The Scenic Regional Library System will begin developing plans to protect employees, and the public, if a branch ever is attacked by a gunman.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s office presented a three-hour active shooter training last week at the Union branch for the system’s full-time staff.
“We’ve been talking about offering the training for a quite a long time, primarily due to all the mass shootings and school shootings we’ve seen in the news over the past few years,” said Steve Campbell, district director.
“As they pointed out at the session, it may not just be some crazed, random gunman, sometimes it’s a person wanting to target someone, like a boyfriend or spouse of an employee,” he added. “So, I don’t think libraries are some kind of exception, in terms of a possible target for one of these shootings — unfortunately.”
Sheriff Steve Pelton, who led the presentation, told The Missourian that the goal was to teach library employees what to do during a violent encounter with an active shooter before law enforcement officers arrive.
“There are a lot of people going into a library, including children and students,” he said. “It is important to give the essentials to safeguard the community.”
According to Campbell, most of the system’s full-time staff from branches in Union, St. Clair, Warrenton, Pacific, Hermann, New Haven, Sullivan and Owensville attended the training.
“So much of what happens in those scenarios is situational, but he (Pelton) gave us a lot of things to just be aware of, and think about, which is critical,” Campbell commented.
For example, when it’s best to flee, hide or fight.” Also, the differences between lockdowns and lockouts, and when they’re each most effective.
“They also showed ways to barricade yourself in a space using chairs, or sliding a broomstick through door handles, and even using your belt to tie the door shut; ways to create improvised weapons to attack,” Campbell noted.
He explained that staff learned how a few people can overpower someone with a gun either by charging and overwhelming the person as a group, or by hiding on the sides of a door and grabbing the gun, and jumping on them when they enter a room, he added.
Campbell said that his branches could be at a disadvantage because the facilities are small and open.
“What if someone comes in the front door with a gun? The staff at the main desk are sitting ducks because there’s no place to hide,” Campbell said.
Pelton pointed out that the library’s shelving areas are full of books and that a .38 caliber gun will not penetrate a 400-page book.
“So, in essence, all those books could serve as body armor or a shield in a situation,” Campbell said.
During the training, Campbell asked if staff should flee to a safer place, then call 911, or get down and call first.
“He (Pelton) suggested running and hiding or fleeing to safety, then calling,” he said. “However, he pointed out that another option would be to duck down, call 911, but not necessary say anything, which would draw attention, but just let the phone hang there, then flee.
“As long as the call was connected, the police would trace the call and respond,” Campbell added.
The library system will begin developing plans for each branch so staff is informed about how to protect themselves.
“Knowledge is power,” Pelton said. “When people know how to protect themselves, that make a huge difference until first responders get there.”
Campbell noted that the sheriff’s office also offered to do a walk-through at branches.
“I think it was very interesting and useful information,” he said. “Mainly, it got everyone thinking.”