The recent mass shooting at a Texas church is weighing on the minds of many. This week the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office held training events for residents curious about what to do during a shooting. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on a drill held at a local library on Wednesday.
At the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library, an unusual announcement was repeated over the loudspeaker.
“We will be holding an emergency action drill at 1:30 this afternoon, in a half-an-hour. If you are in the building at that time you will be required to participate.”
The library and the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office hosted the mass-shooting drill. It followed an information session on Monday that drew about one hundred people.
Prior to the drill, as patrons browsed the stacks and police arrived in the lobby, Library Director Alex Gutelius said the library began educating staff about such emergencies in early 2016. Then, the library reached out to the sheriff’s office to hold drills with patrons.
“We don’t like the fact that we have to do this, but I think it’s important that people be aware and be trained,” said Gutelius.
All patrons in the library were participating in the lockdown drill. Deputy Ken Cooper Jr. said people would be given one minute and 30 seconds to come up with a plan after the start of the drill – the amount of time it would take for police to arrive.
Cooper said you have three options: run, hide, or fight.
“If you can get out of the building and you are close to an exit, exit the building. If you are not close to an exit and you can find yourself and get yourself into a locked room – bathroom or whatever the case might be – once you’ve got yourself in there, lock yourself in. If you can’t lock yourself in, then you need to barricade the door. It doesn’t matter what it is. Now, if the door is barricaded or not barricaded and the intruder is actually forcing himself into that room, now it turns to that fight part,” said Cooper.
Cooper said there are no rules to a fight in a life-or-death situation.
After the one minute thirty seconds was up, and library patrons were either hiding or had escaped outside, Cooper walked the building checking locked doors, locating those hidden, and explained what is and what is not effective.
One of the stops was the wide circulation desk, a good place to hide underneath.
“The active shooter may in the event of a situation like this, may actually walk by this incident looking for other victims. Being hidden in here, he doesn’t see easy targets. He is moving on to where he wants easy targets.”
For those that left the building, Cooper says it’s best to escape behind another building, in a wooded area or find a vehicle to get as far away as possible.
After the all-clear was given, participants gathered in the lobby.
Jane Martinec, a resident of nearby Scotia, hid outside during the drill. The October 1st shooting massacre at a Las Vegas country music concert was on her mind as she explained why she attended the training Wednesday.
“Because you never know when something like this is going to happen. We got a lot of concerts in Scotia, big open area…”
Halfmoon resident Larry Allen hid behind a book case during the drill.
“I just wanted more awareness and I’ve been thinking years about it. And I think the public needs to get involved with these things so they know what to do in case,” said Allen. “Monday night my wife came, she couldn’t make it today because she had to work, but now she’s looking around for exits. And she works in a school.”
Clifton Park town supervisor Phil Barrett said the need for the training is an unfortunate reality.
“We’ve had training at our senior center, at town hall. I really thank the sheriff and his staff for increasing this training around the county. So we’ll take every opportunity to partner with the sheriff to provide as much training to Clifton Park residents as possible.”
Deputy Cooper says the sheriff’s office is getting more and more calls from people asking for the training.
“And we’ve talked about it during the training, there’s about an average of 25 or 6…26 mass shootings now in the U.S. And we just had one obviously over the weekend. And within a week-and-a-half or two weeks we will have another one.”