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Civilians prepare for the worst with attack drill

Civilians prepare for the worst with attack drill

Sheriff's deputy: Seconds count in an active shooter incident
Civilians prepare for the worst with attack drill
A participants hides in the woods during an active shooter drill Wednesday at Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

CLIFTON PARK —  Kim Green, of Malta, has fallen out with friends who were unable to separate gun owners like her from people like Devin P. Kelley, the gunman who killed 26 people in Texas last weekend.

Green, who works for the state issuing pistol permits, was among those who attended an "active shooter drill" hosted Wednesday by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office at Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. She said the Texas shooting upset her as much as any other person, and she attended Wednesday's drill to prepare herself for what seems to be an increasingly common scenario.

She explained that she works in a building with more than 600 people in it.

“Anybody could walk in, and it’s the same thing,” she said. “What are you going to do when you’re on the 14th floor?”


Wednesday's drill came two days after Saratoga County Deputy Ken Cooper hosted a seminar in the library outlining the options available to those caught in such an attack — options that include running, hiding and, if all else fails, fighting. The average police response time to a shooting in the U.S. is around three minutes, and a response to such an incident in Saratoga County would probably be even faster than that, Cooper said.

Green was one of at least a dozen people who hid in the library during Wednesday's drill. Police officers gave civilian participants around a minute and a half to either hide somewhere in the building or find a way to escape the library. 

At least 10 other library patrons ran outside right away and found shelter behind stone walls. Others hid behind book shelves or locked and barricaded themselves in darkened offices or restrooms. On a typical day, the library could have at least 100 people inside, according to Jim Foster, the library's assistant director.

Cooper noted that the goal of Wednesday's exercise was not to scare people, but he emphasized the importance of quick decision-making during such attacks. Some people in the library froze during the drill and spent time trying to find a way to an exit when they should have focused on hiding, he said.

“That eight to 10 seconds that you freeze, you’re going to get hurt,” he told participants after the drill ended. “During active shooting events, people die.”

Green found shelter behind a rolling book shelf during the drill. While she was hiding, she and another participant decided that if the situation was real, they would work together to fight if the shooter neared them.

“It’s scary, because you’re under a panic here,” she said. “It’s good to know to look for the exit signs, to be aware of your surroundings — someplace to hide if you need. That’s why I came.”

Ultimately, Green felt prepared after participating in the drill.

“I feel better. I can tell other people tomorrow and make them aware, you know? And that’s what this is, is an awareness thing. To get more people to be aware of the fact that it’s not if, it’s when it’s going to happen,” she said. 

Others who participated were not as familiar with guns. Paula Riley, who traveled to the library from Ballston Spa, said she has never heard a gunshot before. She is a greeter at Saratoga Hospital and said she wanted to take part so she could be prepared.

Riley said she’s tired of hearing about terrible shootings over and over again.

“I have a chance to be somewhat prepared, so I can have a little bit more sense,” she said of the drill. “Here’s an introduction for me to get a feeling about what it might be like.”

During Wednesday's drill, Riley ran into a back office and hid under a desk. She pulled a chair in front of her but forgot to silence her cellphone. When she realized her mistake, she said she quietly took her phone out of her bag to turn it off, trying to make as little noise as possible.

“I made myself as small as I could so I could take up as little space as possible,” she said. 

Like Green, Riley believes that she is more prepared to deal with a shooting situation. 

“I hope they do more of these,” she said about the drill. “I think this was a very good thing that they did today for all of us. Very helpful. Very informative.”

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