The day after a loner with reported behavioral problems opened fire at a South Florida school, killing 17 and wounding a dozen more, Bulloch County sheriff's Capt. Todd Mashburn began getting phone calls.
He owns a business, Fit to Fight, where the public can learn how to defend themselves in dangerous situations, but Mashburn's duties as training captain at the Sheriff's Office include training faculty, staff, business owners, teachers, daycare workers and others on how to be safe in public emergency events.
The day after the Parkland school shootings, his phone stayed busy as call after call came in from concerned parents. But preparations for the possibility of such a tragedy happening here should have been in place long ago, he said.
"It is bad we have to have a tragedy to create a stir to do something we should have done all along," he said.
The way schools handle active shooter or similar dangers is changing he said. "It is changing from lockdowns to 'Run, Hide, Fight,' " a plan sanctioned by the FBI and Homeland Security.
The program educates on how to handle the incident - whether to run, hide or fight the attacker. The movement is getting away from lockdowns and encouraging victims to escape if safely possible.
Through the Sheriff's Office, Mashburn has not only trained deputies, but has offered courses at schools, churches and local businesses in "what (red flags) to look for, to anticipate a danger and how to deal with the aftermath."
The "Run, Hide, Fight" plan "is not linear," he said. It encourages victims to think about the best way to keep themselves safe.
"Get out if you can; if you can't, hide," he said. "But if (the shooter or another dangerous person) comes calling, you might have to fight."
Mashburn doesn't want to frighten anyone, especially children, but preparedness is vital to safety. In an active shooter or similar situation, "We have to do everything we can to make him stop killing. We are trying to minimize casualties."
The Sheriff's Office program, "Current Tips for Surviving the Active Shooter," is available to the public and takes about two hours.
"Anyone can request this," he said. "It is a service that we (at the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office) offer that we want to do. I pray to God it never happens here, but wouldn't you rather be prepared?"
While schools and other entities have increased their awareness of the possibility of an active shooter or bomb-carrying suspect showing up in our area, "We can do more than we have done" in the way of being informed and prepared, he said. "Doing something is better than nothing."
Mashburn said William James Middle School Principal Julie Mizell contacted him for a program at the school, and the course went over very well, he said. Now, other schools are contacting him for appointments.
The Bulloch County Board of Education is working with him and other law enforcement to integrate the information through intruder drills held at the schools, said Hayley Greene, marketing and public relations director for Bulloch County Schools.
Many Bulloch County schools have school resource officers, and Bulloch County sheriff's Chief Deputy Bill Black said there are efforts to place an SRO in all schools in the future. School resource officers are certified, armed law enforcement officers.
But just having a school resource officer isn't enough, Mashburn said. An SRO is "only one person. You are your best security. You are your best weapon."
Parents should educate children at home as well. Children should be taught to look for signs of danger and how to report suspicious activity or persons, and how to "Run, Hide, Fight," he said.
"Why should we wait? Cut it off before it happens," he said, referring to reporting things like teens posting on social media about violence and guns.
It is reported that Nikolas Cruz, the self-admitted Parkland shooter, was reported twice to the FBI regarding disturbing social media comments, including a vow to become a "professional school shooter." Also, he was banned from bringing a backpack to school due to his violent behavior.
Mashburn advocates parental monitoring of their children's social media activity.
He has been in law enforcement for 24 years - four and a half years with the Statesboro Police Department and the remainder with the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office drug suppression team and, now, as a training captain.
He is also a certified law enforcement active shooter instructor and holds a black belt in Krav Maga.
For more information on the services offered by the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office or to speak with Mashburn about his Fit to Fight program, call (912) 764-8888.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.