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Responding to an active shooter: 'You are not helpless'

SYKESVILLE — The average law enforcement response time for an active shooter event is 3 minutes, according to research presented at a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events training in Sykesville.

"What civilians do has a direct impact on their survivability in those first 3 minutes," said 1st Sgt. Jon Hill, agency training coordinator for the Maryland State Police.

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More than 50 local residents including Sykesville Mayor Ian Shaw, members of the town council and members of the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department gathered at the fire department Thursday evening for the training led by Hill.

"We had no idea, when we originally began planning for this training several months ago, that it would be held only four days after the largest mass shooting in U.S. history," said Chief Michael Spaulding, of the Sykesville Police Department.

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Said Shaw: "Government can't protect you all the time, but we can hopefully teach you ways to protect yourself."

Active shooter drills were held in Sykesville for police and fire personnel as part of a course on emergency response.

Some narratives about active shooting events present the idea that a shooter can be talked out of violence, but statistically this is not the case, Hill said.

Instead the CRASE training presents a series of actions that civilians can take: avoid, deny and defend.

The first action, avoid, "starts with your state of mind," according to the training materials, and involves making an exit plan and moving away from the threat as quickly as possible.

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If moving away is not an option, another response is to deny the shooter access by locking doors, barricading entrances, or turning off lights and silencing phones.

If a person is unable to avoid or deny, every person has the right to defend themselves in order to protect their life and the lives of others.

Hill said that in this situation, social expectations don't apply. Don't fight fairly and don't stop until the threat is gone. He said even a group of people throwing their shoes at an attacker can cause a momentary distraction long enough to avoid, deny or defend further.

"Remember you are not helpless," he said. "What you do matters."

Anne Allen, of Sykesville, attended Thursday's training session with her mother. She has worked as a rape crisis volunteer counselor for 25 years and said she was driven to become one after her father was killed in a home invasion to which she and her mother were witness and survived.

Carroll County Public School nurses received training on how to stop massive bleeding.

She said before the incident she had read a book about how to survive a rape which helped her to stay coherent and thinking during the invasion.

"That book … had caused me to think and plan," she said.

The CRASE training reinforced survival strategies she was aware of, like not fighting fair when faced with an attacker and being aware of one's surroundings.

"Even when I go into a hotel, I make sure I know where the exits are," she said.

One of the best things citizens can do is to script and plan beforehand their response to an emergency, Hill said. For instance, in the workplace co-workers should have discussions about emergency response, noting exits, methods to secure doorways and objects that could be used to defend themselves.

In an emergency, the body's stress response can make it more difficult to think creatively, so having a plan beforehand can make for more decisive action.

"As much as we don't want to think about it, [an active shooter event] can happen here," Hill said.

The training also covered the physical and mental effects that an emergency situation can have on a person and used several real active shooter events as case studies.

CRASE training has been given to more than 10,000 people in the state, including all Carroll teachers, and was developed to complement the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program.

"Our citizens are going to know what to expect from us," Hill said. "We're all reading from the same sheet of music."

More information on the avoid, deny and defend strategy is available at www.avoiddenydefend.org.



410-857-3315

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