I had a ton of paperwork to do today so I was going to just work at home. It’s an option that I take about once a week. I can usually get more work done at home than at the office. While I was checking my email this morning I got a reminder that I was supposed to be at the office at 1300 to take a mandatory training class.
They showed a hokey film and then we had a discussion. The topic was good and worth writing about.
The topic was called Active Shooter: How to Respond. It was brought to the forefront of training because of several recent shootings. Between the Arizona Congresswoman last month, and more recently where coworkers have had to deal with some shooting incidents: a school principal, and a woman and her attorney. Actually you are more likely to be struck by lightening than be in a situation with an active shooter, but it seems that it’s in the news a lot so it should be something you practice, just like you’d practice a fire drill.
The active shooter uses firearms and while he (could be a she but I’m using he for today) may have an intended target often he will also take any victims. The situation is unpredictable and evolves quickly. The next part was not correctly taught and one that we all need to be aware of. The presentation then said that the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Unfortunately, often this is incorrect. Active shooter situations are often over within 10-15 minutes, which may be before law enforcement arrives. Quite often, with intentional, deliberate shootings, the shooter takes their own life so it's over before law enforcement arrives.
How do you respond if the shooter is in your vicinity? There are several things you can do. Evacuate the building if possible. If the shooter is roaming the halls you shouldn’t enter the hall but if the shooter is in a room and you can go out a different way, then go quickly. You should always have at least two escape routes in mind no matter where you are. Are you at the movies? A restaurant? Work? Think every person for themselves – although this doesn’t count if you are with your family. Don’t debate with your friends or coworkers if you should escape or stay. Do what you think is best for you. Don’t try to pack up your stuff, just get out.
You can hide out. If evacuation isn’t possible you can find a place that the shooter is less likely to find you. If you are in your office you should close the door, lock it if there is one, block the entry, (don’t throw books and things at the door while there are other people in the room trying to block the door, you could hurt them by accident – stupid scene in the video) turn off the lights, turn off all sounds (phone ringer, clock ticking, etc.), and hide behind something large and somewhere where if the shooter opens the door you will not be immediately visible. Yes I know that bullets go through wooden desks, the purpose is for the shooter to not readily see you. And remain quiet. No sobbing, screaming, praying out loud, etc. Screaming girl in video would be shot.
If the shooter isn’t near enough to hear you, then call 911. Give the operator the location of the shooter, the number of shooters, their description, the number and types of weapons, and the number of potential victims. Stay on the line if you can, even if you can’t talk. That way the operator can hear any noises in the background. If the shooter is close by and you shouldn't be making noise, then if someone else is around they will probably be calling 911.
We got to talk about the indicators of potential violence by an employee. Have they increased their use of alcohol or illegal drugs? Increase in absenteeism, decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene, depression? How about overreaction to any changes at work? Repeated violations of company policy, emotional responses and explosive outbursts of anger? Complaining about finances? Suicidal or comments about putting things in order? Empathy with individuals committing violent acts, increased comments about firearms, or other weapons or violent crimes?
Of course, this was when all the jokes started happening about how much we’ve all increased complaints about finances and absenteeism…oops, I mean pay cuts and furloughs!
The final thing was a discussion about taking action. As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger (remember the CCW training – “I thought he was going to kill me” – and remember, if there’s a shooter just because he isn’t pointing the gun directly at you doesn’t mean you aren’t next or number 15 on his list of victims for that matter) attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter. Act as aggressively as possible. Throw items and improvise weapons (the video showed someone breaking a wooden chair to make a club). Yell. Commit to your actions (don’t hit like a sissy, let the person have it with your wooden chair-leg club). Or in my case, take aim and fire.
But what about my office where weapons aren’t allowed according to policy? It’s a CCW, it’s not an open carry. People aren’t supposed to know you have it on you, remember? If a shooter comes into my office and I end up taking aim and firing, at least I'll be alive for them to write me up.