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'There are steps we can take': Ways to prepare yourself for an active shooter

Last Updated Sep 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm MDT

Calgary police and RCMP on scene after a shooting at CrossIron Mills Mall on Sept. 16, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

'Everyone has a choice in what kind of role they will play in any event they find themselves'

Cst. Doug Sherwood said it helps to prepare for the worst when you go into a packed area like a mall, stadium or theatre

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Although the situation was not as serious as initially feared, word of a shooting at CrossIron Mills Mall on Monday night still sent shoppers into an immediate panic.

The shooting left one man injured, and there were no threats to the rest of the public in what appears at this time to be a targeted incident.

But it still serves as a reminder of the importance of keeping calm in these stressful events.

“There are things that we can consider, there are steps we can take and measures that we can follow to affect our own survival,” said Cst. Doug Sherwood with the Calgary police’s Crime Prevention Team.

Sherwood is an expert on what to do in active shooter incidents and even teaches a course on how to manage your emotions.

He said hearing about an attack in a crowded place can immediately kick off our fight, flight or freeze response — especially in this time of heightened fear around mass shootings.

“Our primitive brain steps up and goes, ‘I need to make myself survive and this is how I’m going to do it’. And without a plan, it just does whatever it does without us thinking,” Sherwood explained. “People running around hysterically, people who are screaming, people who didn’t really know what to do. And that’s the case with most of us when something really scary happens.”

READ MORE: CrossIron Mills reopens following Monday night shooting

Sherwood said the response is almost like when you get into a confrontation and your lip starts quivering, but on a more advanced scale.

While it can send us into a frenzy, Sherwood said it helps to prepare for the worst when you go into a packed area like a mall, stadium or theatre.

“Do if and then thinking, other people might call it scripting, where we start thinking scenarios in our mind like, ‘what would I do in this kind of situation?'”

Even though this is on a very limited basis, Sherwood said it helps form neural pathways in your brain so that if you are confronted with a real event like what happened on Monday, your brain can connect the dots and act rationally.

Vancouver Police Department have an informational video posted to its YouTube channel about how you can prepare for deadly threats.

He added it is extremely important to listen to police officers in these incidents, but also we should not just rely on the police to arrive and save the day.

“You know what? We’re not soft victims, we’re not complacent, we don’t have to be 100 per cent subject to the outside factors that are playing on a certain situation,” Sherwood added.

“We have a choice — every one of us, not just the police — but every one of us who is involved, every single person at CrossIron yesterday, everybody and every single event anywhere has a choice in what kind of role they will play in any event they find themselves. They don’t need to just sit and go ‘oh man, I can’t believe this is happening, I guess I am just going to sit here and see what happens and hope for the best.'”

Sherwood points to online videos covering the concept of run, hide and fight which details how to handle yourself in an active shooter situation.

The last piece is the most important, as people should be prepared to fight back before police arrive in order to limit casualties.

In dealing with stressful scenes like at CrossIron Mills mall, Sherwood said this can also help us handle ourselves in other similar events.

“It doesn’t just have to be a situation like yesterday at CrossIron, it could be anything. Maybe you’re a student in school and you find yourself in the middle of a big altercation in the hallway,” said Sherwood. “Our brains perceive threats all the time to varying degrees. As we consider potential responses in critical incidents and plan for them, we can — just by planning — we can help ourselves to respond positively and overcome these situations.”