Meadville Tribune

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July 30, 2012

Homeland Security gives pointers on surviving shooting sprees

WASHINGTON — For those caught up in the chaos and horror of a shooting spree, the Department of Homeland Security has a survival plan.

With seminars, online courses, posters, a booklet and even a pocket card highlighting salient points, the department is educating mall owners, office managers and the public on how to lessen the likelihood of becoming a casualty.

The pointers include yelling at or subduing the shooter in some situations. The online course consists of quizzes and assignments such as telling how to respond during a gunfire assault.

While the guidance may seem reminiscent of advice given to 1950s' schoolchildren to hide under their desks to survive a nuclear attack, security professionals said people need to prepare for the increasing deadliness of mass shootings.

"The only method of response is for citizens to understand their options to cope and respond to avoid being a statistic, because someone usually dies," said Robert Siciliano, a Boston- based security consultant. "In this case, information certainly is power."

Even so, Colin Goddard, one of the survivors of the Virginia Tech university massacre in 2007, said he doesn't think any of the booklet's pointers would have helped him avoid the four bullets Seung-Hui Cho pumped into his leg, hips and shoulder.

"You can never prepare for something like that," Goddard, 26, said in a telephone interview.

A New York Police Department report last year found that 281 mass shootings occurred between 1966 and 2010, and many of the most lethal incidents happened in the past decade.

In the latest tragedy, a gunman wearing a gas mask, ballistic helmet and vest killed 12 and injured 58 on July 20 in Aurora, Colo., when he opened fire in a movie theater showing a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

The booklet and online course indicate that "attitudes have evolved into a tacit, realistic acceptance that violence in our workplaces, schools and public places has become a part of our lives," Joseph A. LaSorsa, a former Secret Service agent who's a Swansboro, N.C.-based security consultant and private investigator, wrote in an email.

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