As I mentioned in the QOTD this morning last night I attended a presentation entitled Active Shooter Preparation by the Bellevue Washington Police department at the Newport High School.
The presenter was Officer Scott Montgomery who usually is a traffic cop but is also on the SWAT team and is a “certified active shooter instructor”.
It was a relatively small group attending. I was fairly close to the front making it difficult to see everyone and didn’t take a close inventory but I expect it was about 30 people.
At the time the Columbine massacre happened police training was that the police should secure the area and wait for the SWAT team to arrive and possibly enter the building. Of course the shooters had long since run their course by the time SWAT entered the building. This was a wakeup call and police training changed in response.
The training now has long been that the school should go into “lockdown”, people hide wherever they can, and they wait for the police to arrive. Upon the arrival of three or four police officers they would form a team and enter the building to engage the shooter. No active shooter incident has ever been stopped by such a multiple officer team.
At the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting there were students on the football field when the shooting started in the cafeteria. The school went into “lockdown”. The people on the football field went back into the school toward the shooter because that is what you do in a lockdown situation. They were following their training.
Active shooters evolved their tactics and so both the police and private citizens need to evolve as well. The Virginia Tech shooter took advantage of the lockdown and upped it one. He brought his own lock and chain. He went into a classroom, locked the doors shut, and started shooting them.
He had practiced this. We know this because people at the gun range where he practiced reported, when interviewed after the Virginia Tech event, they he did something very odd when he was at the range. He put his targets on the ground in rows. He then walked down the “aisles” with a gun in each hand and shot the targets as he walked by.
Montgomery told us they train using Simunitions in actual schools that are about to be remodeled or torn down. He stressed that even though they train for active shooter situations in a school they cannot be there in time to prevent horrific outcomes. “You are the first responders.” he said. If you do nothing, that is wrong. Fight, flight, and freeze are very natural responses. If you have children under your care you will probably not leave them. It is against our nature to fight. Almost no one practices fighting. Hence, if you have not thought about the situation you almost for certain will freeze. You just won’t know what to do.
You need to think about these things now, frequently, and prepare yourself mentally to do something other than freeze.
What private citizens need to do is think about all the “What if?” cases and plan for them ahead of time. What will you do? What are your options? How many exits are there in your situation? Don’t just think of the doors. Windows can be broken and dropping from a second story window is probably going to result in fewer injuries than waiting for a bullet to find you as you hide under a desk.
Teachers of younger students are particularly resistant to “losing track of a child”. “What if they get lost out on the street?” He response to this is, paraphrasing, “Which would you rather have, a lost kid on the street with every cop in the state converging on the site or the kid at immediate risk of being shot? We can find the kid on the street in the next hour. We can’t protect them from a bullet in the next minute.”
He told us that in police academy they were taught there are three types of people, “Sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs”. Most people are sheep. The police are clearly the sheepdogs. But you don’t have to have a uniform to protect your flock.
An active shooter is a dynamic event. Things change rapidly and the police cannot tell you what is going to be the best action to take. The people on the scene right then and there have to adapt to the situation and take appropriate action based upon the information available to them:
- Know your situation
- Do what is necessary to survive
- Remember your responsibilities
People need to develop a survival mindset: Awareness and preparation are key:
- Be familiar with your surroundings and environment BEFORE an emergency occurs.
- Entry and exit points?
- Areas where you can hide
- Objects that can be used as weapons
Make a decision:
This is the new mindset people must develop. It is not a static decision. Adapt to the changing situation.
If you have to fight allow yourself to have a “righteous anger”. You can be a “mother bear”. If you attack do it with a full commitment until the threat no longer exists. You may have to take their life.
Your mindset is important. His mindset which he encouraged others to have, “I’m not going to give my life for someone else. Someone else is going to have to take my life.”
DHS produced a video to teach the new mindset:
He was generally okay with it but with some minor issues. The two issues I remember were that it portrays women, but not men, as inclined to freeze. Men freeze too. Women can and will fight. This is particularly true when defending children.
The first police to arrive will be extremely single minded. They will not be friendly. They will not help you. They may yell at you and/or push you aside. Their mission will be to engage the shooter as quickly as they can so the total number of victims can be minimized.
When you encounter the police show your hands. Don’t worry about having a cell phone in it. It is very unlikely they are going to mistake your cell phone for a gun and your cell phone may come in handy later.
They will be doing active shooter response training, similar to fire drills, with the schools. It’s not quite the same thing and the results will never be as good, but keep in mind that in the last 50 years they have been doing fire drills no student has ever died in a school fire. Training works.
Much of the presentation seemed to presume there was a single shooter. I asked something like the following, “I realize Columbine was a somewhat unique event but there were two shooters and they used explosives as an significant component of their attack. Does this change your training?”
Montgomery said 67% of the active shooters in this country have been a single person. But they train for multiple shooters and even well planned team attacks such as a terrorist group might implement. It doesn’t change the mindset of the private citizen much. Events are dynamic and you won’t have perfect information. Yes, you may be running away from a shooter into an ambush but you are running away from a known threat. Be prepared to change your actions based on new information.
Someone else asked about the layout of the school and the risk of all the students exiting into the common area. It is surrounded on three sides by the building with a hill overlooking it (the eastern part of the parking lot). School officer Greg Mills explained they have timed the various paths to exit the buildings and can exit in reasonable times to other areas.
I then pointed out, paraphrasing, “I think was in Arkansas in the late 1990s where two shooters pulled the fire alarm and then waited in the tree line with rifles for when the students came out into the open. A similar attack at Newport might look inviting.”
Mills also addressed this. He said that during fire drills he is not responsible for evacuation of the students. He immediately exits in that direction and looks for “anything out of place”. He said, paraphrasing, “I might be the first one shot, but we are aware of that risk and try to address it.”
I was tempted to ask about private citizens with firearms because strictly speaking the presentation wasn’t just about active shooters in schools. But I decided not to. First off it is illegal for private citizens to have a firearm on school property and this was primarily a presentation for parents and students. Secondly this is a tremendous change in attitude from cowering and waiting for the police. If this new mindset takes hold then private citizens with guns to defend themselves and their children will come naturally. The culture is changing and the law will follow.