The faculty at the Perrin schools were treated to a special training on Thursday. The subject: Active Shooter Preparedness, one of the hot-button issues making the rounds in recent months. Unfortunately, people have become way too familiar with the term, having witnessed a rise in the event across the country. Most recently, the tragedy in California in which 14 people were killed. The 2 hour training, presented by the Jack County Sheriff Office (Deputies David VanderKaay and Michael Francis) served to give faculty the basics on the subject and tips on what they can do if ever faced with that situation. Training that nobody ever wants to use.
What is an active shooter? Active shooter is a term used by law enforcement to describe a situation in which a shooting is in progress and an aspect of the crime may affect the protocols used in responding to and reacting at the scene of the incident. Unlike a defined crime, such as a murder or mass killing, the active aspect inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses.
VanderKaay said “Columbine changed the way law enforcement responded to active shooting”. According to VanderKaay, lawsuits are still pending today from the event that occurred April 20, 1999. Since then, the number of shootings has occurred at staggering rates.
According to FBI.org, between 2000 and 2013, 160 shootings brought 486 deaths and 557 injuries. The numbers are overwhelming to many, unacceptable to most. VanderKaay explained a couple of additional statistics to the group. “The national average response time is 3 minutes. Response time in rural areas may not be 3 minutes. Controlling the situation until law enforcement is paramount.” VanderKaay said. “Many of the schools have passed ordinances allowing teachers to carry weapons. Remember this, when law enforcement arrives they are looking for the shooter. When we come through the doors, even our emotions will be running high. We will not ask questions. If we see a gun, they’re a threat. Our number one reason to be there is to remove the threat”.
In a sobering statement, VanderKaay said “Once secured, EMS can and will enter the situation. We are not going to prevent the loss of life in this type of situation, we are going to minimize the loss”. VanderKaay described the 3 stages of disaster response:
- Denial (telling yourself it isn’t really happening)
- Deliberation (trying to figure out your response)
- Decisive moment (making the choice to become actively involved in stabilizing the situation or not)
VanderKaay told the staff they “must make decisions for yourself and your students. Know your exits. If everyone is running one way, go another”. Police are taught to never keep your back to the door.
In the 160 active shooter events that occurred between 2000 and 2013, 55% of the attacks were from shooters that had a connection to the situation. 45% had no connection. The number of deaths that occur may depend on how long it takes for law enforcement to arrive. Again, a sobering thought in rural America.
The participants were told about ADD.
- Avoid (avoid the situation if at all possible)
- Deny (entry) Do whatever you can to not allow them to come in. Lock doors, turn off lights.
- Defend. Position yourself to fight! Grab the gun if you can.
VanderKaay stressed “If facing the shooter situation, you must have the mindset of ‘if I am going to die, it will be on MY terms’ not theirs”, adding “You are not helpless, what you do matters”.
During the training, videos were shown of different known shootings. One was a school board meeting in which a shooter entered the building, distraught that the board had released his wife. It was a video from a couple of years ago, and one that most had seen and remembered. What seemed remarkable was that out of the many who were there as he ranted to the school board, only one actually tried to stop the gunman. It was a woman, who grabbed the gun after hitting the man with her purse. Nobody else made a move.
VanderKaay also gave this advice for when law enforcement does arrive. “When the police arrive, comply. Follow their commands. That is not the time to argue with them or fight them in any way. Even if you happen to wind up in cuffs in the car, just stay calm and wait for them to sort everything out. During an active shooting situation, everyone is a suspect”.
At the end of the meeting, Perrin Superintendent John Kuhn spoke, telling teachers to look closely at their rooms and situations. Then adding they need to get a plan. The days of thinking “It could never happen here” are gone. As parents of kids in school we can not afford to bury our heads in the sand. For information on how you can defend yourself in an active shooter situation, log on to www.AvoidDenyDefend.org The website gives life saving tips and is well worth the time to view. VanderKaay gives this reminder “Active shooting don’t just happen in schools. They can happen anywhere. Businesses, malls, anywhere a number of people are gathered. Always pay attention to your surroundings”.
Good sound advice in any situation.