Surviving a mass shooting - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Surviving a mass shooting

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A former Navy reservist went on a shooting rampage Monday inside a building at the heavily secured Washington Navy Yard, firing from a balcony onto office workers in the cafeteria below, authorities and witnesses said.

Thirteen people were killed, including the gunman.

MORE: 13 confirmed dead, including shooter, in Navy Yard rampage

Experts say what happened in Washington, D.C., can happen anywhere. Police and first responders in the Mid-South have increased their active shooter training on these types of incidents. They've been working with area businesses and schools, but police officers say everyone needs to be prepared.

MORE: Mid-South Homeland security training
MORE: Shooter training takes over Memphis mall

Homeland Security experts in Shelby County say you need to plan ahead. It could happen anywhere. An office. A school. The mall. A movie theater. If you have a plan experts say you have a good chance of surviving a mass shooting.

Police and federal agents from around the D.C. area swarmed the Washington Navy Yard after a government contractor opened fire, another in a long line of mass shootings.

Newtown, Aurora. Now Washington.

This year police in the Mid-South have stepped up their training to deal with this type of situation.

"The same things happen, you kind of got to expect the unexpected," said Capt. Perry McEwen, commander with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office Homeland Security division. "We're seeing this more and more so we need to be prepared for it."

Capt. McEwen's office, along with the Memphis Police Department, the FBI, and other local agencies have been training officers on how to respond to an active shooter call.

More than 2,000 police officers and more than 500 first responders have gone through this training. FOX13 News was given an exclusive look inside the program in April.

The police are prepared to respond but Capt. McEwen said if you're in an active shooter situation you need to make some split second decisions.

"If you hear what you think is gunfire start making your plan to get out, if you can get out of the building," he said.

In August, police and first responders staged another training exercise at the Wolfchase Galleria in Germantown. Police say running away from the danger should be your first move, but you can't hide.

"If you're in a place indefensible move to a place that is, but you need to plan on doing that now," Capt. McEwen said. "If you have an office where you can, barricade that office. You need to plan on how to do that and how to do that quickly."

When police arrive on the scene, they don't know who the bad guys are. They say you should leave all your belongings behind, keep your hands visible, and listen to the officers' orders. Having a plan could mean the difference between surviving or not.

"What you're trying to do is buy seconds," Capt McEwen said. "Once the gunman fires the first shot, people are on the phone to 9-1-1, officers are on their way, and if you can buy seconds here and there. Then that's going to be your best bet."

This weekend SCSO, Memphis Police and Memphis Fire will be holding another active shooter drill at the Oak Court Mall on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis. They'll be working with the mall staff and the store employees. It's all part of this major push to make sure first responders here in the Memphis area are ready for the worst case scenario.

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