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Safety First: Conference Trains Leaders to Spot Threatening Behavior

NORMAL - A violent week in Peoria and across the nation has leaders evaluating their emergency response plans.
NORMAL - A violent week in Peoria and across the nation has leaders evaluating their emergency response plans.

Officials say it starts with behavior.

Knowing how to spot the warning signs is the best way to help a person in need before their actions turn deadly.

The Virginia Tech shooting happened nearly six years ago.

But the violent aftermath has left lessons Ron Ellis says the public can learn from.

"The state convened the Illinois Campus Security Taskforce following Virginia Tech.”

Ellis is the director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System.

He, along with police agencies, schools, and area businesses have convened in Central Illinois for a seminar focused on spotting and reacting to behavioral threats.

"The secret service is really the ones who pioneered that,” said Ellis.

According to federal research, a drastic change in behavior is typical.

That can include being withdrawn, angry outbursts, and a fixation on violence or mass killings.

"Almost all of the individuals that have committed targeted violence have had some sort of indicators that were observable or were known to other individuals about their plans,” Ellis explained.

Sources close to the New Jersey mall shooter report he went into the facility with the intent to hurt himself.

Closer to home, when a Normal Community High School freshman took weapons inside the building firing a gun in his classroom, courtroom statements later revealed the teen had violent hallucinations.

"We try to focus on the subject matter, teachers that are in English or art, where we tend to see a lot of these frustrations exhibited,” said Ellis.

"Whether it's a shopping mall or a school, or a military base, no one is isolated,” said Heartland Community College President Rob Widmer.

Widmer says it’s about being proactive, instead of reactive.

"What to look for, what to watch for and how to develop responses to that.”

By establishing open communication with counselors and security, people in need are more likely to get help before it's too late.

In the event of an emergency, leaders recommend all workplaces have a plan in place and run safety drills on a regular basis.

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