As a journalist, I approach some assignments with a sense of anticipation, awe and wonder. There’s not a steady flow of these — or at least there wasn’t until about a decade ago.

People who live on this planet have become more violent toward each other, and innocent people are continuing to die because of those who are cold-hearted and have no respect for humanity.

Just think back over the last month and count how many people have been taken away from loved ones by terrorist attacks in our own country. It’s staggering and frightening to think that it’s spread to cities large and small. There seems to be a plethora of these stories every two or three weeks.

It’s brought me to the realization that we must learn how to protect ourselves in addition to our families, co-workers and those we love.

I covered a local story a couple of weeks ago that was fascinating, heartbreaking, yet profoundly educational. The issue was presented in a most professional and sensitive way by Lt. Houston Johnson, commander of the criminal investigation division of the Harker Heights Police Department.

The 2½-hour presentation was a cooperative effort of the HHFD and the Heights Chamber of Commerce.

It was information that everyone needs to hear about what is known as the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, sometimes referred to as CRASE.

It was impossible to include everything Johnson spoke of in a few column inches in a newspaper story. I’ll refer to some of what he said but add some samples of what did not make it in print.

One thing that was good to hear was Texas State University in San Marcos created Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT.org). The Bureau of Justice System within the U.S. Justice System recognizes them as the training experts concerning active shooters in the U.S.

Johnson stated that if all of law enforcement learns under the same curriculum about tactics and approach, they could be a more cohesive unit when something bad happens.

An interesting fact about the improvement in law enforcement response time was that while the Columbine High School shooting was underway, the average response time was 10-12 minutes. With better communications and training, average response time is now at three minutes.

Much of our learning came from watching videos of actual events, listening to 911 calls and hearing comprehensive statistics provided by Lt. Johnson.

Johnson made an excellent point about how we prepare students in our schools to protect themselves from tornadoes and fires, but there is no training available to teach students, teachers and staff how to survive active-shooter events.

I agreed with him when he said we need to be moving in that direction and soon. For many schools in our country, it’s already too late.

If I were to impart one thing that I clearly remember from that session, it is that when entering a restaurant, business or store make a mental note of where all the exits are in that building.

Check the ones other than the way you entered. It’s all a matter of awareness and it could save the lives of many people.

If you’re in the leadership of a small or large business or organization, give your workers a gift and ask Lt. Johnson to make a presentation at your location.

For more information, contact Johnson at the Harker Heights Police Department by calling 254-953-5400.

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