Local church trains congregation for an active shooter scenario

Brock Kirk/The News

Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer

A local church is taking steps to ensure the community is equipped with the information needed to stay safe during active shooting situations.

An active shooter training was held at Hope Harbor Church in Murray during worship on Oct. 22.

Art Heinz, senior pastor, said this presentation was planned to take place before recent incidents, such as the Las Vegas shooting.

“I feel like these incidents that keep happening just confirm the need for training,” Heinz said.

Roy Dunaway, former homicide detective and current support services captain for the Murray State Police Department, gave the presentation.

Dunaway discussed how to prepare for active shooter incidents and how to react if ever caught in one.

Without obsessing over the possibility of getting caught in a situation, Dunaway said people must be aware of their surroundings.

Shooters do not have a certain look, but he said certain characteristics serve as warning signs. For example, an individual who may become violent is likely to exhibit increased alcohol use, changes in hygiene, depression, mood swings, emotional instability, paranoid behavior and empathy toward individuals committing violent acts.

During 2014 and 2015, Dunaway said there were at least 90 deaths as a result of active shooter incidents in the United States, and the annual number of incident occurrences continues to increase.

According to an FBI study on active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013, it was found that between 2000 and 2006, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually, but between 2007 and 2013 the average increased to 16.4 incidents per year.

Being prepared and having a plan is important, but Dunaway said incidents cannot always be prevented, so he explained Run, Hide, Fight.

Run. Shots will sound like balloons popping and people should evacuate the area immediately, he said. Belongings should be left behind and individuals should help others escape on their way out.

When police arrive, Dunaway said people must keep their hands visible. No one should attempt to move wounded people, but individuals should call 911 once they reach safety.

Hide. If escaping the situation is not possible without entering the path of the shooter, Dunaway said the next best thing to do is hide. Lock and barricade doors, get low to the ground, silence cell phones and call 911.

Using the church as an example, Dunaway said once shots are heard in a confined room, everyone should drop to the floor so the only people left standing are security officers and the shooter.

Fight. The final option is to fight and he said to stay committed to bringing the shooter down. However, Dunaway said this should only be used as a last resort.

“You don’t choose to fight unless there’s no other way out,” Dunaway said.

Although this training took place in a church, Heinz said people are now able to take the information that was given to them and apply their knowledge to other aspects of daily life.

“When people know how to respond in those situations and have had some training, it saves lives,” Heinz said.

The safety measures presented by Dunaway were new to some people in the congregation like church attendee Marilyn Foley, who said the presentation was inspirational.

“It’s scary that this has to be discussed, but it is something that we actually have to stop and think about and hopefully figure out,” Foley said.

Foley said she feels more prepared after attending Dunaway’s training.

Cassie Broker, church attendee, said she has learned about Run, Hide, Fight before in the workplace, but she appreciates having it reiterated.

“I thought it was very good and it was very practical,” Broker said.

Even though the information was presented in a church setting, Broker said the information is applicable everywhere.

“It’s sad that you have to be on guard a little bit, but it’s nice to have the steps and tools to know how to stay safe,” Broker said.