A feeling of tension cast over roughly 150 residents at Dripping Springs High when 911 phone call recordings from the 1999 Columbine school shooting were played.
The tapes, which rarely have been heard by the general public, offered a moment of shock for some. All, however, attentively listened to those who reported what was at the time one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
For Hays County Sheriff’s Office Lt. David Burns, the recordings offered a chance for him to showcase the importance of being prepared in the event of an active shooter situation.
On Dec. 11, Burns led a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event (CRASE) presentation, which was hosted by the HCSO. The event comes weeks after the tragic mass shooting that took place in Sutherland Springs.
Burns, a former U.S. Army Paratrooper, said he was inspired to teach the class after hearing criticisms from a radio DJ following the tragic events at Columbine.
The DJ, who was commenting on the Columbine event, was irate at law enforcement for taking over 45 minutes to enter the building.
However, it was the DJ’s comment of, “I would rather see dead cops than dead kids,” that pushed Burns to offer people the tools to be prepared in active shooter situations.
Burns, a founding member of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program, said after years of offering the situational awareness training to police officers, he was inspired to offer the training to civilians.
That’s when CRASE was born.
Burns uses a diversified training technique involving videos, sound bites, 911 calls, and audience participation.
Burns said the tactics offer the chance of “re-programming” the human brain to be able to react quickly in an active shooter situation.
The first video shown to residents Dec. 11 was a transcribed recording of the 911 calls with a teacher in the library at Columbine. The library was where most of the victims in the event were ultimately shot and killed by the gunman.
“Prior to that day, no one ever thought that something like this would happen to them,” Burns said. “It can happen anywhere, no one is immune from this.”
Burns said residents should follow several tecnhiques that could go a long way to survival. One is not to freeze up or use the “hide and hope” or “play dead” method to survive.
“If you just lay on the ground and freeze and can’t believe it’s happening to you that can become very problematic,” Burns said.
Burns also referenced the Avoid, Deny, Defend (ADD) strategy to the audience, as well as the human body’s physical response to stress.
He illustrated the importance of planning ahead for a situation when cognitive functioning will be impaired.
Burns also coached audience members to use techniques like combat breathing to calm themselves if they ever encounter an active shooter event. He encouraged them to be more aware of situations no matter where they are.
“We walk around as human beings 90 percent of the time not paying attention to our surroundings, so it could be something as simple as ‘Where else can I get out of here other than the way I came in,’” Burns said.
Burns said there would be four additional CRASE presentations that will be offered in Buda, Kyle, San Marcos and Wimberley.
Buda resident Joshua Dean, who was in attendance for the presentation as a representative for the security team at his local church, said the training offered by Burns was beneficial.
“It’s great to have this (training) now, this is more of the first time something like this was available here,” Dean said. He added how his brother in New Mexico has been training his security team for active shooter events since 2006.
Burns said when discussing the possibility of an active shooter event, it’s okay to be afraid. Making mental preparations is the key to surviving it.
“Everyone gets scared, the key is not letting your fear control you, but you control your fear,” Burns said.