TAMPA, Florida - A shooter in the workplace is every employee's nightmare. Experts say preparation is the key to survival.
Master Chief E.J. Diaz teaches real life scenarios at Sparta in Tampa. Monday evening, students of all ages ran through a drill on how to prevent someone from taking you hostage.
It's is a personal protection class for all ages. Participants are forced into all types of scenarios so they can practice survival skills, not just for themselves but also for co-workers, by carrying them and even dragging them to safety.
Diaz is a sergeant with the Tampa Police Department and brings 30 years of on-the-job experience to the class. He says, "I've seen a bunch of police officers and firefighters who've been injured by not practicing, so instead of them having weight vests or weight bags we have them pick up partners to do that and I think they start knowing their limitations."
Diaz says it's important to know the layout of your workplace so you know how to get out quickly. You should know where all the exits are and how you would get to them if the building was dark or full of smoke. It's also important to know different ways to get inside the building in case there's an attack out in the parking lot.
Another drill he puts his students through is one where they're forced to try to dial 911 with other students screaming the entire time. The goal is to have you think about whether you would be able to dial the numbers quickly if gunfire was ringing out and victims were screaming nearby.
Diaz says it's important to keep your composure. He says employee's might want to have a code word when they see something suspicious about to happen and they're afraid of alerting a suspect. He says instead of yelling "Call 911!" co-workers should agree on a secret code indicating that there's a dangerous situation unfolding and someone should call police immediately.
But Diaz says you should never call 911 and just say "Help!" and hang up the phone. He says if it's safe give the dispatcher on the other end of the line as much information about the suspect and where they are in the business as you can.
"Because I don't know your business as an officer and saying 'Our front door is locked, come to the side, if you come to the side he can't see you coming up because there's no windows over there.'"
Diaz says that can be the difference between life and death when law enforcement is trying to rescue you and your co-workers.
He adds that employees need to prepare by coming up with a plan and practicing it. Click here to learn more about the classes offered at Sparta.