When Brandi Layman and her co-worker Amy Lamberty decided to go to an active shooter defense event Wednesday, Layman remembered a standoff that happened in June near their offices at McClellan Assisted Living.
Their workplace sits just two miles from the Lowe’s where police said an employee barricaded himself in the store office after being fired that morning, ultimately shooting himself.
“We wanted to be better prepared,” Layman said. “You never know.”
That sort of preparation was provided Wednesday morning by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, which held a training session at the offices of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsor of the event. The session’s goal was to prepare local businesses for potential threats, and Layman said the training made her think more critically about a possible shooting in her workplace.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Jon Garlick led the training, providing attendees with proactive cautions and courses of action when involved in a shooting. Garlick highlighted three critical responses: run, hide or fight.
“There are two types of people in an active shooter situation: There’s the fighters, and then there’s the flighters,” Garlick said. “You need to do what’s instinctive to you.”
Layman said Garlick’s question about instinct made her realize she wasn’t sure which category she fell into, something she hadn’t considered before. Allen Parnell, of Parnell Insurance in Oxford, said the training prompted an office-wide meeting to put a plan in place for any possible scenarios.
“Immediately when we got back we had a meeting about a plan of action,” he said.
Parnell, his son and one of the company’s department heads attended the training. The company’s new safety plan, Parnell said, makes allowance for different instincts among employees.
“We’re gonna do our best to get out of the situation,” he said. “That's our first priority, to do what’s necessary to get away and survive.”
Chamber manager Linda Hearn said awareness and preparedness in local businesses were the event’s main focus.
“We just wanted to make sure businesses are prepared for anything,” she said.
Garlick told attendees to visualize an escape route before leaving the scene and leave all belongings except a cell phone, if possible, to call police. For hiding, Garlick said locking the door, silencing mobile phones and remaining quiet are key.
“Typically a shooter’s going to find a locked door and walk away,” he said. “They’re interested in getting as many victims as possible.”
Garlick told the fighters in attendance to aim for attacker’s limbs, including his or her head, and take away the weapon. Garlick emphasized the importance of getting the gun away from the shooter and out of anyone’s hands.
“When we come in the room, don’t be holding the weapon. We’ve got a lot of people shot, we’re looking for an active shooter and somebody’s standing there with a gun in their hand. We don’t know.”
Garlick said the Sheriff’s Office offers walkthroughs to help companies develop safety plans for potential situations. It also hosts civilian firearm training once a quarter for residents interested in learning more about gun safety.
Layman said she wished there were more than four firearm training sessions per year and additional training offered in schools for teachers and students.
“I’m a little intimidated by carrying a gun,” she said. “It almost makes you want to keep your kids at home just to keep them close because you don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.”