HANOVER, Va. -- It can happen anytime, anywhere, and your reaction could mean the difference between life and death. That was the message Hanover County Sheriff's Officers shared with the public Thursday in a presentation on how to respond in an active shooter situation.
The presentation came one day before the four-year anniversary of one of the deadliest mass shootings in our nation's history at a Las Vegas Music Festival.
The Hanover Sheriff's Department said the violence didn't start then and hasn't stopped since, with a reported 151 mass shootings in the country since 2016.
"We don't want a tragic event to occur, but we realize, just as you said, it does occur," said Lt. Colonel Thomas Woody. "You can be prepared, and you can be prepared so much so that you can make a difference in somebody’s life if not your own."
Hanover Sheriff Lieutenant R.B. Lane said the best response in that situation, might not always be your first.
"When under high levels of stress, we lose our cognitive abilities and the ability for the human brain to work," said Lt. Lane.
Fight, flight, or freeze. It's what your brain will tell you to do in a high-stress situation, but Lt. Lane said freezing could make you more vulnerable.
He added that oftentimes, people may be in denial about what is really happening, and for example, may mistake gunshots for fireworks, and may wait to see how others react before acting.
Officers say those moments matter. The best option, according to Lt. Lane, in an active shooter situation is to avoid, deny, or defend, otherwise known as run, hide, or fight.
Lt. Lane said being prepared and knowing where the exits are, or even considering secondary exits, could mean the difference between life and death.
Retired Alexandria Police Officer, Brutus Russel, said he had come to several of these trainings and had brought more people each time. Russel knew from experience how important being prepared is.
"What you should do is not exactly what you normally think you should do, and sometimes it’s quite the opposite of what you think you should do," said Russel.
He said when he was working in law enforcement, he had to respond to an active shooter situation.
"It was Christmas Eve actually. Many, many years ago," Russel said.
He said it was crucial to have an idea of what to do ahead of time.
"If you’ve heard it if you’ve thought about it, then maybe you have a better chance of reacting properly," Russel said.
Officers said calling 911 was another crucial piece in a civilian's response.
Once law enforcement arrives on the scene, usually in about three minutes, they don't always know who or where the threat is. So, they said it's crucial that people follow their commands and show their palms.