Being observant is a good way to avoid being hurt.

Mississippi Highway Patrol Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry told McComb Lions Club members recently that staying safe is easier if you “pay attention to details,” like where exits are to get away from an active shooter, or noticing unattended bags or containers in odd places that could contain bombs or other hazardous materials.

Active shooters are an ever more frequent phenomenon in the United States these days, and precautions are more important than ever, Fortenberry said.

 Among active shooters, 98 percent are male and 97 percent act alone, making such shooting situations “unpredictable, and they evolve quickly,” Fortenberry said.

Scenes chosen by active shooters are increasingly “soft targets.” such as churches, malls, theaters or schools, and they tend to happen quickly.

Such a shooting “might be a 10- to 15-minute event,” Fortenberry said. “It could be over before law enforcement can arrive.”

Being prepared mentally and physically is important for law enforcement as well as potential victims, and “training is the best way to prepare,” he said.

As well as identifying exits, Fortenberry said people should note items that could become defensive weapons if they don’t have something of their own, and scope out places that could be used to hide.

“Training can help you determine your best course of action: run, hide or fight?” Fortenberry said. “Leave belongings behind if you’re going to run. Find a place of protection and spread out. If you cluster together, you’re all easier targets.”

Anyone who can should call 911 immediately and give as much information as possible, including the number of shooters and weapons, the location and a physical description of the shooter.

When police arrive at the scene of a shooting, they will go toward gunfire if it’s still occurring, and will not stop to assist any injured people they may encounter. Priority will be on stopping the shooter.

Anyone leaving the scene of a shooting should keep their hands visible and arms raised to show they are unarmed and not be perceived as a threat.

“Remain calm and don’t ask the officers for help,” Fortenberry said.

A change in behavior or conduct could be a sign that someone is becoming a danger to himself or others, as could a “trajectory toward violence,” he said.

“Observe your surroundings and report suspicious behavior.”

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