By Cathy Keim
Editor’s note: It was through complete happenstance that Cathy sent me this account yesterday, but in the wake of the terror in Paris I thought it was incredibly good timing so we can prepare for when our turn comes – and it will come.
Earlier this week I was able to attend a class on Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) sponsored by the Maryland State Police. It was taught by Corporal Ted Antal and Trooper First Class Steve Hallman.
The poster announcing the class states: “The world we live in is changing rapidly and threats to our way of life are all around us. Come out for an evening of learning how to increase your chances of surviving an active shooter event. The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course, designed and built upon the Avoid, Deny, Defend strategy developed by ALERRT in 2004 provides strategies, guidance, and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event. Topics include the history and prevalence of active shooter events, the role of professional guardians, civilian response options, medical issues, and drills.”
The class lasted a little over two hours and was packed with information to get you thinking about what you would do to survive if caught in a Ft. Hood, Columbine, Sandy Hook or Aurora, Colorado situation. They made the point that these shooter events are increasing, with 160 Active Shooter Events identified by 2013.
The Department of Homeland Security defines the Active Shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a conﬁned and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use ﬁrearm[s] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”
The instructors pointed out that an active shooter event (ASE) is different than a robbery or an assault. The shooter’s sole intention is to kill, so your strategy must recognize this fact and plan accordingly. They also advised everybody to join the DO NOT NAME THEM campaign. These killers are cowards that want notoriety by their wicked deeds. Do not give them that satisfaction. Do not use their names, as that is what they were seeking.
The next segment of the presentation was very interesting as it delved into the psychology of a disaster response. Amanda Ripley in her book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why explains how with a little training the brain can function much better when a traumatic event occurs.
She applies three steps to the response cycle:
3. Decisive Moment
The faster that you can move through denial and deliberation and get to the action of the decisive moment, the more likely you are to survive the earthquake, fire, or ASE. The instructors used videos, recordings of actual events, and simulations to drive home their points, one of the most important being that Ms. Ripley found: “Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better, with just a little help.”
Despite the horror of the situations that the troopers were presenting, they kept coming back with that point: Training can increase your ability to respond to a crisis. While civilians are not going to have the resources or the ability to access the type of training that the military and police take part in, we are still able to take responsibility for our families and ourselves. Even if somebody is able to call 911 when an ASE occurs, the police will not arrive for crucial minutes. You are on your own to survive until help arrives.
You are not helpless. You can take action to Avoid, Deny, Defend. If you can exit the situation, then do so quickly and then call 911 for help. If you cannot escape, then deny the shooter access to you. Barricade yourself in a room, but don’t just curl up in a fetal position. Prepare to defend yourself with whatever you have available. Be creative and think outside the box.
Finally, they reviewed what happens when the police arrive. I found this section very interesting as they explained the priorities of the police. They are not there to help the wounded. They are there to stop the killing. They will not stop, even for an injured partner, until they stop the killers. The logic is obvious once you think about it: if they stop to help people, the killer can continue to kill others. Once the killers are stopped, then they switch to stop the dying, and finally evacuate the area.
For your safety when the police arrive be sure to follow commands, show your palms, and do not move. If you are armed, put the gun on the floor. The police are coming into a dangerous situation and they cannot know whom the bad guys are. Do not complicate the situation for them. They will probably shout at you because their adrenalin is pumping too. Just do what they scream!
Trooper Hallman suggested that you buy some tourniquets and have one in your desk at work and one in your car. Blood loss is the primary cause of death in a shooter event, so being prepared to stop the bleeding from a gun wound can save a life. Sadly, people do bleed to death before the EMS teams can get into the building.
You can purchase a tourniquet that you can put on yourself or another person for about $25. Having some emergency medical supplies in your desk at work, car, and home can save lives.
Another tip that I have heard before is to carry a tactical flashlight. You can temporarily blind an assailant with the bright light and/or you can hit them with it.
None of this information is going to turn you into Rambo, but it could buy you precious time to escape or survive in a disaster. Just taking the time to think through some situations and buy a couple of medical supplies could have great benefits.
A last word from Corporal Antal and Trooper First Class Hallman was that if you are involved in a disaster, be aware that there will be long lasting mental trauma from the event. Be sure to reach out and get the support that you need from professionals, family, or friends.
The next CRASE training is not scheduled yet, but you can write to Trooper First Class Hallman at Stephen.Hallman@Maryland.gov for further information. This presentation is well worth attending.