Monday, October 12, 2015

Feedback re: Active Shooter Scenario

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
My last post generated quite a bit of dissenting feedback on Facebook, so I thought I would address it here, where everyone could see it.
Under "Leave", you advise to evacuate immediately, even if it means throwing a chair through a window. But then you advise to be quiet, stay hidden, etc. If you are throwing a chair through a window, you're making a lot of noise. That's going to attract the shooter's attention. I would NOT advise breaking a window unless that's your immediate exit to safety (e.g., ground floor window leading to a parking lot).
Yes, that's what I meant to say: take the most direct route to safety (so long as it doesn't endanger you), and think outside the box if necessary. Don't let a window stop you if it's the best way out. 
Sheltering in Place is a valid tactic, although Active Shooter tactics are very much in flux with police departments and military. If you run out into the middle of the situation, you risk becoming the shooter's next victim. If you have a crowd of people (especially kids) with you, trying to keep them all going in the same direction quietly will be very difficult. If the shooter has explosives, you don't know where he's placed them. Or if he has a partner, waiting to shoot people as they exit the area. Plus, once you're running around out in the area, you make it more time consuming for the police, as they have to stop and check everyone to make sure they're not the shooter.
However, if you have a secure location, or one that can be made secure by locking the door, moving a desk, table, or something heavy in front of the doors, and turning off the lights, you are redirecting the shooter's attention elsewhere. The watchword in an Active Shooter situation is caution. If you can't immediately evacuate to a safe location, Shelter in Place. Lock the door. Put something heavy against it. Turn off the lights and stay quiet. You are creating a deterrent for the shooter to go look for easier prey. Once you have more information about where the shooter is, and if they're moving away from your location, you can think about leaving. But Sheltering in Place is valid if you have a secure location.
This is one of those situations where I agree with most of the points made, but I still stand by what I said last week. Part of that is personal preference; I do not know if I could stand the tension of staying quiet while jumping at every sound, of feeling trapped like an animal in a cage. I think the anxiety would become unbearable for me, and I would rather take a risk by being proactive than depend on luck and being reactive. But that's me. If you like sheltering in place, then do it. 

As for not knowing if there's a shooter waiting to shoot people as they exit: one of the problems of planning for situations like this is that you can "What If?" them to death. No, I don't know that there is a sniper looking for running people; but if that's the case, then I'm likely dealing with a highly trained force rather than a solo spree killer, and in such a situation I'm likely boned regardless of what I do. 

My decisions are based on the gunman fitting the typical profile: an angry person who is working alone and is looking to rack up a high body count before being killed or committing suicide. 

As for making it more time consuming for the police: I get what you're saying, but that is SO not my problem. My first duty is to keep myself and my family alive; the convenience of the emergency response personnel isn't even in the top ten of my concerns. 
Don't pull the fire alarm, PLEASE don't pull the fire alarm.

Now you'll have people milling around wondering what to do, gabbing through the hallways about the interruption, entering public spaces blissfully unaware there is a killer among them. The alarm is going to cover the sounds of gun fire, and most of those doors that close won't lock, so it's at best a very small temporary obstacle.

If your facility has a code for such an event try issuing the code over the PA or other such methods if possible. Better would be to simply dial 911 and even if you can't talk, dispatch is going to send a unit to investigate as well as listening to any background sounds.
So I've been looking at this and wondering if I should be polite or if I should be honest. I've decided to go with honest.

My idea with pulling the alarm was that it would be a good way to make everyone evacuate to safety without having to stop my personal evacuation by making a phone call. It would also have the benefit of creating noise cover and making sure that someone with the ability to summon backup and provide medical care would be en route.

But honestly -- if people are so stupid that they will wander through the halls gabbing when the fire alarm sounds, then they're likely too stupid to be saved by me. If they won't evacuate, that's on them and not me, because I did my part by using the universal signal of "Exit the building, your life is in danger."

Finally, I have to wonder what kind of klaxons on steroids people have for their fire alarms that they might mask the sound of a gunshot. Per the National Fire Alarm Code. the maximum volume for a fire alarm is 110 decibels. Typical gunshots start at 150 dB, and go up from there if they're magnums or long arms. Even a .22LR is around 120 dB. So unless the killer is using subsonic rounds, or a suppressor, I have a hard time believing that the alarm is going to occlude the sounds of gunshots at a range that will generate more victims.

I will however concede the point that it might be worth it to dial 911 and leave, so the operator can record what is happening and send units to your position.
As a 911 operator, I second the advice to call 911.
I'll also add, if you know you aren't going to be able to talk to us, try to dial 911 from a land line. Cellular locating still doesn't work all that reliable in some areas of the country, but even an out of service landline can usually dial 911 as long as it's physically connected, and will more often than not give the 911 center an accurate location. Cellular location info is getting better, but it's still not as reliable as it needs to be.
This is a good point, and worth reinforcing.

Thank you to everyone who left comments -- they certainly made me think! And getting people to think is why I founded this blog. Even if you disagree, know WHY you disagree with it; as I said earlier, every active shooter situation is fluid, so knowing why you feel a certain way will help shape your responses, and this self-awareness should help you make the correct decision for the situation.

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