DUNWOODY, Ga. — With the uptick in mass shootings, the Dunwoody Police Department wants everyone to be prepared if they ever find themselves in the middle of a crisis.
It's why for years they've taught active shooter training courses for civilians. After a COVID hiatus, the classes returned in 2022, and city hall turned into a classroom for Wednesday night.
“Just because of what all’s been happening around the country with the increase in active shooters here lately," said Sgt. Michael Cheek.
With more than 300 mass shootings in America, Cheek said learning what to do --- and when -- is now a crucial skill.
“Civilians will always be there first before us," Cheek said.
The two-hour class was filled with real-life massacres from before: Columbine High, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. The unfortunate examples highlighted three key things police said people should do when faced with an active shooter.
Avoid. Deny. Defend.
“The first thing we want people to do is just to avoid the attacker at all cost," Cheek explained. "If you can’t avoid them, deny them access to you by either hiding or putting something between you and them and then defend yourself at absolute last resort.”
The lessons were new to some like Millie Hansen and her husband.
“One of the main things I learned was check out your exits so that if something does happen, you have more choices, you don’t just hide," said Millie.
But some lessons were familiar to others.
“I felt that because it happened to me 20 years ago," said Chris Perry.
Perry survived the 1999 Piedmont Center Shooting.
“It was a mass shooting and I was in one of the office buildings.”
Nine people died and 13 were injured. Perry explained he originally attended Wednesday's course thinking it was a run down of what police will do in active shooting situations. But, when he found out it was a class for people to learn how to protect themselves, he decided to stay. He was happy police were giving people real-life skills.
“You gotta arm yourself, you gotta run, you gotta fight, you gotta do what you can to survive," said Perry.
In all, these "students" soaked in the lessons to think critically, run if possible, hide far away from an attacker or get a barricade between yourself and the attacker, and as a last report, defend yourself.
The people who attended the class may never find themselves in an active shooter situation but if they did, Millie's husband said he hopes the lesson becomes muscle memory.
“If you’ve had exposure to some of this and it’s locked in your head somewhere, it comes automatically lots of times and that’s helpful. It can save your life one day," he said.
Dunwoody Police plan to have more trainings throughout the year as well as a stop the bleeding training. Cheek said they’ll update the community about classes on their social media pages.