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St. Charles church holds training on surviving an active shooter event

About a month since the workplace mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Company warehouse, the event begs question of what is done to promote safety and preparedness in such emergencies.

The National Safety Council, in partnership with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, hosted a community training March 11 for congregants, staff, residents and community members.

The course, by design, helps those who are unarmed when facing an active shooter event.

St. Mark’s senior pastor Tim Bayer said touching on how to survive an active shooter event makes for a timely subject matter for the church.

“This hits close to home for many of us on staff,” he said.

Bayer said he knows of a police officer and another individual who faced the workplace shooting on Aurora’s West Side.

The presentation provided those on hand with statistics, tips and information to use should they face an active shooter situation.

Over the years, the number of active shooter events has increased nationwide. Data provided by the U.S. Department Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation show between 2000 and 2013, 160 incidents occurred, compared to 60 between 2014 and 2016.

Rick Willing, a volunteer instructor for the National Safety Council, said the average has significantly increased.

Elgin resident Arturo Barron said the subject matter hits close to home because of a threat made over 10 years ago by a colleague at a former place of employment. He said the colleague in question was a former military professional.

“I tried to be nice to him,” he said. “I think that was important to him.”

Barron said that colleague told him of plans to kill everybody, except for him and his family.

“I assumed he had issues when he came back,” Barron said. “He was under stress. He was not accepted by the team. … He lacked social skills.”

Barron said he is not certain if management reported the employee in question to law enforcement authorities.

“That brought me here,” he said, referring to the course. “I was looking for something, and I came across it. … I assumed management knew, but maybe they didn’t report it. I never saw him again.”

Willing said these situations have a degree of difficulty and suggested that one report it to the police.

Jim Burden, a crime prevention specialist for the St. Charles Police Department, said they take information regarding matters of this type very seriously.

In the past, active shooter events have occurred in a range of settings, including baseball fields, schools, churches and movie theaters.

But Willing urged those on hand not to get paranoid over such incidents.

“Unfortunately, the situation within our society now has [labeled] it as just another type of emergency event that we have to be prepared for,” he said. “We can embrace it. We can have confidence that should an situation occur we can handle it, just like you would a fire alarm or a tornado warning.”

One attendee asked what actions you and your family should take in the event all are hiding in a secure location during an active shooter incident when the fire alarm sounds.

Willing responded, saying the proper protocol is to remain in place, unless you can determine there is fire or smoke in proximity to your location.

“There have been multiple incidents where active shooters will pull the fire alarm only to get people to run from their locations and then they become targets,” he said.

Bayer stressed how it important it is for everyone to be informed on what to do in the event of an active shooter incident.

“This specific topic of how to survive an active shooter isn’t just a community thing, it’s not just a church thing and it’s not just an organizational thing, this is a human thing,” he said. “This situation knows no age limit, knows no race, knows no ethnicity and knows no socioeconomic class. As a church, this is really our heartbeat to welcome this kind of conversation.”

St. Mark’s Preschool principal Julie Zimmerman said she believes the course was helpful because it provided “a valuable training for teachers, as well as citizens.”

Zimmerman said it gets her staff to “think about what’s happening in our building, as well as what’s happening around the world,” she said.

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