Eastern Panhandle prepares for unthinkable


The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.  — Although West Virginia has not experienced any mass shootings, Nathan Harmon, a BECON active shooter training instructor, said he’s trying to prepare people in the Eastern Panhandle community — teachers, employees, worshippers — about the benefits of situational awareness in the event of an emergency situation.

A BSR employee gives students of the BECON active shoot preparedness course a demonstration with firearms during a training session at the New Life Church in Inwood on Monday.
(The Journal photo)

Harmon held an eight-hour training course at the New Life Church in Inwood on Monday, and he said he wants to enable people to react effectively in stressful emergency situations with an active shooter.

Magistrate Gail C. Boober, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Harvey, members of law enforcement, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College staff and other community members gathered for the day of lecture and hands-on experience.

“It takes hands-on experience to get past the fear in a real life situation,” Harmon said.

Harmon partially attributes the lack of active shooting emergencies in West Virginia to luck, but he says it is only a matter of time before the state experiences one. According to Harmon, a West Virginia active shooter crisis is not a matter of if, but when.

“(West Virginia) has been proactive in some areas, and not in others,” Harmon said.

In general, the modern technological era has brought with it new crimes, new emergencies and dangers, according to Harmon.

“We are all individually fighting an interior tech war where we are losing our situational awareness of our surroundings as we go throughout our daily lives with our heads stuck in our phones or tablets,” beconast.com said in an online article.

Harmon agreed that the rise of technology has made information more available to people, and the isolation technology creates is partially to blame in his opinion. To combat isolation and unawareness, Harmon said the BECON course emphasizes situational awareness and observation.

“You’d be amazed what you see if you just take a minute to observe your surroundings,” Harmon said.

The course consisted of a morning lecture, an in-class demonstration and practical exercises. Harmon said the students would be faced with seven scenarios during the course to test them individually and help them evaluate their organization’s emergency response plans.

With workplace shootings and violence on the rise and school shootings decreasing slightly, Harmon said he wants students to walk out the doors more situationally aware and ready to react in the event of an emergency. According to Harmon, police generally take at least several minutes to respond to active shooter situations, and every second is crucial in a shooting attack. In recent years, vehicle and knife attacks have been on the rise as well. Harmon said “active killers” would be a more appropriate term.

“I want to see the ‘see something, say something’ mentality grabbed onto more often,” Harmon said.

Harmon said BSR training based in Shenandoah Junction also offers a five-day BECON course for law enforcement, a two-day instructor certification course — which is nationally certified through IADLEST — and a one-day course.

To learn more, visit beconast.com.

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