The scenarios have become all too frequent, and we know the names and the places:
- April 1999: Two students shot and killed 13 of their peers injured at Columbine High School in Littleton. It took law enforcement 32 minutes to go inside the school.
- April 2007: 32 students and faculty members died at Virginia Tech at the hands of a student gunman. What some students did -- and didn’t do -- determined who survived, and who didn’t. of the Virginia Tech shooting memorial.
- July 2015: In Lafayette, Louisiana, a different law enforcement approach was used. A man walked into a movie theater, opening fire and killing two. The first officer was off-duty, but this time, on scene in seconds.
- December 2015: In San Bernardino, California, a radicalized couple launched a joint assault on a holiday party, killing 14. The first officer was a mile away when dispatchers called for units to respond to an active shooter. A team immediately entered the building, evacuating survivors. RELATED: See photos of the victims in the San Bernardino shooting.
- June 2016: A gunman marches into an Orlando gay nightclub and kills 49 others before police are forced to fatally shoot him. RELATED: See photos from the scene of the Orlando mass shooting.
From 1999 to 2016, while the mindset of the shooter hasn’t changed, law enforcement now acts more quickly. The average response to these events is 3 minutes. The priority is no longer negotiation. The priority now is stopping the body count.
“People think that when you call 911, we’re gonna be there quick. We are gonna be there quick. But, those few seconds, that minutes that it takes us to get there, a lot of damage can be done. So you have to take some kind of action,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said
But, what is the right action? We put our coworkers to the test before and after they went through civilian training.
So, what would our three guinea pigs do if a shooter walked in the building and opened fire?
"I would go under my desk,” said employee Karen Kassel.
“I probably thought it was electrical and wait for someone to tell me what it is,” said employee Frank Lacomba.
"If I’m hearing shooting, I need to leave right then and there,” said employee Amber Grant.
We put that same group through active shooter training. Lt. Danny Brown of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Community Action Team, walked the group through the changes made over the years, and what they need to know to protect themselves if they were ever in an active shooter situation.
“Panic will set in," Brown told the group. "And if you haven’t rehearsed or even talked about it, and you don’t know what to do, you’re going to hunker down and lay under a desk and pray for help and that’s not the way to do it now."
As our employees watched the training video, they realized many of their initial answers were wrong.
“We should really know the building. You think you know the building," Grant said. "But, do you?”
Brown said that’s not uncommon. Many people freeze because they don’t know what to do in an active shooter situation.
“So you hear that bang, you hear another bang. Without even thinking about it you should act immediately," Brown said. "Get out, start calling 911, get somebody there."
The realization of how immediate you have to respond began to set in.
“Because if you say, ‘You have 15 seconds to get out of here,’ you can’t take 5 or 6, 7 seconds to think about, ‘What am I gonna do?'” Kassel said.
During the Virginia Tech shooting, five rooms were targeted. The shooting started in room 206. Students and faculty took no action, and 77 percent of the people in that room were killed. In room 205 next door, students held the door shut. The shooter fired through the door, but never got in. They bought themselves valuable seconds, and everyone survived.
There are three methods of response, depending on the situation. Your first option is to avoid the attacker. If you can get out of the building, evacuate quickly and safely. If you can’t avoid, you have to deny. That could mean shutting a door and barricading inside of a conference room or an office.
“Get low, bunker down," Brown said. "In your offices I bet there’s some three-ring binders laying around. If you’re in and you have binders, jam them in there just like a door wedge. Anything you jam inside these seams is going to make this door almost impossible to open."
If you have a sturdy leather belt, you can use that to wrap around a door handle to deny the attacker from entering. If you can’t deny entrance and you’re confronted by the attacker, you have no choice but to defend yourself. That means grabbing anything in sight.
Sheriff Lott said he never thought he would see the day that they have to train civilians to defend themselves against an active shooter attacker in safe places like church or the office.
“You never know where that devil is,” Lott said.
It’s a matter of 10 to 15 seconds, and what you do matters. If you’re interested in going through civilian active shooter training, contact the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
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