Sadly, we have had to come to terms with an increasing number of potential "active shooter" situations, We are left wondering what would we do if we found ourselves in those circumstances.
Brian Marshall, a lieutenant with the Marietta, Georgia, Police Department, spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in December, a week after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, and offered this advice to anyone who would find themselves coming face-to-face with a person armed with a weapon.
According to Marshall, despite advance training and rapid response time it will take law enforcement at best, three minutes to respond to a report of an "active shooter." That means you will be without trained help and the actions you take in those minutes could mean life or death.
Marshall talked about a program aimed at helping those in the early minutes of an attack to active a plan that could save their lives.
The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events course, which was "designed and built on the "Avoid, Deny, Defend" strategy, provides "a proven plan for survival," Marshall said.
Here is a quick look at what the course suggests a person should do if they become part of an "active shooter" situation.
1. "Avoid" starts with your state of mind. Pay attention to your surroundings, and have an exit plan. Move away from the source of the threat as quickly as possible.
2. "Deny" access while getting away may be difficult or even impossible. Keep distance between you and the source. Create barriers to prevent or slow down a threat. Turn lights off and remain out of sight and quiet by hiding behind large objects and silencing your phone.
3. "Defend," because you have the right to protect yourself. If you cannot avoid or deny, be prepared to defend yourself. Be aggressive and committed to your actions. Rally people around you to attack as a group and use improvised weapons if needed. Do not fight fairly; this is about survival.
Marshall went on to say that you need to respond to arriving officers appropriately. Put down any weapons you may have and keep your hands visible unless otherwise ordered. Follow all commands, regardless of whether you think their commands are reasonable or not.
For more information about the program, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security provides this information card you can carry on you and refer to.
Northwestern University offers these tips for students on campus:
If an active shooter is outside your building or inside the building you are in, you should:
- Try to remain calm.
- Proceed to a room that can be locked or barricaded.
- Lock and barricade doors or windows.
- Turn off lights.
- Close blinds.
- Turn off radios or other devices that emit sound.
- Keep yourself out of sight, stay away from windows and take adequate cover/protection, i.e. concrete walls, thick desks, filing cabinets.
- Silence cell phones.
- Have one person call 911 and say, "This is --- University (give your location), we have an active shooter on campus, gunshots fired."
- If you were able to see the offender(s), give a description of their sex, race, clothing, type of weapon(s), location last observed, direction of travel, and identity - if known.
- If you observed any victims, give a description of the location and number of victims.
- If you observed any suspicious devices (improvised explosive devices), provide the location observed and a description.
Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter.
- If you heard any explosions, provide a description and location.
- Wait patiently until a uniformed police officer, or a university official known to you, provides an "all clear."
- Unfamiliar voices may be an active shooter trying to lure you from safety; do not respond to voice commands until you can verify with certainty that they are being issued by a police officer or university official.
- Rescuing people should only be attempted if it can be accomplished without further endangering the persons inside a secured area.
- Depending on circumstances, consideration may also be given to exiting ground floor windows as safely and quietly as possible.
If an active shooter enters your office or classroom, you should:
- Try to remain calm.
- Try not to do anything that will provoke the active shooter.
- If there is no possibility of escape or hiding, only as a last resort when it is imminent that your life is in danger should you make a personal choice to attempt to negotiate with or overpower the assailant(s).
- Call 911, if possible, and provide the information listed in the first guideline.
- If the active shooter(s) leaves the area, barricade the room or proceed to a safer location.
If you are in an outside area and encounter an active shooter, you should:
- Try to remain calm.
- Move away from the active shooter or the sounds of gunshot(s) and/or explosion(s).
- Look for appropriate locations for cover/protection, i.e. brick walls, retaining walls, large trees, parked vehicles, or any other object that may stop bullet penetration.
- Try to warn other faculty, staff, students and visitors to take immediate shelter.
- Call 911 and provide the information listed in the first guideline.
What to expect from responding police officers
The objectives of responding police officers are:
- Immediately engage or contain the active shooter(s) in order to stop life threatening behavior.
- Identify threats such as improvised explosive devices.
- Identify victims to facilitate medical care, interviews and counseling.
Police officers responding to an active shooter are trained to proceed immediately to the area in which shots were last heard in order to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. The first responding officers may be in teams; they may be dressed in normal patrol uniforms, or they may be wearing external ballistic vests and Kevlar helmets or other tactical gear. The officers may be armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns. Do exactly as the officers instruct. The first responding officers will be focused on stopping the active shooter and creating a safe environment for medical assistance to be brought in to aid the injured.
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