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'We can bury our heads in the sand and hope bad things won't happen, or we can do something'

St. Charles resident co-founded TLT Defense to teach people how to survive a mass shooting

ST. CHARLES – Every time St. Charles resident Michelle Bottino hears about a mass shooting, her thoughts immediately turn to her 11 year-old daughter. Knowing that she never wants to experience the horror of losing a child in a shooting event, she vowed to do something to help people, including her child, survive the unimaginable.

Bottino, along with her long-time friend Todd Thiede and Dan Briggs, decided to open TLT Defense, 812 S. McLean Blvd., Elgin, a school that teaches people what to do in order to survive a mass shooting.The school opened its doors in July 2018.

"We teach people how to survive active shooter threats," Bottino explained. "That's how we believe we can make a difference. Because sitting around watching people die, hearing people say 'I had no idea what to do,' or 'I just froze,' wasn't good enough. We can bury our heads in the sand and hope that bad things won't happen, or we can do something."

TLT Defense offers a series of classes that are open to public. The curriculum is based on protocols from the ALICE training program, FEMA and the United States Concealed Carry Association, and all TLT instructors are certified in the protocols they teach, Bottino said.

"This is for normal, every day people," she said. "This is for parents. This is for teachers. This is for business owners. Everyone should be trained because active shooters are not going away. This isn't the reality that I want, but we have to deal with it."

TLT courses begin with a classroom portion, which teaches the participants what to do if they're in an active shooter situation, teaches parents the signs to look for in their teenage children and to identify someone who displays tendencies to become a mass shooter.

After the classroom session ends, the participants and instructors engage in a role-playing scenario where they can practice what they learned. The courses have a restaurant scenario, an office scenario and more. Bottino said the classes are meant to be as real as possible.

"We have the everyday scenarios that people find themselves in, and we teach you what to do, how to assess the environment you're in to have the best chance to get out alive," she said.

Several classes are offered each month, and each class builds upon the previous one. The initial class is about two hours, while the subsequent classes are about 90 minutes. Bottino said it's best for students to take more than one class so they don't forget what they learned.

"The goal is to have repeated training because each class you're faced with a different set of circumstances to build upon. The goal is to develop an immediate response and know how to get out of a situation alive," she explained.

About 100 people have taken TLT Defense courses so far, and Bottino recalls hearing from former participants after the shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora last February.

"I had two people reach out after [the Pratt shooting] and said when police alerted there was an active shooter in the area they knew what to do," she said. "I cried. It made me feel amazing. This is real and these are people who felt they knew how to survive thanks to the information we provided. That's the whole reason we started doing this- to save lives."

For more information about TLT Defense and a schedule of classes, visit

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