In West Virginia, officials say there has been a steady increase in the sessions' popularity. Although they won't directly attribute that to concerns in the wake of such massacres as last year's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., or the attack in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, demand has risen since those incidents. At least 14 workshops have been presented so far this year. Before this year, there had been five workshop requests. Non-state agencies that have requested classes include the YWCA.
On May 30, Fernatt, Mozingo and Lynch conducted back-to-back sessions in Charleston. One took place at the state Department of Environmental Protection, at the behest of Tammy Thornton, a department safety manager who, for years, has created drills for employees. She once sent a man with a fake hatchet into an office building after warning workers of an upcoming drill.
"The naysayers say, 'Oh, it'll never happen here,'" Thornton said. "We're just taking steps to make people think about what they would do if it did happen."
Plenty of videos and Web-based courses offer advice on how to respond if someone bent on violence enters a workplace. They recommend people run, hide or, as a last resort, fight back.
Each of Fernatt, Mozingo and Lynch's sessions begins with a short video, "Shots Fired," which opens with a receptionist greeting a man carrying a duffel bag. "Good morning, Mark," the receptionist says brightly. "Mark?" she says in a concerned voice as he walks past her desk, grim-faced.
In seconds, the sound of pops fills the busy office.
"I can't believe this is happening," a stunned-looking man in a tan blazer says as he stands, frozen, in a conference room. That, Lynch said, is not the way to react.
"He's gonna be a sheep. He's gonna just sit there and not escape," Lynch said as he dissected the behavior of the actors and explained why those who are decisive and act quickly are likely to survive. As he was speaking, Fernatt suddenly appeared and pointed a plastic AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at his chest. Lynch used one hand to point the muzzle toward the floor.
"It doesn't take brute force," he said as he invited volunteers from the largely female class to try it.
Mozingo said the most common feedback he gets is that the course should be required. Some people even say it should run longer.
"That's one of the most gratifying comments I get," said Mozingo. "Who ever asks for longer training?"