Active Shooter 

Active shooter

We as citizens are really in trouble when mass shootings become commonplace, a weekly event or even more frequent. But, I can’t stress enough that complacency is a killer too!  Unfortunately, we must be vigilant AND not be constantly looking over our shoulders for danger such that we are always in a state of high anxiety.  This is a balancing act that we need to walk.

As a homicide survivor, I highly resent these occurrences as yet another burden I have to carry among my other burdens. How dare the evil people force this upon me and other survivors, opening our wounds, increasing our vulnerabilities that we have managed fairly well in the past! This is madness!  Regardless, we have to deal and hope that with the Grace of God we can avoid yet more carnage.

With ever-increasing events recently in Michigan and Kansas active shooters are in the forefront of the public.  There have been three workplace violence active shooter incidents in our State of Connecticut, including the State operated, Connecticut Lottery. These events are part of the fabric of our state now and we must learn from them and try to prevent others from occurring.  For your review:

  1. March 7, 1998 – The CT Lottery Shootings
  2. August 4, 2010 – Hartford Distributors Brewery 
  3. December 14, 2012 –  Sandy Hook Elementary School
  4. General Topic  

The State of Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has developed an active stance on training commissioners and agency heads for Active Shooter situations. However, when I Googled and went to their website, I could find no recent, detailed public information protocol. Please, let’s not keep this of all things a secret!

Referring to my notes at our recent staff meeting, and other internet sources, the “Nuts & Bolts” of it can be distilled down to three words – RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.  In other words, those are your options in that order, in a nutshell.

In our newly renovated building in which we are sharing workspace with other human service/social service agencies, the mini amphitheater meeting room has all kinds of swipe cards, locking mechanisms such that we could never co-mingle or pass through to the adjacent agency, except in our new micro-market cafeteria restaurant. Little glass windows with hammer, alarms, sprinklers…Let’s hope they all work!

But, the point is, in this big conference room we would be “sitting ducks” unable to pass though or hide. You can bet I won’t be meeting anyone in there! There are other vulnerable areas where there are no longer pass through aisles due to walls recently constructed for separation of departments which apparently meet the fire code, but psychologically do not make us feel all that safe!

The Nuts and Bolts

No Pulling the Fire Alarm

At first glance, pulling the fire alarm seems like a great idea.  Escape is generally a very successful strategy when facing a mass killer.  In fact, escaping should be the prime objective if armed resistance isn’t possible.  Fire alarms get people out of the building, facilitating escape.   One would think this is the first instinct as a good measure. Not always.

Other internet resources say that while the end goal of getting people out of a building targeted by an active killer seems to be met by pulling the alarm, the WAY people get out of the building may be just as important as the actual exit itself.  When the fire alarm is pulled, people move very differently than they do if they know someone is shooting at them.

In addition to encouraging potentially undesirable movement patterns, pulling a fire alarm also causes quite a bit of chaos for the first responders, leading to longer rescue times.  When the alarm is pulled, the alarm company will be attempting to get a hold of the 911 dispatchers to report the alarm.  Those are the same dispatchers that will be sending officers to the shooting scene and gathering vital information about the suspect.

Police report that, having been in numerous public buildings when alarms have been going off, they can’t hear the absolutely vital dispatch traffic coming from my police portable radio.  The sound of alarms will also hinder officers’ ability to locate the sounds of gunshots or communicate with victims about where the shooter is located.  Responding to an active killer inside a building while a fire alarm is sounding is exponentially more difficult than responding in a building without an alarm.  This difficulty results in it taking a longer time for cops to engage the killer, thus creating a higher body count.

What do you think when a fire alarm goes off in a public building?  My guess is that it is one of the following:

-“Why do they have to do a fire drill at this time of the day?”

– “Some idiot kid must have pulled the alarm for fun.”

– “Another false alarm.  I’ll wait to evacuate until I smell smoke or see some flames.”

The movement patterns we desire as part of a fire alarm response are orderly walking towards the nearest exit.  Orderly and calm walking makes you a very easy target to hit. The closest exit may actually put you directly into the path of the gunman. 

Find the Exit Points Wherever your Location 

Part of being aware of your environment, means knowing how to get out when things go bad. Upon entering any new area, the first thing you want to do is look for every possible escape route and exit that you can find. If things go bad, this one action could mean the difference between life and death, and is something that should never be overlooked.

Always Try to Escape First and Foremost!

Run to the closet exit to where you are located if you have a clear path. Police will enter immediately. Keep Your Hands Up and Visible. This action will is to assist the police in quickly identifying you as a victim. If you can safely make your way to an exit, do so without hesitation and without attracting unwanted attention from the shooter. Once you are outside, keep going. Distance is one of the keys to surviving the situation.  After you are at a distance, and safe, call 911.

Hide, Barricade, Take Cover

This may be your second best option when there is no escape. 

This involves moving yourself away from any possible harm. Try to quickly locate a large object or concrete wall etc. or hide under a desk and barricade yourself.  If you are in an office, lock the door, shut off the lights so that the shooter may believe there is no one located in that space, should he search.

Fight – Attack as a last resort

If you are in a room and the shooter enters, using a fire extinguisher to strike or heavy chair, or improvise a weapon near you. You may be no match for an automatic weapon unless you catch the shooter off guard and then attack in order to escape.

Other Factors

Don’t try to talk to or negotiate with the shooter! That should be left to trained professionals.

Encourage co-workers to accompany you while escaping, but don’t let them slow your escape. Leave them and your possessions behind, as your survival is most important.

VIDEO – Run, Hide, Fight, Surviving an Active Shooter Event

Warning! This content is fairly intense (5 min. 55 sec)


Just a personal word here about security

Many security guards are diligent employees who do their jobs well. However, since type of job is pretty unglamorous and can be boring at times, they often turn to electronic devices to pass the time. I have seen this too often and it really pisses me off! They are there to protect us. So just do it and skip the electronics!

Facts from Past Active Shooting Events 

1) Columbine High School – During this shooting a fire alarm was pulled and 800 children GOT OUT of the building. Everyone else executed a lockdown and became a target.

2) A number of people in the Colorado Movie Theater event had a bad feeling when they saw the shooter enter the building, yet most of them brushed off their feelings and reasoned that it was probably some sort of publicity stunt for the movie.  Even after the shooter started firing, a number of people said, they still thought “it had to be part of the show.”

We all have instincts. If a situation seems odd, if something seems out-of-place, or your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to your instincts and don’t wait around to find out what happened!

Additional References:

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