EMA seeking funds for 'proactive' active shooter training

Andy Ball, Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director

Most students who perpetrated school shooting attacks were badly bullied, had a history of disciplinary trouble and their behavior concerned others but was never reported, according to a U.S. Secret Service study released on Thursday.

Since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, the focus of trainings related to a school shooting event have been mostly reactive, said Andy Ball, Daviess County Emergency Management Agency director.

"The focus has remained on response and operations," he said. "From the victims run, hide or fight training to first responders on how to respond. There has been little focus on prevention identifying warning signs toward those that could present a danger."

To this end, Ball along with Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM) Director Mike Dossett, have been working toward bringing psychologist and author Dr. Peter Langman to Kentucky to provide a training on how to identify the "red flags," Ball said.

"It is coming from more of a behavioral and mental health side," he said. "Dr. Langman has become very interested in what leads to active shooters. He has done a lot of case studies and written various books on the subject. Members of our Owensboro-Daviess County School/Campus Safety and Security Group are reading his most recent book, 'School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators.' This book looks at over 40 different case studies and he breaks the perpetrators into groups based on their respective diagnosis."

KYEM has agreed to hold a statewide training sometime in the beginning of 2020, which will most likely be held in Lexington or Louisville, but Ball feels that it is of the utmost importance to have a training here in Owensboro-Daviess County.

On Friday, Ball sent out a community pledge request to the city of Owensboro, Owensboro Fire Department, Owensboro Police Department, Daviess Fiscal Court, Daviess County Fire Department, other health and protective agencies as well as educational, business and religious entities to get a gauge on who would be willing to help fund a local training, he said.

"It will cost around $9,000," he said. "It will be $8,000 for the training and $1,000 for Dr. Langman's travel expenses. It may be less if we can get our local training close to the statewide one. It was our idea and I want the community partners to have the same opportunity, especially given that most wouldn't be able to make it to Lexington or Louisville."

If the training is brought to the area, it will consist of two four-hour blocks for all members of the aforementioned entities, he said.

"One will be for medical and first responders and perhaps counselors and the second will be mainly educators as well as places of worship and possibly business owners," he said. "Really, from a first responder standpoint the warning signs would be that they enter a house on a typical call and perhaps they may recognize some warning signs in the residence or the individual. Perhaps it is a family with school-age children and they could reach out to the school. For educators, it would be the warning signs within the school. All faculty and parents would be welcome. If any parents would want to attend, we would welcome that. One of the mothers of one of the Columbine shooters goes around the country to this day and talks about how she wishes she would have known."

For Ball, the training is vital, especially from an emergency management perspective, he said.

"I think with that Secret Service study you will see more folks wanting to start focusing on prevention," he said. "As emergency management, we try to get people to be proactive and not reactive. In my opinion we have been reactive to active shooters. If we could focus on prevention, we could possibly mitigate some of these incidents. It would be impossible to get rid of it 100%, you can't prevent everything. If we could mitigate, that is that many more lives saved. I think that we will be able to get the funding and I am hopeful."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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