Following a recent small-town Texas church shooting which took 26 lives, Upshur County Sheriff Larry Webb made a presentation to a Republican women’s group on protective measures which individuals can take if caught in a mass shooting.
Using a PowerPoint presentation, Webb told an audience of about 40 at the Cherokee Rose Republican Women’s public meeting that his office will eventually hold a seminar on church safety which will last between four hours and a full day. Time and place are to be announced.
Webb’s presentation Monday at the Lantana Activity Center outside Gilmer covered how to respond if caught in the midst of a mass shooting at not only a church, but in a school, workplace, or outdoors venue such as a football stadium or Gilmer’s annual East Texas Yamboree festival.
The sheriff said such crimes cannot be prevented from occurring, so “you have to have a mindset to be prepared for it” and “you need to always be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on.
“Always think about the worst-case scenario and be prepared for that,” Webb counseled. He pointed out to the audience that before his speech, he had sat at a table in the activity center where he could see both doors where a gunman could enter.
“That’s the way you gotta think,” he said. “We’re not here to let them (shooters) in.”
In addition, Webb cautioned that “If you’re going to be armed (with a gun for protection), practice” using it. “Do some training.”
He noted that in a shooting incident outside the Smith County Courthouse in Tyler several years ago, a man with a concealed handgun license confronted the shooter, who killed him when the license holder had trouble reloading his own firearm.
Webb encouraged those with licenses to carry firearms to do so. Noting that he and two constables present at Monday’s meeting were armed, the sheriff said he was not asking for a show of hands, but asked “Has anybody else in here got a gun? I hope so” in case he ran out of his 21 bullets, he added.
“I hope everybody here has a gun,” Webb added.
He noted that the gunman in the Nov. 5 massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs was exiting the church when he himself was shot by a citizen who had grabbed his own rifle. After being wounded, the killer dropped his rifle, Webb pointed out. (The man drove off from the scene and died miles away either from the wound or a self-inflicted one.)
The sheriff’s presentation further said that in the event of a shooting, one needs places of refuge and multiple escape routes. In addition, he said, “your actions will influence others,” so stay calm, “try to keep people calm,” and assure them law officers are working to protect them.
“Secure the immediate area” by locking doors in classrooms, bathrooms and offices, Webb added. Since not all doors have locks, some advance planning may be needed, he cautioned.
One should also block doors, using whatever is available, such as books, furniture and file cabinets, the sheriff’s presentation showed. And should the attacker enter a room and then leave, “make sure you barricade the door,” he said.
Besides using such protective measures, Webb’s presentation urged, treat the injured by remembering basic first aid and, for bleeding, applying pressure and elevating the victim.
One can also be creative in identifying items for stopping bleeding, such as clothing, paper towels, feminine hygiene products and newspapers, the presentation showed.
Other measures Webb presented included closing blinds, blocking off windows and putting “help” signs in them, turning off radios, silencing cell phones, and getting behind walls and desks.
The 911 emergency call system may be overwhelmed, but keep trying to get through and report either the business’s name and address, the office or classroom number, the number of persons injured and the types of injuries, the sheriff said.
In unsecured areas, such as a football stadium or downtown during the Yamboree, put something between you and the assailant, the presentation advised. Webb said an object of at least 16 inches, such as a tree or large rock, is needed as hiding behind a bush will not help.
“Don’t let anybody walk up on you by any means,” but find a safe area and secure it, the sheriff said.
Webb also warned that those committing mass shootings are “not there to run. They’re there for the fight” and their goal is not escaping, but instead killing and injuring. Law enforcement officers will thus not stop to treat the injured until the threat is stopped, and “you may need to explain that” to victims, the sheriff added.