One man was killed and a woman injured in a recent mall shooting in Melbourne, Florida. Leonard Coppola, owner of the Scotto Pizza inside the Melbourne Square mall was shot and killed in an attempt to protect his employee, Idanerys Garcia-Rodriguez, from her husband, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Recently, stories like this are becoming far too familiar as public shootings are on the rise. In fact, mass shootings have “increased threefold since 2011” according to The Huffington Post. While gun control debates take the foreground of conversation when a shooting occurs, students and retail workers are left ill-prepared to handle an active shooter if they should encounter one. Victims of an active shooting attack are often left feeling helpless as the unimaginable fills their world with chaos, but they don’t have to feel this way. Training programs to prepare all employees and students for a shooting situation should be implemented in an effort to save lives.
Though the Melbourne Square Mall shooting was not a mass shooting, it very well could have been if Coppola had not intervened. Before taking his own life, evidence supports that Garcia-Rodriguez planned on taking the lives of more innocent people as three handguns were recovered at the scene on Jan. 17. reports Florida Today. It was further stated that Vince Pryce, Melbourne Police Commander, discovered that “[Garcia-Rodriguez] had several pockets full of ammunition.”
It is important that people are prepared for the worst by training them to think clearly in the event of gun violence. “I think it would be extremely advantageous to include a ‘what if’ shooter scenario when new hires are being trained,” said Leanne Ballering, a UT Alumna and International Plaza employee, “An emergency like that causes extreme chaos for customers and chances are they will be following the employee’s move. Several high school students apply to stores at the mall and as they are seeking out their first job ever they may not be considering the risk factors that come with working in such a densely populated area. Having prepared employees would most likely result in a smoother outcome.”
Luckily, some retail stores have started such training. Bass Pro Shops stores are equipped with a gun range and fully stocked sections filled with weapons and ammunition that can be used against employees and customers. Therefore, to protect their employees they have included a program to prepare them for an active shooter. I spoke with Michael Boutin, a Bass Pro Shop employee, about the training they are given on gun violence. He referred me to the training video “Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.,” a project funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant. “‘Run. Hide. Fight.’ reminds the viewer to be aware that an active shooting scenario is possible. It would be simple to incorporate this video into corporate and retail training and in many cases it can be life saving advice,” Boutin said.
“Run. Hide. Fight.” offers tips and instructions on how to prepare oneself for gun violence in the workplace. Some of these tips include recognizing warning signs and suspicious activities of individuals who enter your workplace, encouraging evacuation followed by police notification, and even instructs those who are in immediate danger to fight for their lives by “improvising weapons.” A repeated phrase throughout the video was “be aware of your surroundings,” which is a good piece of everyday advice, but in dangerous circumstances, being aware of what is around you can be the difference between life and death. The likelihood of survival increases by allowing students and employees to become well-versed in the procedures provided by the video. “Thinking to do something and acting on it are two different things and that is what this video is for. It prepares employees to act when a threatening situation occurs,” Boutin said.
It is tragic that Coppola’s heroic actions led to his death. Predicting who will become publicly violent and where the incident will occur is next to impossible.can be difficult. There are ways to prepare and defend yourself if that day does come, the key is knowing how. Video training like that of “Run. Hide. Fight.” is an excellent start, but more effort needs to be put into training employees and students in the area of self-defense and crisis situations. Self-defense seminars and tutorials should be offered to increase the safety of employees. This world is an increasingly violent place and no one deserves to feel helpless.
Sam Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org