JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ten days after a gunman opened fire during a video game tournament at the Jacksonville Landing, killing two men, the city's Chamber of Commerce co-hosted an active shooter training event.
According to security experts, such training can be crucial for anyone who finds themselves facing down a mass shooter.
"Statistics show that these events continue to be on the rise and the other thing that they show is that this type of training can absolutely save a life," said Michael Skoglund, vice president and director of the physical security office at Black Knight, a financial services company. "So I think in these types of events, if you could even save one life by someone going through this training, it’s absolutely worth it.”
Skoglund and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Patrol Division Chief Nick Burgos, a 22-year law enforcement veteran and former SWAT team commander, led the training session Wednesday afternoon at Black Knight on Riverside Avenue.
They taught people how to be aware and react quickly to make safe decisions if they're faced with an active shooter situation.
Daniel Davis, president and CEO of Jax Chamber, said that knowledge is more important now than ever before.
“I think we see all across this country that ... more events are happening that we don’t want to talk about, but I think it’s important for us to do that," Davis said. "And in the workplace, we want to make sure our employees are safe, that they feel empowered, and that they understand that freezing is not the answer -- taking action is.”
That's what the speakers hoped to inspire the audience, which included members of the Jax Chamber, to do if they ever find themselves in an active shooter scenario.
“We trained our entire lives as little kids on how to respond to a fire evacuation and while unfortunate, it’s the same type of mindset conditioning we have to have now,” Skoglund explained. “Active shooter events are a reality, and we have to start asking ourselves the question, ‘How am I going to respond should I find myself faced with one of these events?’”
The two men -- with years of law enforcement and security experience -- who led the session said the most critical tips to remember are simple: Avoid, deny, defend.
Try to escape and get away from the shooter, altogether if you can do so safely. If not, hide and block the shooter from getting to you, using obstacles to keep them away. If all else fails, defend yourself using any means necessary to survive.
Skoglund said the mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing left many feeling unsettled.
“I think hitting it home like that absolutely resonated," he said. "People are realizing now there’s an absolute duty, not only from the employer perspective to train their employees, but for citizens alike to familiarize themselves on what they need to do in these types of events.”
When shots were fired inside the Chicago Pizza at the Landing, people had only moments to react.
“Seconds count. Absolutely, seconds count,” Skoglund said.
He encourages all employers to take the time to educate their employees.
"We think it’s a great idea," Davis said. "We’re going to continue that throughout the next several years and make sure we’re training folks and businesses in this community."
Skoglund said anyone can find free materials about active shooter preparedness on the Department of Homeland Security's website.