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Active shooter training offered

BEING PREPARED — School Resource Officer Mike Beletti, left, and Sgt. James Tietje show city employees Diane Theobald and Elizabeth Bloomquist techniques to tie off a door in the event of an active shooter at City Hall in Fairmont on Monday.

FAIRMONT — We hear about school and workplace shootings all too often.

We express shock, sadness, outrage and a whole gamut of emotions, and then push the incidents to the back of our minds — until the next time.

But what would you do if someone wielding a gun entered your business, industry or school?

Local law enforcement offers an instructional program to help prepare and educate people on how best to react if placed in this situation. They call it “the best training you hope you never need.”

With Fairmont City Hall closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, a local law enforcement team took the opportunity to school municipal employees on what to do in an active shooter situation.

Sgt. James Tietje of the Fairmont Police Department led the program with assistance from Officer Mike Beletti, school resource officer, and Deputy Cory Ballard of the Martin County Sheriff Department.

An active shooter situation occurs when one or more people are involved in a systematic shooting spree. It could happen in an office, factory, school, church, theater or any venue, whether there’s just a handful of people or thousands present.

“Their sole directive is they want to kill and hurt others,” Tietje said.

One misconception is that such horrifying incidents happen most often in schools, but of the 160 mass shootings from 2000-2013, only 24 percent were in schools.

Although the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was not the first mass shooting on record, it did radically alter the way law enforcement and other emergency responders handle such situations. At the Colorado school, two shooters went on a 47-minute spree, killing 13 and wounding more than 20, while law enforcement and emergency personnel waited for SWAT.

“Columbine changed the way law enforcement responds,” Tietje said. “It also changed how we’re going to train staff and students. Now we go inside and take out that threat.”

The majority of the Columbine fatalities were killed in the first seven minutes. In other mass shootings, the majority of the victims were killed within the first few minutes.

Fairmont is a small community, and law enforcement can be on the scene moments after receiving a call, but during the interim, people should have a plan to get themselves to safety. Tietje offered simple strategies to implement the “Run-Hide-Fight” defense.

“Each of them promotes an action,” he said. “What am I going to do if something like this happens? Where will I go? What do I have for weapons?”

Tietje, Beletti and Ballard led city employees through their workplace, sparking conversations on where to go and what could be used for weapons, whether it be a desk, computer or even a stapler.

“Items can be replaced. Lives can’t,” Tietje said.

In March 2013, the Fairmont Police Department partnered with area schools and local businesses to host a workplace violence and active shooter training in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Since then, they have tailored the training to meet the specific needs of each business or school, and offer everything from a simple discussion to work site walk-through and evaluation to extended training and hands-on practice.

Fairmont Police Chief Mike Hunter, with Tietje, helped establish the department’s current training protocol and partnered with Ballard and the Sheriff’s Office to establish a consistent countywide training program. The trio have undergone extensive training through Homeland Security and Emergency Management and are certified instructors for law enforcement, fire and ambulance personnel to respond to such incidents. When Hunter was promoted to police chief, Beletti stepped in to assist with the training.

Martin County schools and several private businesses and public agencies, including Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont and Faribault/Martin County Human Services, have taken advantage of the training. After the recent church shooting in Texas in November, the training team has received a few inquiries from local churches about training and best practices.

There is no charge for the program, regardless of the level of training or the number of people involved, whether it’s a three-person office or a large factory. It is available to any school, business, industry or agency in the Martin County area.

For more information, call Chief Hunter at (507) 238-4481 or email him at mhunter@fairmont.org

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