Avoid, Deny, Defend: What to do in the event of an active shooter

Sergeant Sean O'Brien talking to NewsChannel 9 staff about active shooter preparedness. (Image: WTVC)

It's hard, or even impossible to predict when the next shooting will be. Which is why it's important for schools, businesses, and even us at NewsChannel 9.

On Wednesday, Sergeant Sean O'Brien came to our newsroom to show staff what to do in the event of an active shooter, and the best ways to prepare.

The Chattanooga Police sergeant went through steps from Texas State University's ALERTT Center: Avoid, Deny, and Defend. His first tip was to always know your surroundings.

"So I always tell people whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time into a location, always figure out where your second exit is before you do anything else."

O'Brien says, often times when an active shooter, fire, or any emergency is taking place, people have high heart rates. He explains that a heart rate over 90 beats per minute can cause you to lose fine motor skills. Making the simplest of tasks seem difficult in a moment of panic.

"And by the time your heart rate gets higher than that, you can’t even function, so the goal is to get your heart rate down," says Sgt. O'Brien.

Sergeant O'Brien would know - he was the first officer on scene at Amnicola Highway when five service members died in Chattanooga on July 16th, 2015. Having bullets soar by by him, O'Brien says he didn't remember talking to people or hearing bullets hit the ground next to him as he tried to pull a wounded officer to safety.

He adds that taking action if you are face to face with the attacker will give you the best chance of survival. O'Brien says using everyday items like a keyboard, pen, or computer monitor to throw or hit the attacker can help neutralize the treat, or buy you valuable time to run or fight back.

"I’m a preacher of doing something is always better than doing nothing, because doing nothing is going to ensure that you become a casualty."

Each presentation that O'Brien gives, he also surveys the building and gives a report to management on ways to improve safety in the area.

If you live in Chattanooga city limits and are interested in scheduling a presentation, contact Chattanooga Police at 423-643-5267.

If you live in Hamilton County, contact the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department at 423-622-0022.

You can find additional resources at AvoidDenyDefend.org and the Department of Homeland Security's website here.

If you have questions or are looking for more assistance, please call the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security at 615-532-7825.

In the event of an emergency, call 911 immediately.

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