Active shooter expert encourages local schools to conduct training exercises

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Parents nationwide are holding their children a little tighter tonight after a former student opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at a Florida high school Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and sending students fleeing into the streets.

The shooting became the nation’s third-deadliest school shooting behind Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Allan Garcia is a retired Middletown police sergeant and the founder of “School Violence Solutions,” an organization that trains people on active shooter response tactics.

Garcia said lockdown drills and staying put aren’t enough anymore and that people need to think about what actions to take when in a dangerous situation.

“What you don’t do is freeze, that’s where training comes in,” Garcia said.

Garcia said a school shooter is more likely to fire their weapon inside, so it is important for people to evacuate the building as fast as possible.

“We want to open doors, open windows, get kids out, get them to a bullet resistant, bullet proof place,” Garcia said. “Down the street, behind a brick building, running to a police car.”

If you can’t run, hide: the Department of Homeland Security recommends trying to stay out of the shooter’s sight, blocking entry to your hiding place, locking doors, and silencing your cell phone.

As a last resort, fighting is an option. In that case, Garcia said, a person in close proximity to the shooter should think about how to get the weapon away from the suspect.

“Do anything but nothing when the person is that close to you,” Garcia said. “Believe it or not, a firearm is not really an easy thing to hold on to when somebody else wants to grab it and purposely take it away from you.”

Garcia is urging local school districts to conduct training exercises for these types of situations.