SCARBOROUGH — With increases in mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years, there has been a demand to learn how to be properly prepared, and Maine is no exception.
About 60 people participated in an Active Shooter Preparedness Workshop Tuesday at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish hall, but more than twice as many were registered and hampered from attending only by the weather.
“The requests for active shooter training has gone through the roof,” said Daniel Rivera, active shooter preparedness leader with the Department of Homeland Security, which conducts the workshops.
The free, eight-hour workshop was hosted by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland; another class was scheduled in Bangor on Thursday.
In 2017, DHS plans to host 60 Active Shooter Preparedness Workshops across the country, but no others are scheduled for Maine.
Rivera said Homeland Security is bringing the workshops to “small and midsize cities across the country” because they want to reach communities that need the training and don’t often have the same training resources as larger cities.
The workshop is centered on building an emergency action plan.
“Be observant and have a plan because, should an incident occur, you need to know that your chances of survival depend on being prepared and run, hide, fight can save your life,” Rivera said.
Homeland Security showed videos throughout the workshop with firsthand accounts from survivors and emergency workers.
According to literature provided by the DHS, “Active shooter situations are often over within three minutes, before first responders can arrive on the scene.”
Rivera said 75 percent of mass shootings occur at “soft targets,” such as popular places where people congregate where there’s not a lot of security, such as sporting events, malls, schools and concerts.
“The threat is very real and very prevalent,” he said.
The idea of the workshop is so participants can “begin to develop a plan here and hit the ground running” when they return to the organization where they help create an emergency plan.
Rivera recommended that everyone visit the DHS active shooter website, dhs.gov/activeshooter, to prepare for such an incident.
He also reminded people that they need to periodically review and test their emergency action plan at least once a year.
The DHS active shooter preparedness program has three components that can be found on their website.
The program features an online independent study, which includes a 90-minute webinar; a “how to respond” section to help business, government offices, and schools with resource materials to prepare for and respond to an active shooter; the third component is the active shooter preparedness workshops.
Anyone can print the resource material, which includes booklets, pamphlets, posters and pocket cards.