MILLWOOD - Jackson County government employees learned how not to be “sheep” this week in shooter survival training sessions at the Jackson County Armed Forces Reserve Center.

The sessions emphasize a proactive approach rather than a reactive one to workplace violence taught by a three-man team including Sgt. Michael D. Lynch of the West Virginia State Police who teams up with John L. Fernatt and Chuck S. Mozingo, Jr. of the West Virginia Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management to teach the increasingly popular classes in the state. The trio advocate actions toward being survivors of workplace violence rather than victims.

Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs, as head of county security, hosted the training at the armory with the assistance of the Jackson County Commission. In fact, County Commissioner Tommy Nutter was among the courthouse staff members in the first class on Tuesday morning. Also in the class as EMS Director Steve McClure and 911/OES Director Walt Smittle.

City personnel in Ravenswood and Ripley were also invited to participate in the free training.

Before, office workers might have been urged to lie low and wait for police to intervene. But in the rising face of workplace violence and grim outcomes, the recommended tactics have changed especially in West Virginia. Now workers are being told to run, hide and fight, if necessary, to survive in class scenarios involving fake weapons, hard-hitting lectures, videos and self-defense moves.

“If you’re confronted by someone with a weapon, there’s no guarantee that handing over your money will end it,” said Lynch, referring to a fatal shooting in a robbery near an ATM in the Kanawha Valley. "Brutal means may be necessary to survive in a kill or be killed situation."

In 2011, homicide was the fourth-leading cause of death in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  A total of 458 people were killed in their workplace and firearms were the weapon in 78 percent of those killings. And just 14 percent of workplace shootings end with someone other than police stopping the shooter.

The Lynch-Fernatt-Mosingo training sessions always begin with a video, entitled “Shots Fired,” in which a man carrying a duffel bag enters an office and ignores a receptionist’s greeting. Seconds later, the sound of loud pops fill the office.

Unfortunately, such scenarios are more possible in the world we live in today. Being prepared to be a survivor and not a victim is becoming a necessity.

Thanks to Sheriff Tony Boggs and the County Commission, Jackson County Courthouse staffers have the opportunity to learn survival skills from some of the best teachers available this week.