ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Recent tragedies across the world involving active shooters, including in Orlando and Fort Myers, led hundreds of St Petersburg residents to take steps to protect themselves.
More than 300 people showed up for an active shooter training seminar hosted by St. Petersburg police and St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.
Carmen Munyan, of Largo, and her husband, Russ, decided to attend the event out of concern following the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
"We were actually in Orlando visiting some friends, and to hear the news, to wake up and listen to all the tragedies that had been occurring right next door to us, it was just really devastating," said Munyan.
She said shooting, that claimed the lives of 49 innocent people, was a reality check, showing how important it is to be prepared for the worst case scenarios.
"This is a country where we receive with open arms and welcome everyone from all over the world, so we're vulnerable, unfortunately," said Munyan.
The training program, which was offered free to the public, was hosted at the Coliseum in St Petersburg.
St Pete police officer Rodney Tower showed the crowd dramatizations of previous mass shootings, including the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, pointing out mistakes, like running to areas with no exit and victims mentally denying they're hearing the sound of gunshots that could be the difference between life and death.
"At the time of the attack, at the time gunshots are going off, is not the time to try to figure out what to do, where to go," said Officer Tower.
He recommends people follow the survival strategy called "ADD," an acronym for "Avoid, Deny and Defend."
"The avoidance is to get out and get away. Deny them access to where you are, putting physical barriers between you and them. As a last resort, defend. You may have to defend yourself," explained Tower.
During heightened stress, Tower said people often lose the ability to hear gunshots and gain tunnel vision, making it difficult to run to safety.
He recommends mentally practicing what to do in an active shooter situation whenever possible, starting with getting in the habit of always spotting out at least two exits signs in every public place.
St Pete Police offer active shooter training to church groups and organizations throughout the year upon request.