By John Seman
Special to GUIDON
As we close out Antiterrorism Awareness Month, it is important to learn how to react in case you are ever, unfortunately, involved in an active shooter situation. In order to be prepared, you must know the indicators to look out for, both in the workplace and at home, which may lead an individual to resort to becoming an active shooter:
— Aggression or threats toward coworkers
— Presence of unauthorized weapons
— Abnormal mood swings or depression, withdrawn behavior, decrease in hygiene, or paranoia
— Increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs
— Suicidal remarks or comments about “putting things in order”
— Repeated violations of policies, regulations, or laws
— Talk of severe financial problems
Being proactive and asking the person if they are okay, or reporting the suspected indicators to leadership, or police if they are becoming an increased threat, is the first step toward countering an active shooter. However, countering is not always possible. The choices that you have should be followed in this order: run, hide or fight. If you cannot evacuate, then hide. If you cannot hide and your life is in imminent danger, then you take action and fight.
Being able to safely evacuate is the key to survival. No matter where you are, you should have at least two exit routes planned. If you are in the office, you should have two specific exit routes planned. If you are in a mall or shopping center, you should always be aware of where the nearest exits are. When evacuating, leave your belongings behind, and remember that law enforcement may only have a general description and maybe a name of the active shooter, but not all law enforcement personnel will immediately be able to distinguish you from the active shooter.
Keep your hands visible and up at all times when evacuating so that law enforcement can see that you are not a threat. If you meet law enforcement inside of a building, follow their directions, even if those orders are to immediately lay on the ground. Remember that law enforcement personnel are trained to stop the threat; they will move past the injured in order to make sure that it is safe for qualified medical personnel.
If evacuating is not an option, then hide. Hide in an area that is out of the active shooter’s view. Do what you can to barricade yourself into the hiding place. Hide behind something the will not only conceal you, but also will provide added protection. A wall made of sheet rock does not provide much protection, but a filing cabinet will.
Remember, active shooters typically engage targets of opportunity and will not waste much time trying to get into an area that will not easily open. If law enforcement enters the room, identify yourself and follow their orders.
This should only be used as a last resort if you cannot evacuate or hide. This should be used only when your life or the lives of others, who also cannot evacuate or hide in your immediate area, are in imminent danger. When you take action, do so quickly; commit to your action and do your best to incapacitate the active shooter.
When law enforcement arrive, keep your hands up and visible at all times and follow all of their directions. Know that if you are in the same room as the active shooter who has just been incapacitated, law enforcement doesn’t know who is who yet. Expect to be ordered to the ground until everything is sorted out.
An active shooter can be one of the most dangerous threats to the personnel on a military installation.
This is a high stress situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement have the mission of preserving life and eliminating the immediate threat of an active shooter when they arrive on the scene. They are there putting their lives on the line to save those who are threatened by the active shooter. Once the area is cleared and the threat has been neutralized, then you will be treated with much more dignity and respect. If the incident is still in progress, expect some tension and to be detained by the police until the situation is taken care of.
If you feel that someone shows some of the signs of an active shooter, tell someone. You may be able to stop a situation before it even happens by identifying that person, detailing the signs that you are seeing, and getting some help for him or her.
See Something, Say Something. Contact the Fort Leonard Wood law enforcement desk at 573.596.6141, or report what you saw on the iWatch website where a hyperlink directly to the website can be found at the bottom of the Fort Leonard Wood homepage (www.wood.army.mil) right between the ICE link and the iSALUTE link. Don’t stay silent.
(Editor’s note: Seman is an Antiterrorism Contract officer.)