FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — There are three words experts in active-shooter training want you to know: Avoid, Deny, and Defend.
“My biggest thing is what we see from the general public is that people freeze and they don’t have a plan,” said Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Fetherolf.
Fetherolf is one of the key trainers in the national course known as CRASE, Civilian Response to an Active Shooter Event.
“Have a plan in place,” he said. “Give thought to if you’re shopping at a mall, if you’re at a grocery store and you hear gunfire, how are you going to respond? All it takes is that thought – 'where are my exits?'”
The same rule applies in a school setting. The 10TV staff recently underwent CRASE training with the FCSO and uncovered a few techniques that may not be common knowledge.
Fetherolf said escaping an active shooter is about finding the fastest way out. That includes going through drywall if exits are blocked or out the window.
“Most people think in order to break a window, you hit in the middle,” Fetherolf said. “But actually, that’s where they’re made to be flexible. So, if you hit it in the corner, where it’s rigid, it causes it to shatter.”
“This helps a lot because we don’t know what to expect ever,” said Brie Salehi, a first-grade teacher at Eastland Prep Academy who recently took the CRASE course in early August. “Especially growing up, we were taught to hide under desks and whatnot, so it’s really nice to hear like a plan and what you should do and how to be ready for it.”
Fetherholf said the worst thing anyone can do is hide before trying to avoid, deny or defend. History has shown many active shooters go room by room. The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre is a grave example of why.
“One of the last classrooms (205) was able to put the heavy teaching podium up in front of the door and had students lay on their back with their feet up against the podium,” Fetherolf explains. “No students were shot in classroom 205, where some of the other classrooms took different actions, and had very different results.
Thirty people were killed by a single shooter on April 16, 2007, in Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.
Fetherolf said the last resort is to defend. Grab whatever you can, because distraction is critical in the seconds you have.
“Active shooters are human. They’re subjected to human reactions like flinching or injuries so things getting thrown at their face buys you that precious second that you need to survive,” he explained.
Fetherholf also said some teachers keep chemical sprays or canned goods as objects to thrown, although those items are not officially endorsed by CRASE. Instead, Fetherolf said just look around you because anything from a stapler to a coffee pot can be used.
Eastland Prep Middle School teacher Karri Pernell says the CRASE experience was shocking but definitely needed.
“To have that realization that this is the world that we live in today where our children and teachers alike, we're in fear of coming to school, like this is a reality,” she said.
She also hopes they’ll never have to use CRASE techniques but “it is good to have it in our back pocket.”