such a horrific event. Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley, Captain Chris Bish, and Investigator Frank Farr visited Springfield Baptist Church in Madison last Saturday to educate parishioners and guests about the history of mass shootings in the United States,They presented the best ways to stay safe if you should ever be unfortunate enough to find yourself the victim of one. The officers also gave practical everyday tips on how to secure your car, homes, and finances. “This is in response to the increasing mass shootings around the country,” said Markley. “There has been a lot of this training going on nationally…it’s just because there is a demand.”
According to their presentation, 46 percent of mass shootings happen in commercial businesses, 24 percent happen at educational institutions and the remainder of mass shootings happen at government properties. “It can happen anytime, anywhere,” warned Captain Bish. “Don’t think that just because we live in Madison, Ga., that it can’t happen here. Too often, rural officials have the mindset that it will never happen here.
The American public is denying that we have a problem, but we do have a problem…if everybody is prepared, we can minimize the casualties from an active shooter situation.” Close to 50 people attended Saturday’s seminar, where the three law enforcement officials stressed a three-tiered approach if faced with an active shooter called ADD. The first and best option is to “Avoid.” If you hear gunshots or a suspicious person, do not wait to run, but take off as fast as you can to a safe location and call 9-1-1. The second option if you cannot avoid the shooter is to “Deny.” This entails denying the shooter access by hiding yourself in a secure room, locking the door behind you or creating a barricade, or concealing yourself from the shooter.
The last option is to “Defend.” When you cannot avoid or deny a shooter, the last option is to defend yourself anyway that you can. “You go right ahead and fight dirty,” said Bish. “Go for the eyes, the throat, use anything around you as a weapon.” During the seminar, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department officials played video segments of real-life 9-1-1 calls concerning mass shootings, including the chilling call from a school librarian during the infamous Columbine High School shooting. They also played educational videos of actors responding to an active shooter to give a visual demonstration to the audience on what to do if you are ever in such a perilous predicament. Markely, Bish, and Farr also informed the audience about local law enforcements training when responding to an active shooter. “We as law enforcement are trained to go in by ourselves. None of us want to do it, but we are going to do what we have to at that time,” said Bish. “We have an active-shooter training course every year in Morgan County.”
The pastor of Springfield Baptist Church, Bishop Kenneth Jones, was appreciative of the material presented by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. “My brain was like a sponge absorbing all the information you all presented us with today,” said Jones. “We cannot thank you enough for sharing it with us.” Sheriff Markley hopes to get the message out to other local congregations in future months. “This program is an important program. We are trying to get it out there. Tell your churches about it, because we are on the road with this program and we will go wherever we are asked to go.”