A seminar on what to do during an active shooter event was held Tuesday morning at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Midlothian. The event was a joint effort by the Midlothian Police Department and the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce to bring awareness to the business and retail community.
The morning training is part of the Breakfast With the Blue program that meets quarterly and includes information on various topics.
The topic of the Tuesday event was CRASE — Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events — and the speakers were Midlothian Police commander Timothy Hicks, Sgt. Richard Pena and corporal Matt Shipp.
The room was packed as the civilian response course was presented in a step-by-step format, which included stress response, ADD, and run, hide and fight scenarios. The subject of how to respond to a disaster was also explained.
Hicks welcomed everyone to the event and said, “Citizens need to know what to do to help during active shooter events.” He explained that any event with more than four killings is considered a mass murder. He further stated that, since 2016, there had been 242 active attacks in America.
Various mass murder events in Sandy Hook, Santa Barbara, Orlando, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs were discussed.
These tragic events occur in schools, churches or synagogues, nightclubs and even on the streets across the United States.
Guns are used for most of these events, but one event in New York used three methods to attack innocent citizens. The killer stabbed and shot bystanders and then ran them down with a motor vehicle driving over 17 city blocks to do so.
The shooting last year in Las Vegas was the biggest mass shooting in America with 58 killed and over 800 injured. This event was extremely chaotic because there was a possibility of 100 different locations and suspicious people.
Police response is only a few minutes, but it can seem like a lifetime to those who are in a mass shooting event.
Hicks, Shipp and Pena explained the different reactions people go through while the event is happening. The first reaction when shots are fired is that someone has set off fireworks, but as the officers posed, "who sets off fireworks in November?"
Often times, threats are posted on social media, but too often they are not acted on.
The definition of an active attack event is attempted mass murder and the attacker usually has no profile, has an avenger mindset and may have broadcasted their intent.
The attacker may have one or more of several risk factors which include a history of violence, exposure to violence, substance abuse or dependence, mental illness or a history of suicidality thoughts or actions.
The attacker may also have additional risk factors which include stalking, harassing or threatening behavior, negative family dynamics and support system, isolation or instability or concern of others associated with him.
The officers stressed that we must learn from the past. A quote by George Santayana was shown on the screen that perfectly explains this. It read, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
How people respond in high-stress events was broken down into three parts — denial, social proof and deliberation.
The way people respond will determine whether they will die or survive. The first reaction people have is not wanting to believe this is happening.
It was explained that during a disaster, too often how a person looks or dresses will determine how quickly others may respond to a tragedy.
Police officers often dine while sitting at the back of the establishment, so they have a clear view of what is going on and where the exits are.
The deliberation is where people decide in their minds if they want to get involved helping others and what they can actually do to help. You must calm yourself, breathe, shift your emotion and stay fit as you carry on.
Everyone should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Be prepared and know where the exits are at every place you visit.
The Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City was discussed and Rick Rescorla, an employee of Morgan Stanley, who unsuccessfully tried to get their company moved from the World Trade Center building after the first attack in 1993. He, despite lots of pushback, was instrumental in getting fire drills done in those buildings, which led to many lives being saved during the second attack in 2001.
Knowing what to do is imperative to survival. When there is an active shooter, hide and hope is not an option. Lock the doors and use door stops to keep the door from opening. Use anything available to slow down the shooter. Think outside the box. Use whatever weapon you can find. It may not stop them, but it may slow them down so some can escape. That time of distraction is also a time you can react and attack. If you can get out, get out. You must fight to win. Once you are in a safe place, call 911 and provide as much information as possible.
The officers explained the importance of sharing the information they are taught and to talk to your kids.
Killers are opportunists and they know the police will come. They want to kill as many people as possible.
Your mindset is most important in these situations the officers explained. If you think you are going to survive, you will. If you think you will die, you will die.
When police officers arrive at the scene, they cannot stop to help the injured. They must stop the shooter.
The officers urged everyone to get first aid training. They also explained that the media wants to give the killers publicity instead of focusing on the heroes who helped others during these tragedies. The officers believe that not naming the killer in the news is helpful because it takes away their notoriety.
The Mirror spoke with Sgt. Pena after the seminar about teachers having guns. He gave both a professional and personal opinion. He responded by saying, “What if a teacher accidentally shoots a student. Why would the district want to take on that responsibility?”
He believes that districts should have a trained officer on campus which would leave the liability with the police.
On a personal level, he commented, “Don’t ask me to teach your class and I won’t ask you to be a cop.”
The Mirror also spoke with Tommy Blake, interim president of the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce about his thoughts on the seminar. “My take is that this was very good information that I want to share with my family, to know the exits, to not hide and to take action. I am also happy to see such a great turnout.”
Blake also added that he is very proud of the Midlothian Police Department for the training they give to the schools and community to help keep them safe.