Public Safety This photo shows Mary  lying on the mall floor acting as a person who had been shot by the gunman during the Active Shooter training.

Published on February 2nd, 2016 |

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Citizen volunteer reports on ‘Active Shooter’ training at Lenox Square

(Editor’s Note: The following article is a first-hand report from North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain who participated in Sunday evening’s Active Shooter training exercise with the Atlanta police at Lenox Square mall. It appeared online at the NBCA website Monday, Feb. 1)

By Gordon Certain

At 7 pm Sunday night, after Lenox Square closed for business, I’d guess about 150 volunteers were on hand to help the Atlanta Police Department (APD) conduct active shooter training at Lenox.

I saw a number of familiar faces there. Some, like me, were regulars from APD’s Zone 2 Precinct’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC). The CAC is a group of neighborhood representatives from throughout the precinct who meet six times a year at the Lenox Square mini-precinct with Zone 2 Commander Major Van Hobbs.

Photo shows article author Gordon Certain in his protective head gear during the Active Shooter training in the Food Court area of the mall.

Photo shows article author Gordon Certain in his protective head gear during the Active Shooter training in the Food Court area of the mall.

Several weeks ago, at our first CAC meeting of the year, we were joined by Brad Woodward, director of security for Lenox Square. Brad invited CAC members to join in the active shooter drill that was held last night.

While other active shooter drills had been held at Lenox, Brad explained that it would make the drill much more realistic for real civilians to be there screaming in panic or pretending to be among the dead and wounded victims.

The volunteers were broken into two groups: observers and participants.

While the area was screened to make sure that there was no live ammunition in use, the police were carrying real handguns and rifles loaded with extremely loud blanks which shot out pellets. While the pellets wouldn’t kill, they could cause eye injury and sting exposed skin. So participants wore helmets with full face protection and heavy neck covers.

Three separate sites at the mall were simulated active shooter sites. While some of us were on the lower level of the food court, another group was up on the main mall near Victoria’s Secret. A third group was in the mall’s receiving area.

That’s where Mary Thomas, a North Buckhead resident at The Ivys, was situated pretending to be a bloody corpse.

The active shooter simulations were done three times at each site, each lasting for 10 minutes or so, accompanied by deafening booms, cries for help, and police shouting to each other.

This photo shows Mary lying on the mall floor acting as a person who had been shot by the gunman during the Active Shooter training.

This photo shows North Buckhead resident volunteer Mary Thomas lying on the mall floor acting as a person who had been shot by the gunman during the Active Shooter training.

In the food court case, the scenario was that a police officer and his wife were eating at a table when the active shooter shot the officer before shooting many other victims. The wife called “911”.

Shortly afterward, a number of officers stormed in from the parking lot (I am unsure of the number because, like Mary, I was dead and couldn’t look up and count or take action shots). The food court’s aisles had been strewn with overturned chairs and tables, and moaning bodies, making the search for the shooter more realistically difficult.

What did I learn? The most important thing is that police entering an active shooter scene don’t know who the bad guys are. So they look at each person to see if they have a weapon. If the police can tell that both of your hands are easily seen and are EMPTY, you are less likely to be accidentally shot and the police will know to look elsewhere for the bad guys.

The other thing to remember is the primary duty of the police is to stop the shooting, not to treat the wounded, so don’t try to grab them or distract them—easier said than done.

We should be comforted that APD and our area malls are working together to protect us as effectively as possible.

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