COLUMBIA, S.C. — In light of recent mass shootings across the country and rumors on social media suggesting something similar could happen in our community, News 19 is on your side learning more about services available to help you prepare for the unpredictable.

In 2008, Columbia Police began a program for city employees to train them for active shooter situations.

Since then, the service grew and is now offered to all Columbia residents.

"It describes what citizens can do during that three to five minutes prior to police arrival during an active shooter event," said Captain Earle Marsh of Columbia PD's Special Operations Division. "Now, it's a full court press on trying to deter [a shooting] as much as fight it."

Captain Marsh is one of the instructors for the class. It's about an hour and a half and free of charge.

"It could be something as simple as weapons of opportunity that you may have around you," said Marsh. "It could be something as simple as movement, distractions, anything you can use to take the bad guy out of control."

The training is called "CRASE", which stands for Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, and designed around the acronym "ADD" which stands for Avoid, Deny and Defend. It's in a classroom setting. You'll learn First-Aid, scenario-based training and get a safety assessment walk-through of your facility.

"I'm not teaching you martial arts or anything like that. It's what we already do," said Marsh, who added that the biggest hurdle for adults is denial during these events. "There's always somebody that says, 'Well, I thought it was fireworks'. That's that denial portion of it...We gotta get out of that denial phase quick and let's go into deliberation. What can we do?"

As an example, Marsh said to always be aware of your surroundings. For instance, if you're shopping at a big store like Walmart or Target, be sure to locate the exits as soon as you can.

Within the last year, Marsh says he's trained about 1,000 people in daycare groups, church groups, attorney's offices, etc.

Mike Genova, with Genova Karate, took advantage of the free training for his business.

"Like anything else, it could happen anywhere, anytime," said Genova. "We learned so much. We thought we knew some things, but we knew very little of what exactly to do."

With 25 to 40 children per class and four classes a day, that's a big responsibility. Genova says thanks to the training, they're even more prepared.

"If something's happening in the parking lot, we want to keep it in the parking lot," he said. "[Captain Marsh] taught us not only locking the door, but how to secure the door. We only have two doors into the karate school, so he taught us how to do that. Then he taught us how to use the escape route and where exactly to go."

In the training, Genova's group also learned what to tell 911 operators so police officers could quickly arrive on scene.

"Each of us have our own job. One is to call 911, one is to secure the children and the other is to secure that front door," said Genova. "If [the shooter is] already in that front door, we're going after that shooter...I believe in what I call 'The Four P's'. The first is to Prevent, the second is to Prepare, the third is to Practice and the fourth is to Protect."

"We actually had three of Richland School District 2 school board members there to show that we were being proactive about it and they were very impressed," he added.

Captain Marsh says interest in the class has grown in light of recent shootings in America. He says bottom line, we must learn how to defend ourselves with a safety strategy in our back pocket.

"I'm a big proponent that you've got to do something," said Marsh. "Don't stand there and be involved in letting them take your life without a fight."

The free training is mainly for adults, but open to anyone including smaller jurisdictions that don't offer a similar service.

If you're interested in participating in the Columbia Police Department's Active Shooter Training, click here.

This training is available to any business, house of worship, school, or any other venue located within the City of Columbia. If interested in applying, please contact Captain E. M. Marsh at (803) 545-3540 or emmarsh@columbiasc.net for more details.