SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) - Law enforcement agencies have begun adopting a new policy on so-called "active shooters," encouraging civilians to take safety into their own hands and take down gunmen who threaten them at work or school.
At San Jose Evergreen Community College, police have trained teachers, staff and students to follow specific guidelines during this kind of emergency.
The campus police chief credits this training for their coordinated response last December when a gunman was thought to have entered one of their buildings. "Some folks even said I know now whether it is time to hide or the right time to fight back," said Chief Raymund Aguirre.
"For far too long people have been trained to just hide," said Kerry Harris, who runs active shooter training workshops at schools and businesses. "What we have found when we get into these active shooter situations is that people don't always have time to do that," said Harris. "And so by telling them to just hide and you are going to be okay, you are setting them up for failure."
In one video produced by the city of Houston and paid for in part by the Department of Homeland Security, viewers are instructed to first run or hide from a gunman, and at last resort, engage with a shooter to disable them.
This proactive, if not aggressive, approach to personal safety is taking hold nationwide.
At George Mason University in Virginia, first responders are told to take out shooters before SWAT teams arrive as back-up.
While this policy expedites law enforcement's ability to react, security experts add that it is critical that civilians are trained and prepared to deal with a worst-case scenario.
"The fact of the matter is there may be times when we need to defend ourselves," added Harris, who said he will return to San Jose Evergreen Community College's campus this spring to train more students.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.