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Georgia public safety concerns in spotlight in wake of string of mass shootings

A church, grocery store, school and medical facility have all been targets of recent mass shootings

ATLANTA — In the wake of a string of recent mass shootings in public places, businesses are taking action to ensure safety during similar acts of violence.

A church, grocery store, school and medical facility have all been targeted in mass shootings over the last month. Kevin Matson is the Vice President of facilities and support services at Northeast Georgia Health System. He's noticed a spike in violence over the last two years. 

"It's tragic, and it seems to be a continuation of the mental health crisis we have in this nation that was exacerbated by the impact of COVID," Matson said. 

Matson said his staff had to respond to an active shooter at the hospital a couple of years ago and since then, he's taken action. He noted key investments the hospital made in virtual reality training for officers to better respond to active shooter threats. The hospital also invested in technology and infrastructure that allows facilities to lock down more quickly. 

Matson said the hospital is also considering a weapons detection system similar to what Disney World employs. 

RELATED: House panel taking up gun bill in wake of mass shootings

"Our frontline staff receive national best practice and training, focused on run, hide and fight," Matson said. "And in addition to that, we have proactively identified safe rooms. It's an investment for hospitals that's critical to make to ensure those we're treating and staff working at the facility have a sense of confidence that they're safe and will remain safe even in an active threat situation." 

Nonprofit The Violence Project researches mass shootings and found almost a third of them happened at work. Nearly a third occurred in a store or restaurant, and less than one-fifth of mass shootings happened at a school or house of worship. 

RELATED: Georgia developing Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams to respond to school safety threats around state

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security shared guidance if one should find themselves in an active shooter situation in public. First, evacuate. Form an exit strategy and call 911 if possible. 

Those unable to leave should try and find a place to hide. Make sure to secure the door and stay quiet by silencing any mobile devices. Federal officials said as a last resort, one can take action against the shooter by trying to incapacitate them. It's recommended to be aggressive when taking action by yelling, committing to an action, and throwing items that could serve as makeshift weapons. 

"I have four children, and I'd like to think they can live their lives and go to school not having to worry about those things," Matson said. "In my role for the health system, I have to worry about them. I have to be prepared for them."

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