The modern world can be a dangerous place, but many local officials are now better prepared for one of the most dangerous threats in modern society — dealing with armed individuals.
Thursday marked the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce’s first Business Sense & Security session — which the Chamber is referring to as "BS Sessions" — addressing workplace violence and preparedness.
The session was led by Lt. Mike Burgeson of the Yankton Police Department.
During the 90-minute session, Burgeson demonstrated many of the do’s and don’ts of situations involving armed individuals — be it in the workplace, church or anywhere else. He also introduced attendees to ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — training and how to effectively execute each procedure.
"This whole presentation is about keeping people safe in a situation with an armed intruder — whether with a knife, a gun or some other kind of instrument," Burgseon said. "I want to enable people to know they can save their own life and not just sit there and do nothing."
He added it’s pertinent people and businesses have plans of action in place to prepare for such situations.
"(Having) no plan is a plan to fail," he said. "In order to survive in a situation, you’ve got to know what to do. You’ve got to enable yourself and your staff to be able to take action."
Burgeson said that since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, philosophies have changed with law enforcement responses to active shooter incidents.
"We relied on SWAT teams to take care of that," he said. "We don’t have the time or the luxury to have SWAT come in, gear up and go take care of it. Law enforcement has to take care of it by themselves right now with the aid of the victims inside the building or wherever we’re at. The situation happens in about 2 minutes with a round being fired every 4 seconds. You don’t have time to wait."
In addition to a change in philosophy, he added there has been a change in education on the subject of mass-casualty incidents.
"In the late ‘90s, nobody thought about this," he said. "It was not a talked-about subject. Talking about people shooting people is not a warm and fuzzy, feel-good topic. But it’s changing. I gave the 2018 statistics where we’ve already had five mass killings. It’s not about the gun; it’s about the evil heart that’s doing this."
Chamber director Carmen Schramm told the Press & Dakotan that she was happy with the response to the session.
"We were real pleased with the turnout, especially considering the weather," she said. "Since this is a topic of the times, and we know a lot of (bigger) businesses have already been through this training, we were happy to see our smaller businesses show up. Something like this can be useful, regardless of size."
She said that 89 people attended the seminar, ranging from business professionals to local officials.
Burgeson said it’s important not to adopt an "It Can’t Happen Here" attitude, even in a generally quiet place like Yankton.
"The threat is extremely real based on the simple fact that — I hope it never happens here— but the problem is, unless you’re going to stay here and stay in your house for the rest of your life, you’re going to go someplace where it’s going to happen," he said. "How many people have been to Orlando? How many people have been to the (Westroads) Mall (in Omaha)? How many people have been to the St. Cloud Mall where things have happened and things have gone bad? Just watch the news. Our society is changing and it’s not for the better."
Schramm said that the Chamber may even look into offering similar ALICE training sessions on a regular basis.
"We’re going to be doing a follow-up survey with all of the people that attended just to find out if they’d like some more extensive training on this," she said. "We may try it again next year and see if we can pull in a whole other crowd."
The next BS Session is set for April 26 and will cover business disaster preparedness and recovery.
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