by CYNTHIA KMETT
An active shooter is a person who wants to kill people. Don’t say it can’t happen here because Troy is too nice a city. It did happen here in 2007 at a Long Lake Road office building. In fact, the majority of active shooter incidents happen in the workplace, with government offices, schools and churches at risk. No place is immune.
The number of yearly active shooter incidents has more than doubled since 2000. So, the Troy Police Department wants you to be aware and prepared to take action that could save your own life as well as many others.
In the past, when word spread that there was an active shooter, people were told to “lockdown.” Lock the door, turn off the lights, be quiet, stay away from windows and hit the floor. “The lockdown is not sufficient for today’s active shooter,” Troy Police Officer John Julian, a member of the department’s communications department and the school liaison officer told members of the Troy Rotary Club last Wednesday.
Once an active shooter begins his (and it usually is a male) killing spree, he will not stop until he is stopped. It may be by the police, or a self-inflicted gunshot or some other means, perhaps you. In fact, 67 percent of such incidents end before the police arrive. They can last as little as two minutes (50 percent) to five minutes (69 percent).
Who is this shooter? Officer Julian observed that it is someone who is frustrated, filled with rage or has suffered a perceived wrong. That means it can be someone you work with every day. “Yes,” he says, “you should worry about people with people problems.” He advises us to treat everyone fairly, as there is no profile to tell who might turn into an active shooter. And, don’t ignore the feeling that something might be wrong.
“Troy may be the safest city in Michigan, but violence can find you anywhere,” Officer Julian warns us all.
You know how kids all practice fire drills. They work. Not one child in this country died in a school fire last year. No one sits in the classroom and waits to see if the fire gets to them before the fire department arrives.
The “lockdown,” however is a “very flawed” method of protecting ourselves in an active shoot situation, Officer Julian points out. You are just sitting in the dark waiting to be a victim, Officer Julian warns. Lockdowns were actually developed in California when they were having a rash of drive-by shootings. They don’t work for common spaces like malls, churches, schools and your office.
At the Virginia Tech shooting, those who went to lockdown were killed, those who took action and barricaded the doors, only lost two lives, and one was a teacher holding the door shut so students could escape. “If no one does anything, everyone gets shot,” Officer Julian warns.
It’s time to take over and become empowered, Officer Julian advises.
Start by becoming familiar with your surroundings. Where are the doors, windows, fire extinguisher, things that might make a good barricade? What would you do if someone walked in the door with a gun? What’s the fastest way out of the building from your location? Don’t be afraid to break the windows to get out.
There is a new plan of action called ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate…not always done in that exact order, but steps to remember.
If an active shooter arrives, one thing you do not want to do is pull a fire alarm. That sends everyone headed out of the building and into harm’s way.
If you have to stay in a spot, you want to barricade the door, and look for cover and concealment – preferably something that can stop a bullet.
Call 9-1-1, with whatever information you have, especially if you know what kind of clothes the shooter is wearing and do they have a handgun or a long gun. Is there more than one shooter?
Oh, stop videoing the shootings. Get into action. It’s time for a new mindset.
Look for things that you can use defend yourself. That fire extinguisher is a good weapon. If someone breaks down your barricaded door (which often open out) you can pull the pin and spray them and then hit them with it. Feel free to use that mace you bought to have on hand when you’re out alone at night. And it was suggested that wasp spray would work well, is cheap and sprays pretty far. Keep a can somewhere at work. Plus if you have a licensed gun, it’s okay to use it, too.
These counter moves will definitely distract even an active shooter. Everyone ducks when you start throwing things at their head. Cause confusion. If the shooter drops his gun, put a wastebasket over it. You don’t want to be holding the gun when the police arrive as they just might think you are the aggressor, Officer Julian notes knowingly.
If you’re not near the shooter, get out of the building.
When law enforcement arrives, their primary responsibility is to stop the threat and the gunman. They will not stop at that moment to talk to you or to help the wounded. Just raise your hands, fingers spread and stay quiet.
Officer Julian is a certified ALICE instructor. If your company is interested in this training for someone on your staff, the training will be given in metro Detroit in January and the Troy Police Department will have that information available.