Official offers tips for avoiding disaster

Hancock County Sheriff’s Maj. Brad Burkhart, the sheriff’s chief deputy, regularly hosts active-shooter crisis training sessions throughout the community, during which he offers safety strategies to keep in mind if an armed shooter enters your workplace.

No one can outline a step-by-step plan to escape gunfire, Burkhart said; but you can put a tentative plan in place ahead of time and be ready to recall it during an emergency.

Burkhart preaches this shorthand: Avoid. Deny. Defend.

Running away from the shooter is the primary way to stay safe, so you should always be aware of your surroundings and take note of the nearest exits to any room you’re in.

If running isn’t an option, hide, Burkhart said. Barricade yourself somewhere safe and wait for police to arrive.

If hiding isn’t an option — and only as a last resort — fight back, he said. Throwing things to distract the shooter can create an opportunity to run or take the gunman’s weapon.

Once police arrive on the scene, their priority is to find and take down the shooter, Burkhart said. Officers cannot and will not pause to help the wounded or answer questions from frightened victims, he said. Not until they’re sure there is no longer a threat.

When police find you, stay calm, put your hands up and move quickly and quietly out of the room and out of the building, Burkhart said. Do not stop to grab belongings or look for friends, he said.

Approximately half of mass shootings are conducted by someone familiar with the targeted location, so it’s important to monitor acquaintances’ behavior and report any concerning changes to law enforcement.

Training offered

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department will visit any workplace, church, school or gathering place in the county to conduct active-shooter crisis training. To schedule a session, call 317-477-1147 for more information.

Avoid. Deny. Defend.

Avoid — Always be aware of your surroundings and take note of the nearest exits to any room you’re in. In an emergency, get out of the building as quickly as possible. Leave your belongings behind, and keep your hands visible. Do not stop to help the wounded.

Deny — If running from the danger or leaving the building is not an option, hide away from the shooter’s view. Block the entry to your hiding place with heavy furniture and lock the doors. Silence your cellphone and turn off all electronics and lights. This could give the shooter the impression that no one is in the room. Stay put until police come and evacuate the area.

Defend — As a last resort and only if your life is in imminent danger, defend yourself. Try to attack the shooter. Throw things in the shooter’s direction to distract them, and look for an opportunity to run, tackle them or take their weapon.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or