Whether we like it or not, today’s reality is that the United States is seeing an ever growing number of rampant cases of shooting and mass murders; it has become so common-place and occurs somewhere several times a month. And no one seems to be overly concerned about these events.
In fact, Columbus and Ohio have not been immune to these mass killings; the Chardon High School shooting which occurred last year near Cleveland, resulted in three deaths and three injured, (one permanently paralyzed). And just within the past few months, the Nazarene Restaurant here in Columbus was attacked by a man wielding a machete, injuring four people. Our willingness and ability to do anything about this as a nation seems paralyzing. However, we can, as individuals, learn how to respond and help ourselves and our neighbors, should we find ourselves in such a situation.
The perpetrators of these mass attacks were not terrorists, or readily identifiable as ‘the bad guys’ – they looked just like everyone else when they entered the buildings to commit mass murder. The FBI and local law enforcement have labelled these people as ‘active shooters’ (since most of the incidents are done with firearms). An active shooter is someone who enters a building with the deliberate intention to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. They look for places where large numbers are present: shopping malls, movie theaters, concerts, restaurants, schools, and unfortunately, churches. Most of the perpetrators were seeking their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’, wanting to go down in history as the worst mass execution.
These assailants are single-minded – they are there for one purpose, so talking to them will do no good and ultimately end up in more deaths. Statistics show that for every 30 seconds people stay in an assault situation, up to ten people can die. Don’t try to reason with them – more people could die, including yourself – MOVE!
This is a frightening subject and one we think will never happen to us, but we must be cognizant that active shooters are intent on committing mass murder. We cannot put our heads in the sand! We need to know what to do if we happen to be in a place where this starts.
Recently the Early Education Center had members of the Active Shooters Training Task Force come to Saint John’s. They spent four hours instructing the teachers and several members of the staff on precautions and actions to take in case of entry of an active shooter.
There are some things that we can and should do in the case we are in an active shooter situation.
- The most important things is to get out! There are always alternate exits from rooms; it may mean you go through the kitchen in a restaurant or go down a stairway, but you must get out so you are not a target.
- DO NOT hide under a table or chair or pews. These pieces of furniture do not stop bullets. And they leave you extremely vulnerable because you cannot move to get away; you offer the shooter the opportunity to ‘shoot fish in a barrel’.
- You need to calm yourself with a simple breathing exercise. This is used by police and SWAT Teams before they enter any building. It is simple:
1. Take a deep breath and hold it for four seconds.
2. Let the breath out and do not breathe for one second.
3. Take another breath and hold for four seconds.
4. Let the breath out and do not breathe for one second.
This little exercise calms the nervousness as well as prevents hyperventilating. Now you can think calmly and plan appropriately.
- It may seem unbelievable, but active shooters are generally hyped up and not very good shooters. One of the best things you can do is distract the shooter by waving your arms or yelling. Create a distraction that takes their mind off shooting people.
And most of all, get out of the situation! Even police admit that moving targets are extremely hard to shoot. If you are weaving as you run away, there is a significant chance that, not only will you get out of the area of danger, but also that you will escape injury.
These are unpleasant things to think about, but having a plan may very well save the lives of yourself and others. You don’t have to be a 500-pound gorilla to make a difference. In an active shooter situation at an Oklahoma school board meeting, an elderly lady clobbered the assailant in the gun arm with her purse and ultimately saved the lives of all the people in the room.
The Franklin County Sheriff, Columbus, Hilliard and Westerville Police have formed an Active Shooter Task Force, designed to educate members of the Central Ohio communities in response to active shooter situations through their Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) program. They provide three services: introduction to active shooter response, evaluation of facilities to optimize safety in case of an active shooter, and a higher level hands-on training on casualty prevention and first aid/triage for injuries from active shooter incidents. They are more than happy to come present some or all of these trainings to any group.
It is important that every member of Saint John’s know what to do if caught in an active shooter incident at church or elsewhere.
So let’s not be like ostriches with our heads in the sand, pretending that ‘it doesn’t happen here’. It can and has happened here and there is a strong possibility that it could happen again.
Be a guard dog, ready to protect those around you. Be informed, be aware, be proactive, and know what to do if the unthinkable happens.
Contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s office (614 525-3333) or Deputy Tony Casper (firstname.lastname@example.org) to participate in one of the training sessions. More information about the program can be found on the website http://sheriff.franklincountyohio.gov/programs/civilian-response-to-active-shooter-events.cfm.
Note: in light of the mass murder in the bar in Orlando, I am reposting an article I wrote for The Crossroads, the newsletter for Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH