Authored by Cara Stephens, Youth Services Quality Assurance Manager
Last week the Salt Lake County Youth Services held an Active Shooter Training facilitated by the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Over 100 of our staff participated in this training. During the first part of the training Sheriff Officers provided classroom instruction on being aware of our surroundings, how to respond to an active shooter event, and information about Active Shooters and why they commit these violent acts. During the second hour of training Youth Services participated in two scenarios where our employees responded to an Active Shooter on our campus. During the scenarios, one of the Officers, shot blanks from a .22 gun and shouted through the buildings as though they searching for their child. This officer did not point the gun at any of our staff but used this tactic to allow individuals to hear what gun shots may sound like.
During these scenarios, Officers role played how they would respond to an Active Shooter, 911 call, and demonstrated how law enforcement might enter the building, search for the active shooter, and then apprehend the active shooter.
What would you do? Have you ever stopped to think about what you would do if an Active Shooter entered your workplace, home, school, and other community places that you frequent? This training was an opportunity to practice our response to an Active Shooter and to think about what we would do in our surroundings to keep ourselves and others safe.
RUN, HIDE, and FIGHT! These three words are important to remember during an Active Shooter Event and will help you remember how to respond during an actual Active Shooter Event. According to the Salt Lake County Sherriff’s Office the average response time for law enforcement is approximately three minutes after a 911 call. The following tips will help keep you safe until law enforcement arrives. The following points were taken from a Handout provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office at our training:
• Have an escape route in mind.
• Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
• Leave your belongings behind.
• Help others escape if possible.
• Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
• Keep your hands visible and empty as you move in case you encounter police.
• Follow the instructions of any police officers.
• Provide the police with any first-hand information you have.
• Do not attempt to move wounded people
• Call 911 when you are safe.
• If it is unsafe to vacate, unknown location of the shelter or he/she is nearby.
• Hide out of the Shooters view. Turn off lights and silence your cell phone.
• Get behind items/walls that provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
• TRY NOT to trap yourself.
• Blockade the doorway if you can. (quickly and quietly)
• Be quiet.
• As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him.
• Act as aggressively as possible-fight for your life. If others are present everyone should act in unison to overwhelm shooter.
• Throwing items at the shooter to distract the shooter as you attack. Use improvising weapons that at hand and use them aggressively.
• Commit fully to your actions if you choose to fight and keep fighting until you prevail or are rescued. Help is on the way! Once the word is out then time is your ally. The longer you last the better your chances.
At the end of our training we met as a group to debrief the events the Active Shooter was on the Youth Services’ campus. What did we learn? Our team actually did very well. During the two events there was approximately only 11 casualties and the Active Shooter was locked out of the majority of the rooms on our campus. There was great feedback from our staff and we will be making some changes quickly to address some of the needs that were discovered during this training. Other ideas, will continue to be discussed and budgeted to make our campus safer.
Some of the lessons learned:
1. Communication: We have more than one building on campus and staff who were in buildings without the active shooter could not hear the shots and as a result did not know what was happening in other areas of our campus. Our agency has a policy to notify in case of disaster, this was suggested to implement the calling tree for an Active Shooter Event.
2. There are windows in the majority of our office doors. Staff expressed a need for a quick way to cover door windows in order to conceal themselves inside their offices more effectively. There were also suggestions for changing our windows to a reflective glass so that employees and others can see out, but do not have the ability to see inside the building and offices.
3. Our PA system was weak and communication that was utilized during this training could not be heard by the majority of our staff. The PA only works on our phones and there were no phones in some key group areas. Youth Services has already taken measures to correct this issue.
4. During one of the scenarios the Active Shooter stole an employee’s electronic key and was able to access the doors with this device. It was discussed that Youth Services does have a mechanism to lock all of the doors down by remote but the majority of staff were unaware of how to perform this safety measure.
5. Staff suggested that codes be activated for certain events. This way when the PA is utilized to make an announcement only staff would have the ability to understand what was occurring on our campus.
What Can You Do?
Be aware of your surroundings. Be observant. The more aware you are of your surroundings the more prepared you will be. Have a favorite restaurant? Next time you sit down to eat your favorite dish take 30 seconds to plan how you would respond? How would you run? Find a hiding place; what are the hiding places in your area? Reassess your hiding place will it keep you safe? Have a mindset of survival. Tell yourself that you will survive and do everything in your power to keep yourself and others safe. PRACTICE! We learned that in an emergency people always do what they practiced and what they have been trained to do. “It must be said that there is no perfect plan or training program when it comes to surviving an active shooter incident. It is chaotic and violent. YOU are your best chance. Almost everyone has the will to survive. Fewer have the will to prepare to survive. Which are you?
A BIG SHOUT OUT to the following Salt Lake County Officer’s that made this experience safe and informative! Jim Bartlett, Matt Peterson, Bethan Barsic, Jake Bulkley, Chad Steed, Shane Workman, and Aaron Torres.
For a full album of pictures from this event visit Youth Services FB page at: Salt Lake County Youth Services