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Courthouse employees take active shooter class

All Screven County courthouse employees are now prepared for an active shooter situation, should there ever be one in the courthouse after Sgt. Brett Dickerson of the Screven County Sheriff’s Office conducted a class based on the Run-Hide-Fight plan.
Law enforcement officials and courthouse employees were taught that in most active shooter situations the gunman will either turn the gun on themselves when confronted or be killed by the police. Very rarely, around 30 percent of all shootings, do active shooter situations end in arrest.
Dickerson said he wasn’t there to scare any of the employees, but make them prepared for if the situation happens -- as it has been happening increasingly so throughout the country according to FBI statistics.
The most dangerous place to work is in retail, but government locations occur in around 14 percent of all active shooter scenarios, which puts it in the top three areas of concern.
Running and escaping is the first priority in a gunman incident. Because of the courthouse’s layout, there are many options to escape each office -- most have both windows and side exits readily available. There are some offices, like the tax commissioner’s that do not have secondary exit points.
Hiding is the next option, and Dickerson recommended the hiding in one of the many vaults inside the courthouse as an option. Tax Commissioner David Long asked how they could shut the vaults from the inside and lock them, which is not possible, and offered a “sacrificial lamb” scenario with someone in the office locking the rest of the employees in to prevent harm.
Fighting was a last resort, Dickerson said after an educational video. He said some would have to get past the embedded idea that hurting someone was wrong, that the gunman would end their life if they didn’t fight back in an aggressive, my-life-or-theirs attitude.
If an active shooter was in the courthouse, Dickerson reminded those in the audience the first wave of law enforcement are trained to do one thing -- confront the shooter and end the gunman’s rampage.
“We have to come in and stop the shooter,” he said. “We might even have to step over some of those people we’ve known our whole lives, think about how hard that will be.”
First aid would have to be provided by the wounded themselves or nearby individuals capable of applying pressure or tourniquets to wounds. EMS Chief Gary Pinard said the most likely cause of death in shootings is exsanguination -- or heavy blood loss.
After the educational video and slideshow, those in the courthouse got to hear what gunshots inside the building sound like as Deputy Alan Anderson, who is also the sheriff’s office armorer, fired a .22 caliber revolver with blanks into the main hallway.
Lorie Boulineau, administrative clerk for the Board of Commissioners, said the gunshots sounded strange. They were louder than she expected, and she thought it was a good idea for the employees to know what to listen for, even though their offices would dampen the sound differently.
Bailiff Shirley Hill said it was an important lesson, but was worried about her chances as bailiffs are usually right by the front door. She said she would be aware and more ready now in case a gunman entered the building.
Tax Commissioner David Long said there would be a way to fight back or hide inside his office. When adrenaline would kick in decisions would be made quickly and he said he hopes nothing ever happens.
In the end, employees inside the building are armed with panic buttons which call all law enforcement to the area. As demonstrated the last time the button was hit on accident, the police presence next door lent to an almost immediate response.
Attorney Evelyn Hubbard mentioned the importance of not giving in to natural human curiosity when shots ring out.
“If you hear a gun don’t stick your head out into the hall to see what it is,” she said. “Go immediately to your safety plan.”
Screven County Manager Rick Jordan said the recent gun laws have been confused and discussed but firearms, even with a license to carry, are not allowed in the courthouse. He encouraged employees to report anything unusual.
“The most important part of this whole course is if you see something, say something,” Dickerson said. If a person is upset over a tax appraisal and says it’s going to be the “last time” he sees an employee, report it.
Because so many active shootings are indiscriminate, sticking to the Run-Hide-Fight plan can reduce the number of random casualties.