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Just over a month ago, down the road on the campus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, an assailant opened fire and killed two and seriously wounded a handful of others.

The unthinkable happened in our backyard.

“Violence can occur anywhere at any given time,” said Patrol Sgt. Larry Hubbard, with the Concord Police Department.

Thursday evening at Cannon School, the city of Concord, Concord Police Department, emergency management and Concord Fire Department collaborated on a citizen active violence awareness and training workshop that was open to the public.

It was the first time that emergency responders reached out to the public for this type of presentation.

The message: “Are you prepared?”

“It’s a complicated situation and it’s rare that you get any kinds of heads up,” said Jim Sells, the emergency management coordinator for the city of Concord.

The speakers discussed statistics and data, background information and ways to prepare for crisis situations.

Sells said most shootings are planned days, or even weeks, in advance, so if anyone sees suspicious activity to contact administrators or law enforcement officers.

“The objective of the course is to instill some basic options for people in case they get caught in a situation like this that can potentially help save their lives,” Sells said.

A tragic occurrence nearly happened in October 2003 at Concord High School when a 15-year-old had a plan to place explosives in the school. He also had a hit list with more than 20 names.

Sells said the student was arrested and found with napalm and instructions after another student overhead suspicious activity and told a teacher.

The topic of the presentation was “480 seconds,” which equals eight minutes – the average time for emergency responders to get to the scene.

But what about the moments leading up to police arriving?

Hubbard said the public instructional course is designed to let people know what to do during that time.

“People should always be aware of their surroundings when they are walking into any kind of structure,” Hubbard said. “Where are the exits? Where’s the nearest phone to call for police? Be observant and always be cautious.”

Sells mentioned some suggestions, including locking a door because it takes time for a gunman to break through.

“It depends on where you are at when the situation starts,” Sells said. “First thing, if you can do it, try to get away from the building as far as you can. If you can’t get out, then try to hide and get out of the line of sight. If someone is in the room with you, then the last option is try to defend yourself, fight them and try to stop what’s going on.”

In 2018, there were 323 mass shootings in the United States, with 387 fatalities and 1,274 injured.

This year has already seen shootings on the campus of UNCC and, most recently, at a city building in Virginia Beach where 13 people were killed.

“We are really just hoping to educate the public because if something like this happens, you have to react,” said Bethany Ledwell, communications director for the city of Concord. “There’s not a lot of time to think. If something like this happens, we want people to know how to devise a plan that’s best for their safety.”

Officials said they hope to have more citizen active violence awareness and training workshops for the public in the future.

“It’s very important. This is long overdue,” Hubbard said. “The fire department and the police department are working really well together. This is the best I’ve seen us perform together in a long time. It can only get better, and I hope this is the first of many.”

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