By Michael A. LeVasseur, Crime Prevention & Safety Specialist, CPA Level II
firstname.lastname@example.org | @M_A_LeVasseur –Twitter and
Commander Lawrence Dupree, NOPD 7th District
It seems like every month or so someone enters a public place with a weapon and begins shooting innocent people. There may be no rhyme or reason for the shootings. Someone wakes up one day, isn’t happy with their life and decides to kill as many people as they can before taking their own lives. Often we wonder what we can do to avoid becoming a victim of a mass shooting if it occurs in a place we work or visit.
The term “active shooter” is commonly used by law enforcement to describe when one or more suspects participate in a mass shooting with the specific intent to cause serious bodily injury or death to innocent victims. These incidents may take place in a workplace setting, schools, and sporting events, places of worship or outdoor settings. It’s important that you talk to your kids, spouse, coworkers and friends to discuss what actions you should take if confronted with an active shooter event. Let’s focus on the common places of occurrence.
In Schools or Places of Employment
An expelled student or recently terminated employee may return armed with a weapon with bad intentions. If this happens and you’re a student in class or at work in your office, the experts recommend you remain there.
Lock the door and turn off the lights in your classroom or office. Do your best to be as quiet as possible. Put phones and electronic notification devices on silent or vibrate. Then do your best to dial 911.
There are times you may be in a location where there’s an interior door without a locking device. If the door opens into the room or area where you’re located do your best to block the door with heavy furniture. Some schools have interior doors with windows; find something to cover the window.
If your classroom or office is located on the first floor and you are able to open a window without being noticed, consider escaping to a safe place. If your windows don’t open or you’re located on second floor or higher, don’t attempt to leave.
If you’re able to escape, move toward the police while keeping your hands where they are visible to the officers. Keep your hands raised above your head if necessary. Listen carefully to the officers instructions!
If your school or workplace doesn’t have a warning system consisting of emergency codes and notifications you should consider developing a system. Code words or phrases for “intruders, evacuations, bomb threats, and hazardous materials” should be developed and exercises using these codes practiced monthly/quarterly. If your school or place of employment has an intercom system and the active shooter is known, use established code words to alert others. Do not use the active shooter’s name.
Consider developing a system for “lock downs and lock down procedures.” During lock down procedures all students or employees should be directed into their class or office. All doors and windows should be locked, all windows covered and all persons moved away from windows and doors. Remain quiet and wait for instructions or the all-clear signal from the principal or office manager.
Organizing a crisis team or crisis committee is important. This team or committee should consist of school administrators or staff (Principal, counselor, school nurse, maintenance supervisor). A plan of action should be developed (lock downs and post lock downs) and resources to deal with counseling for witnesses or recovering victims of violence. The crisis team will be responsible for identifying trauma counselors for survivors of an active shooter or violent events.
If there’s a disgruntled student or employee openly discussing his intentions for violence and weapons, or if the student or employee voices his/her displeasure with the school administration or management, it’s your duty to report any threats/conversations involving violence. If this person displays weapons, pictures of him/herself displaying weapons and discusses using them against other people, it’s your duty to report that student or employee.
In Hallways or Corridors
If you’re in a hallway or corridor and an active shooter event occurs, get in a room that’s not locked and secure it. Consider seeking cover in a utility closet or restroom. Make every attempt to lock or secure the door. Unless you are very close to an exit, don’t run through a long hall to find one. You might just run into the active shooter.
Meeting Rooms, gymnasiums, lecture rooms
If you’re attending a sporting event in a gym, in a large room listening to a lecture or seminar, or attending a meeting, always familiarize yourself with the room and its exits. If an event occurs, move toward the exit farthest away from the active shooter. If you’re able to exit, get to a safe place and call the police. If the police are present, move toward them with your hands above your head and follow their instructions. Listen!
Public Places, Parks, Parking Lots
If there’s an active shooter in a public place, immediately locate cover or concealment. Cover is best described as placing an object between you and the shooter that will prevent you from being struck by bullets. Concealment is best described as placing an object between you and the active shooter that prevents the shooter from seeing you. The trunk of large trees, brick walls, parked cars and any other object that may stop bullets may be used as cover.
What If I’m Trapped and I Can’t Escape?
There may be a chance that you’re trapped and confronted by the active shooter. It’s going to be difficult, but try to stay calm. Raise your hand as you would do for the police and don’t do or say anything that may upset them.
Every second you’re alive, the greater the chance you’ll survive. Only do what you’re told by the active shooter to do. This is going to be very difficult, but treat the active shooter as normally as you possibly can. Try to be as respectful as possible and ask to speak. Do not argue or make suggestions. If the active shooter is not aware of your presence keep it that way. Do not interfere with a confrontation he/she may have with another person. If possible, dial 911. If you can’t talk, leave the lines open so the police dispatcher can hear the conversation.
If the active shooter starts shooting people, you need to make a choice: playing dead is always an option. Stay still and hope he/she doesn’t shoot you. If you decide to run for an exit, don’t run in a straight line away from the shooter. A moving target is much harder to hit than a straight runner. Keep moving!
Police officers have a term called “fight or flight.” The term is used to describe what you have to do when there’s nothing else left to do. Experts don’t recommend attacking a person with a gun when you’re unarmed, but if you’re close enough to the shooter and the “flight” option has been taken away there’s only one thing left. The last thing that the shooter will expect is to be attacked by you.
What Will the Police Do?
Several law enforcement agencies train to respond to active shooters in several different scenarios. There will be officers attired in different type uniforms (some in plainclothes) with different type weapons. Almost all of them will be wearing a bulletproof vest.
No matter how the officers appear, stay calm and listen. They may speak in a firm authoritative form or fashion. Don’t be afraid — listen!
If you’re carrying bags, computers, backpacks or luggage, put them down and raise your hands above your head.
If you know where the shooter is, you know his name or know the shooter’s description, tell the officers as soon as you can.
There may be injured victims near you or you passed them while escaping. You have to know the officer’s first priority is to locate the shooter and prevent him from injuring more people. Resist the urge to prevent the officers from doing what they are trained to do. Do not stop the officers; do not insist the officers begin first aid. The first officers on the scene will not stop to aid injured victims. They are there to get the bad guy so medical staff can aid the victims. It may not look good, it may seem cruel but it’s the way they are trained.
Once the active shooter is apprehended or neutralized the location becomes a crime scene. You will not be allowed to enter until all evidence has been collected and the police release the area.
What Can We Do to Prepare for an Active Shooter?
Have a plan. Work with school or building security in developing emergency procedures. Work with local law enforcement in establishing “best practices” for your location. Every location is different and may require a tailored security assessment.
Have a daily roster available on hand. Everyone needs to be accounted for during an emergency, whether it’s an active shooter, fire, tornado or civil unrest.
Designate one person to meet with law enforcement during an emergency. All rosters should be reported to those designees with names of people who are not accounted for.
Ensure all students or employees know where exits and points of escape are located.
Make sure all employees are familiar with and know all code words and phrases.
Consider establishing an electronic notification system of pages, texts, emails or social media. If there’s an intercom system, establish a system of code words.
As always, share this information with all your friends, family members and coworkers. Have a Plan!