For police and the public, response to active shooters changes

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The suggested response to active shooter situations has changed over the years, according to a law enforcement official.

Capt. Tom Hoover, with the Harrisonburg Police Department, has been training officers on how to react to mass shootings for several years.

"Columbine was a big deal for us — we should get our people in the mindset of if something like that happened here, we should deal with it," Capt. Hoover said. "Since that time, it's been happening all the time."

250 active shootings were reported between 2000 and 2017, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In those shootings, 1,400 people were injured and about 800 died.

In the latest act of violence, a gunman killed five people last week in an Aurora, Illinois, manufacturing plant.

"I like to tell our folks that statistically, it's not going to happen here. But we can't stick our heads in the sand because nobody's going to say it's never going to happen in the United States again," Capt. Hoover said. "It's going to be a question of where it's going to happen and when it's going to happen."

Instead of containing an active shooter situation, police are now trained to jump into action.

"You're not going to have a luxury to wait for three or four people," Capt. Hoover said, "and you're certainly not going to have the luxury to wait for a SWAT team to show up."

For those who find themselves in an active shooter situation, Capt. Hoover said the advice is:

— Avoid: Run away from the shooter
— Deny: Prevent the shooter from getting into a barricaded area
— Defend: If all else fails, fight back

Capt. Hoover also urged people to report anything suspicious to help prevent a massacre.

The Harrisonburg Police Department offers training sessions free of charge to public spaces, like offices and churches.