The National Fire Prevention Association, at its annual convention in San Antonio, came face to face with cold reality---'active shooter' situations are here to stay, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Its not the question of 'if' its going to happen, it is going to happen,"San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. "It is just a question of when."
Michelle Gay, who lost her young daughter in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 and now heads a non profit supporting school safety, made that point clear in remarks to the organization at the Convention Center. Gay told the fire, police, and EMS officials from across the country that the most dangerous thing she hears when she talks about preparedness across the country is 'it won't happen here.'
"It can happen anywhere," she said, pointing to a dizzying number of mass casualty shooting events which have hit in all part of the country, dating back to the San Ysidro California McDonalds massacre of 1984 and further back to the University of Texas Tower shooting in 1966. Those are considered the first mass shootings in America which targeted random individuals.
Hood said the thinking among First Responders today has become to 'prepare' for a mass casualty shooting, and for citizens to know that it can happen and adjust their behavior accordingly.
"It is our new reality," he said. "We do have to know, for example, when we walk into places, to know where the exits are."
He says it is not 'alarmist' but 'realist' to make family plans on how to deal with a mass casualty event.
"If we go to the mall, if something happens, we are going to meet in the parking lot," he said. "Have those discussions, and be pro active."
Several speakers said local First Responders in their communities should hold classes on 'stopping bleeding' just like Americans in the seventies were encouraged to learn the Heimlich Maneuver to stop a diner from choking.
One of the seminars was called 'The First Twelve Minutes,' a reference to the amount of time it takes for a local fire or police department to arrive and deploy at the scene of a mass shooting.
Speakers said people should go so far as to decide what their reaction will be should a mass casualty event happen where they are, will they attack the shooter, or run and seek shelter.
"If people did have awareness of what to do in a situation like that, maybe we would have saved additional lives," he said.
Gay said another key component of dealing with an active shooters is communication. People need to be told, as quickly and as accurately as possible, what is happening at the local school, mall, or other place where the event is happening.
PHOTO; SANDY HOOK MOM MICHELLE GAY SPEAKS TO THE NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION IN SAN ANTONIO JUNE 18, 2019