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Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Crime, Education, Law, Mental Health, Society | 1 comment

The ‘Active-Shooter’ Phenomenon

A team of 50th Security Forces Squadron Airmen clears a room in the shoot house during an active-shooter response live training scenario, as part of its annual training program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

It is a sad sign of the times that in America, people — even children — have to worry about being caught in a situation where a person armed with fire arms can indiscriminately and for no apparent reason mow down dozens of innocent bystanders in a matter of seconds.

Such havoc and mayhem can be inflicted by a person whom the U.S. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls an “active shooter” and defines as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use fire rearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

Apparently the possibility of encountering such an active shooter has become so high that the U.S. military has seen it fit to call it a phenomenon and issue guidance on how to handle the “active shooter phenomenon.

Lt. Col. Jasin Cooley, commander of the 50th 50th Security Forces Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, says, “The active shooter phenomenon represents a significant change in criminal methodology, and has in turn required a significant change in tactics for both responders and potential victims. In decades past, bystanders were only a tool for acquiring another target, now they are the target. With this in mind, escape and compartmentalization need to be the primary motivation of bystanders. Everyone should have a plan for escape, and assist others if forced to escape.”

Consequently, the 50th Space Wing Antiterrorism office, 50th Security Forces Squadron and the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Flight at Schriever have issued guidance on how to survive an active-shooter incident.

The following are some general comments by military officials on this phenomenon, followed by “tips on how to survive an active-shooter scenario”:

“As active-shooter scenarios become more and more prevalent, people need to realize that it can happen to them at any time,” said Lou Fischer, 50th Space Wing antiterrorism officer. “Now is the time to think about it, not when the crisis is happening.”

Increased attention should be placed on personnel who have been involuntarily discharged or fired from their job, awaiting disciplinary action, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and making unsolicited comments about violence, firearms or death. People should also observe individuals who have been served with a restraining order, are known to be mentally or emotionally unstable, made comments about being disenchanted with the military and displayed anti-war or anti-military sentiments.

“Personnel need to maintain a reasonable level of awareness at all times and to have a plan in place if presented with this situation,” Fischer said. “It’s all about going home to your family at the end of the day.”

Tips on how to survive an active-shooter scenario:

If caught outside in the open:

– Seek cover and concealment. Use whatever is available, such as walls, trees or buildings, to obscure yourself from the shooter. Hide behind something capable of stopping a bullet such as masonry or brick wall.
– Run if safe. Do not run in a straight line.
– Play dead if unable to run or hide, then wait for help.
– Summon help when safe.
– Fight as a last option; use any object to disable the shooter.
– Upon arrival of security forces, leave hands in plain view. Do not make sudden movements. Wait for all clear signal from recognized authority.

If shooter is outside the building:

– Lock doors and windows; close curtains and shades.
– Lay down on floor or crouch below the window line out of the line of fire.
– If safe, move to a central secure area.
– Stay in place until all clear signal issued by recognized authority.
– Follow all directions of police and security personnel.

If shooter is inside the building:

– If safe to exit, flee the area; if not safe, stay in place (do not roam hallways).
– Do not pull the fire alarm.
– Lock and barricade door; stay low; remain silent; use furniture for cover; if possible hide behind something capable of stopping a bullet.
– Stay in place until all clear signal issued by recognized authority.
– Follow all directions of police and security personnel.

If shooter enters room or office:

– Immediately drop to the floor; seek cover and concealment; play dead.
– As a last resort, fight the shooter. Rush with available people, throw things or use improvised weapons to take shooter to the ground.
– Stay in place until all clear signal issued by recognized authority.
– Follow all directions of police and security personnel.

The tips conclude with “after the scenario” instructions apparently tailored to personnel at Schriever Air Force Base.

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