By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
This is the scenario that no law enforcement officer ever wants to experience: They receive a call that an active shooter or shooters are inside a local Church, mall, workplace, or school……like Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. If you are a local police chief and you are first on the scene what do you do: Rush in with weapons drawn with no plan, no idea what you are facing, and little preparation??? Or cordon off the area and wait for re-enforcements, SWAT, body armor, and more information while weapons fire erupts within the building knowing that people (potentially even children) you likely know are dying in that building??
This is the stuff no one wants to ever think about much less ever experience; but these nightmare scenarios seem to be occurring more frequently across the country. The Birmingham Police Department had to deal (and ultimately gun down) an active shooter in Birmingham’s St. Vincent’s Hospital on Saturday.
In response Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) has instructed Alabama Department of Homeland Security (ALDHS) Director Spencer Collier with developing a formal incident response plan for future potentially horrific scenarios.
Gov. Bentley said in a written statement, “We have been working for some time on a coordinated effort to prevent and respond to situations such as active shooters. This requires not only continued law enforcement training, but also input and preparation among the public. We hope to prevent tragedies from happening. In the event of a tragedy, we are prepared to respond.”
Homeland Security Director Collier said, “Training law enforcement to combat active shooters, while also preparing the public, are top priorities for the Alabama Department of Homeland Security. We never know when the training will be needed. The key is to prepare ahead of time. We will continue to engage with our state and local partners in making sure our plan is comprehensive and up-to-date. I look forward to presenting the Governor with a strategic plan for the coordination of our statewide efforts.”
The Alabama Department of Homeland Security formal long range plan has three top priorities. The first is expanding training for law enforcement officers in how to respond to and combat an active shooter event. The second is to education the general public in how to respond to an active shooter event. The third priority is to work with the Alabama Department of Education, utilizing the Virtual Alabama system to make school safety plans immediately accessible to first responders in the event something happens.
The best way to deal with an active shooter is to thwart his plans before he becomes an active shooter. To that end the state has set up a hotline to the Alabama Fusion Center for Alabama residents to report any suspicious persons or activity. The number is 1-866-229-6220.
The Alabama Department of Homeland Security has prepared a video to help people prepare for such a crisis. AL DHS warns viewers that this subject matter can be disturbing.
To see the video visit the ALDHS website: http://www.dhs.alabama.gov/activeshooter.aspx.