“When I was growing up and my family was in a store or some other public place, my dad would always admonish my brother, sister and I to ‘pay attention to what was going on around you,’” recalls Capt. Jeffrey Adcock, a 22-year Cobb County Police veteran. “He provided the warning when we would bump into other people or knock something off a shelf. However, I believe that paying attention to what is going on around us is the number one thing a person can do to protect themselves.”

Adcock, who has served in various roles with the local department, including uniform patrol, SWAT, with the training center as an instructor, uniform sergeant and lieutenant, chief’s adjutant and now the commander of Precinct II in Austell, says that if a person is paying attention, they are less likely to become a victim because they can avoid potential danger. And danger is something Adcock knows quite well. Last April, he was the incident commander during the FedEx active shooter incident in Kennesaw. Before turning the gun on himself, 19-year-old Geddy Kramer allegedly opened fire on his co-workers at the facility on Airport Road. Six men and women were shot and injured during the incident.

“People who want to cause harm are looking for easy victims and if you act like one your chances of becoming a victim are increased,” Adcock says. “Additionally, if you think that you are in danger, you need to immediately find a method to remove yourself from the situation and get on the phone to 911. Do not hesitate.” And no matter where you work, go to school, attend church or even buy groceries, you should have a plan about what to do in case of a weather emergency, fire, active shooter incident, etc. “Your employer should discuss those plans with you and you should practice those plans,” Adcock continues. “In an emergency without a plan, you will often encounter panic, which can be fatal. The men and women who serve you in public safety have plans for incidents and those plans often save precious minutes as an incident develops. Efficiency in serious incidents can and does save lives. The active shooter incident at FedEx is a prime example of where prior planning and training saved lives.”

An example of being prepared is the “Run, Hide, Fight” concept, which is a safety tactic developed into a video that outlines what to do if you find yourself facing an active shooter incident. A simple Google search of “run, hide, fight” will point you to a number of websites where you, your employees or family can watch the training video. “The concept is that if you find yourself in an active shooter event, and to be clear it might be someone with another weapon, such as a knife or sword … you would first flee the building or location you are in,” Adcock says. “You may have to think out of the box and rather than run out a door, break a window and utilize that method of escape. Try to avoid using your normal entry routes into the building as the attacker likely used those same routes. Do not hesitate, do not retrieve personal property — grab those with or near you and run from the building to a safe location and call 911.

“If you are not in a position where you can’t flee the building, then find a location to hide or, better yet, barricade yourself, family or co-workers to protect yourself. As you ‘shelter in place,’ use heavy furniture to block doors and get on the phone to 911. You may need to wait in that location for several hours, but law enforcement will get to you and evacuate you to safety just as we did at FedEx.

If you still find yourself in a position where an attacker can harm you, Adcock says use every means at your disposal to violently protect yourself. “This may include using improvised weapons, such as fire extinguishers, work tools, chairs or any other object you can think of to protect yourself and others,” he says. “Work as a team and develop a quick plan to protect yourself.” Adcock says law enforcement agencies throughout Cobb are more than happy to participate in discussions with communities, businesses and schools about active shooter incidents and steps residents should take to protect themselves.

His final recommendation: “If you see something, say something.” This slogan was developed as a result of terroristic incidents and threats. “Law enforcement professionals absolutely depend on the public to be the eyes and ears of our efforts,” Adcock says. There are only about 1,700 law enforcements in Cobb, including city departments, and more than 730,000 residents. “Our officers often solve very serious crimes or stop criminal activity because of a single phone call,” Adcock says. “Your call to 911 might be the difference between life and death for yourself or someone you don’t even know. We owe it to each other to be proactive in our vigilance particularly as threats around the world develop.”

As far as individuals who don’t think there’s a need to worry about safety in public places, Adcock says personal safety is everyone’s responsibility. “Unfortunately in today’s world, we all have to pay attention and protect each other. The chances of you becoming a victim of an active shooter incident or other criminal mischief are actually relatively small,” he says. “However, you need to be prepared mentally for that possibility so that if something happened, you are successfully working off your mental plan rather than panic.”

