Windham Community Services Officer Matt Cyr leads an active assailant preparedness training Oct. 3. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

WINDHAM — Attendees at an Active Assailant Preparedness Training, hosted by the Rotary Club Oct. 3, said “it was really well done” and they will apply what they learned to their own businesses.

Community Services Officer Matt Cyr led the training, which was developed by the University of Texas’ ALERRT program. The event was held at the Windham Veterans Center and aimed to prepare businesses for active assailant attacks.

Cyr wanted the lunch training to “be an open dialogue. This needs to continue when you go home.” He said he preferred to use the term active assailant rather than active shooter because such events can involve other weapons as well.

During the training, he discussed the increasing frequency of active assailant events over the past few decades as well as the risk factors that may lead a person to commit one.

He also cautioned against focusing on schools, since most events happen in commerce areas, and on guns: “We tend in our country to point the finger, the easy button, at the gun when the reality of it is we need to start looking at the mental health for these people.”

He instructed participants to sit in silence for three minutes, the average response time for police in a city, and think about what they would do in that time during an active assailant situation.

The first step, Cyr said, is to run. He advised attendees to be aware of the exits in a building and get out. If you cannot, hide while barricading yourself and shutting off lights. If that is not an option, Cyr said, people should try to stop the attacker.

Start thinking about this stuff. I don’t want you to be paranoid, (but) start thinking about the situations you’re going to get yourself into and ways to deal with them,” he said.

Such situational awareness, he said, extends to businesses and assessing how an environment is arranged.

Approximately 30 participants attended the training. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

“Think of that stuff. Practice,” Cyr said. This is a “conversation starter. This isn’t over.”

Mark Wasowski, owner of Windham Chiropractic and Rehabilitation and one of about 30 people attending the event, said the training was “very well presented, and it was really well done.”

“I never really sat down and thought about what if somebody tried to get into my place,” he said. “definitely will bring it back to the office. We have a communal reception area. It’ll make you really think.”

Resident Sharon Kelley felt the training was “something good to do for myself.”

She said that while she does not usually consider where the exits are in a building or how she would respond in an active assailant situation, she viewed the training as just “more preparedness in life.”

In an interview, Cyr said he has conducted the free training with many groups in town. He has found that there has been more interest in such training in recent years, especially after an active assailant event occurs.

While he has not examined whether or not the training is effective, he said, “If nothing else, if we get just a few more people thinking about this stuff and acting appropriately in certain situations, that’s one more life saved.”

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