Mass casualties used to occur during times of war, civil unrest, political differences, and racial discrimination. Now and again, we would hear of someone going on a shooting spree with murder and mayhem, and a Hollywood Blockbuster would be made to sensationalize the event. Now it is all too commonplace that we hear of yet another terror attack or a mass shooting incident.
The Colombine High School shooting in 1999 left a permanent mark in the forefront of one’s minds and initiated training in Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactics for police. The attack on the Twin Towers in 2001 made it real, too close to home, and gave a reality check that anyone could be a victim in acts of terror.
As the number of incidents continue to grow, so does the need for training. School-aged children are taught from an early age how to best deal with imminent danger. In the case of a fire drill, they are taught to evacuate. In the case of a threat inside the school, students are taught to take protective action and the school enters a Lock Down. But what about the rest of the population? What if you aren’t in a school? What if you are in the mall, at work, in church, at the airport or at a hospital? What can you do to prepare yourself every day? Three words to remember can potentially save your life, someone else’s life, and reduce the number of casualties: RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
RUN? Yes, that is right. RUN! Get the heck out of there if you can do so safely. It is not cowardly to run away from danger. It is not selfish to consider your own safety above that of someone closer to the threat. Your goal is to get out. Emergency services will be coming to do the intervention and stop the threat. You may help those that may need assistance if you are able but keep moving. Leave your personal belongings and go to the safest exit. A window four stories up is not a good option; it’s unsafe. The elevator is not a good option; it is a small enclosed space and therefore unsafe. A door leading to the outside or a stairway is best. Once you are outside, find somewhere away from the immediate area and call 9-1-1. Try to be calm and provide as much information as you can. The dispatch operator will ask you questions. Do not concern yourself if you don’t have all the answers. There will be others phoning that may have the information you do not.
If you are unable to get out safely, HIDE. If you can find a room with a door, go inside and close the door and lock it if possible. Barricade the door with tables, chairs, and other heavy objects keeping away from the door. If there is not a room to hide in, spread out and hide under or behind anything to conceal yourself. Learn how to turn off your cell phone’s volume and vibrate function. If you do not know how, turn it off. Stay quiet and be assured that help is on the way.
If the offender(s) enter your room or area that you are in, be prepared to FIGHT for your life. Arm yourself with anything. It does not have to be to a weapon, to be used as a weapon. For example: scissors or a kitchen knife. Use a keyboard, fire extinguisher, book, picture, chair – anything to try to disarm the offender. Get angry, yell, and FIGHT. This person(s) is trying to cause you serious bodily harm. Don’t make it easy for them.
When Police arrive, their goal is to stop the threat. First responders will be unable to care for the injured. If you can conduct first aid, help those in need until Paramedics can attend to them. It is important that Police know you are not a threat, so keep your hands empty and visible. Once there is no longer a threat, responders will attend to those most injured while others will be directed to a safe zone.
There are a lot of good resources that can be incorporated into the workplace or community organizations as yearly training. For example, Vancouver Police Department in British Columbia, Canada made a YouTube video reinforcing the Run, Hide, Fight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpRRavbLvXg. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a free of charge 1 hour on-line course available and provides you with a certificate of completion: https://emilms.fema.gov/IS907/curriculum/1.html
There are also many posters available on the internet that can be shared around common areas of your workplace or home.
There is however, no better training than conducting a mock exercise in your workplace or community. Emergency Management and Training Inc. has participated in some of Canada's largest mock disaster training exercises. Our team has the experience to assist your organization, no matter the size, with appropriate exercises to meet your specific needs. To find out more on how we can assist you in your community, contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Saving lives is the bottom line.
With a heavy heart, again we hear of another mass shooting. When I first wrote this blog, the shooting at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital on November 19th had not yet happened. When reading press releases, Mercy Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Michael Davenport had said the hospital held its first active-shooter drill just weeks ago - a move that might have prevented worse carnage. Of particular note was Davenport being quoted as saying “Never in our wildest dreams would we ever think that we would have to experience the day we have. It is our inclination, I can speak for myself, you don’t feel well when you’re hiding. You want to open up a door and you want to see what’s going on and you want to help. But everyone did what they were trained to do.” Mock exercises and training are key. Thankfully Mr. Davenport recognized the value of human life over that of his budget.
Rest in Peace Officer Samuel Jimenez, Dr. Tamara O’Neal, and Pharmaceutical Assistant Dayna Less.