Life-saving Equipment

Safety in public places isn’t just about keeping an eye out for danger if there is an incident, but also being prepared. For example, Shane Garrison, who founded Puckett EMS with Steve Puckett in 2001, and his team at the local 911 EMS provider, are working to increase the number of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, installed in public places, in addition to promoting CPR training. An AED is a simple-to-use portable device that is used to shock the heart of a person suffering a cardiac arrest to return the heart to a normal rhythm. According to statistics shared by Garrison, heart disease is the number one leading killer of men and women in the U.S., claiming more lives than all forms of cancer survived; and nearly 750,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year, as well as about 610,000 people dying from heart disease annually.

Since 2009, the company has trained more than 2,500 people in CPR-AED and donated 30 AEDs within the community they serve, including the Mansour Center in Marietta, Powder Springs Masonic Lodge and McEachern High School Athletics to name a few. In 2013, Puckett EMS paramedic Dennis Kelly was instrumental in signing into law Senate Bill 212, which requires CPR-AED instruction in high schools, by organizing EMTs and paramedics to volunteer to teacher these courses at a local high school. “As a 911 EMS provider in Cobb County, Puckett EMS believes that we can do much more to promote CPR training and public access defibrillation in our community,” Garrison says. “During our strategic planning meetings in 2015, we decided collectively that we wanted to make more of a profound impact on the cardiac arrest survival rates in the communities that we serve.” Their goal is to improve the cardiac arrest survival rates in Cobb to more than 40 percent within the next 24 months. Since 2009, rates have doubled to 28 percent.

To assist in this effort, the nonprofit EMS Cares Foundation was created. Garrison says one of the primary initiatives of the foundation it to establish free CPR-AED training for all businesses, churches and sports organizations in Cobb, partnering with AED vendors that will provide AED wall mounts at a significant discount, making the machines affordable for participants. “We heard early on that a hindrance for small businesses has been the requirements of the Georgia State Law for a medical director to authorize the installation of an AED and the registration requirements with the department of EMS,” Garrison says. “This is something that the foundation will handle for each AED that we place in any business or organization. Let us do all of the legwork. The only requirement is that you purchase the AED and show up for a free hour-long training class for CPR and AED training. Depending on the model of AED, you can expect to spend around $750 with a wall mount. This is about half of the price that you would normally pay for one of these devices.” The City of Powder Springs is the first major initiative where the foundation has taken the lead role in making AED training available to an entire community. To register for classes, visit puckettems.com, send an email to emstraining@puckettems.com or call (678) 504-1700.

Another important piece of life-saving equipment is a fire extinguisher. Don Massaro, who has worked in the industry for 27 years, started Integrity Extinguisher Co. LLC last March after working for a few other extinguisher companies. It is a mobile service company based in Kennesaw, servicing all of metro Atlanta. Massaro says commercial establishments are required to have annual maintenance conducted on each portable fire extinguisher by a permitted service technician with a licensed company. Additionally, under the OSHA codes, a monthly inspection is required in most business. Residential extinguishers do not have any requirements regarding inspections or maintenance, but he recommends residents check their fire extinguisher each month.

Fire extinguishers can be inspected by anyone knowing what to look for: 1) make sure it is in a designated location and still there; 2) make sure the gauge is reading in the proper area; and 3) make sure it hasn’t been played with and you must know how to use it. “All newer extinguishers have operating labels on the front of the extinguisher,” Massaro says. “Read often. In case of a fire, reading is not the time to learn how it works. Even buy an extra extinguisher and use it in the backyard to see how it works, it might be a small price to pay for a little training.”

He adds that fire extinguishers should last forever, but it would not be a bad idea to purchase a new one every 10 to 15 years just to be safe in a residence since it is not required to have any maintenance conducted. “In a commercial environment, extinguishers are required to be recharged every so many years depending on the type of extinguishers, so there is a reasonable assurance it will work when needed,” Massaro concludes.

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Run, Hide, Fight outlines what you should do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation:

  • Run – Get out of the building, utilizing an out-of-the-box route if possible.
  • Hide – Find a place to barricade yourself, family or co-workers from danger.
  • Fight – If you can’t escape or hide, use every means at your disposal to violently protect yourself.
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