Trained Civilians Can Help Mitigate Active Threats
When the unthinkable happens, training can mean the difference between life and death.
“In the past twenty years, the frequency of active killers has increased dramatically,” said Deputy Dean Pitt, Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. “Just as people have plans for a tornado, fire, whether it is at home, work, school, we have to have a pre-existing plan for responding to active killer events.”
Civilians can be a vital part of helping to mitigate an active shooter situation through training courses which inform them how to respond. Two resources the sheriff’s office has highlighted for training include ALICE and ALERRT.
Pitt provides training through the sheriff’s office to businesses, houses of worship, medical facilities, and more. Those interested should check with their community’s local law enforcement if it provides these service. If they don’t, contact his office to facilitate training in that area.
“This training and information will leave you with a sense that ‘you are not helpless,’ and ‘what you do matters,’” said Pitt. “It will also provide you with valuable information on what to do when police arrive. Law enforcement wants the community to prepare themselves for active killer events to reduce death and serious injury to themselves and others. ”
Mitigating active threats has been the responsibility of Public Safety Departments. While response time is quick, the active killer event is usually over before their arrival on the scene.
“The duration of such events is from 3 to 13 minutes. The national average of law enforcement response time is three minutes,” said Pitt.
During the precious few minutes before police arrive, prepared civilians can take immediate action to save the lives of those around them. “By having a pre-planned response, civilians can increase their likelihood of survival.”
When it comes to disaster response, there are three stages: Denial, Deliberation, and Decisive Moment. “In the denial stage, most people deny that a disaster is actually happening. During this stage, people waste valuable time rationalizing what is occurring, trying to formulate a plan, gathering personal items,” said Pitt.
When people are looking to each other for cues on how to act, prepared individuals can help a group by remaining calm. “Prepared individuals can set the tone of a group and can quickly move into Deliberation stage,” said Pitt. “In deliberation stage, people now have to decide what to do. If you don’t have a pre-planned response, this creates stress on the body and mind, limiting your perception of a threat and your ability to respond quickly and appropriately.”
In Decisive Moment, a decision is quickly executed, but failing to act can result in death or serious injury for others or the individual.
“The faster you move through denial and deliberation, the quicker you can move into decisive moment and begin taking action to limit your injury or death,” explained Pitt. “Being aware of your surroundings will greatly increase your survival and help you execute your pre-existing plan.”
To prevent or minimize an active shooter situation, there are several actions civilians can take. These include assessing surroundings, especially higher-risk locations, for exit routes and rooms that can be locked or barricaded. Three responses to an active shooter are to AVOID an encounter, DENY access, or lastly, DEFEND against a killer.
“Don’t limit yourself just to doors to AVOID an active killer,” said Pitt. “Think of windows or even breaking through drywall. If you find that you are not able to AVOID an active killer then you need to DENY the shooter access to you and those around you. Find a room, lock the door(s), but remember a lock is a temporary obstacle, you should barricade by using whatever means you have within that room.”
Turn off any lights to make the room appear empty, which gives the individual an advantage even if the active shooter does enter. Ultimately, anyone has the right to DEFEND against an attack.
“Remember the active killer is trying to kill you, and you have the legal right to defend yourself!” said Pitt. “Be prepared to have the fight of your life. In most cases people/victims outnumber the killer by 10-1, 20-1. Your odds are pretty good if you can collectively ‘swarm’ the active killer and attack the killer’s weak spots: the head, eyes, groin, knees and feet. Also think of improvised weapons you have around you such as scissors, hot coffee, staple guns, fire extinguishers, etc. that can be used to incapacitate someone.”
If an active shooter situation does occur, training can improve the response to these types of scenarios. “By training response tactics and awareness strategies, we can better prepare community members in their survival,” said Pitt.