While learning techniques of how to slow down or distract an “active shooter,” Terry Muller of Shawnee threw a ball at the forehead of a police officer acting out the role of a gunman during a seminar Wednesday.
Muller was among many learning valuable distraction techniques and survival skills from three Shawnee police officers.
“I learned a lot I didn’t know…I’m much better prepared,” Muller said. “I always thought it was best just to hide, but the most valuable is to get out.”
She was one of about 20 area residents attending the police department’s ALICE training at Gordon Cooper Technology Center Wednesday afternoon. A morning program drew about 50 participants.
The ALICE program teaches people what tactical advantages they have that can help keep them stay alive should they ever encounter an active shooter situation, whether that is in a store, a school, or other public place.
“Even when you’re eating in a café, anything can happen,” Muller said.
She was especially interested in learning how a belt can be used to secure a door during a lockdown, she said, and that wasp spray can be a distraction tool.
Don and Navada Smith of Shawnee also were glad they attended the two-hour seminar and now feel better prepared should they encounter a gunman in public.
“This has been on my mind a lot…what would I do in the store, or at the mall,” Navada Smith said, adding she learned many distraction techniques.
“This gave me more confidence and I learned some new things to do,” she said.
Don Smith said everyone needs to be aware of what’s around them all times.
“It’s terrible we have to suspect everyone,” Navada Smith added.
Shawnee Police Department Training Sgt. Steve Leader, Sgt. Heath Streater and Sgt. Dan Shumaker presented the seminar.
Leader said because the majority of casualties from active shooter events happen within the first six to eight minutes, there’s a critical gap in time when the shooter first pulls the trigger to when police arrive. Those are the crucial minutes for this type of survival training.
An active shooter event can happen anywhere where there’s large numbers of people, he said.
“Every 15 seconds a person gets killed in an active shooter event,” Leader said.
Shumaker explained what they were teaching was “mainly common sense,” although he said every situation can be different.
Page 2 of 3 - “Being aware is the greatest defense everyone has,” Shumaker said.
While for years the mindset has been to find a place to hide and wait, this class taught that evacuating is best when possible, while lockdown is a good strategy. As a last resort, distracting or fighting a gunman by any means necessary also was discussed.
The class included explanations of what happened in the Virginia Tech and Columbine school shooting.
While the officers said they hope incidents like those never happen here, preparedness and knowledge is key.
Leader said a gunman is “trying to get the highest number of casualties.”
Since killers in these situations are usually “calm and methodical,” anything in an environment, from a stapler, to office equipment, as a last defense, can be thrown at the gunman’s head in efforts to distract them or slow them down, Streater said.
“Wasp spray is a pretty good weapon…it shoots 20 feet,” Leader added.
While evacuating should always be a first option, if possible, those who have to lockdown can take some steps to protect themselves from a lockdown breach.
A belt, or a cord from a computer, can be used to secure a door, along with big items that can block a door. To help keep a door shut, a person squatting or laying against a door using their legs for strength also can help prevent a door breach.
For ALICE, the “A” is for Alert, such as sounding an alarm of the situation and calling the police, while passing all information by any and all means, including public address systems.
Lockdown, or sheltering in place, means that doors should be locked to provide a time barrier and give people time to recognize the threat. If they aren’t in a danger area, they should evacuate.
The “C” — Counter — is for countering the attacker as a last resort by interrupting the physical act of the shooting if necessary. If a shooter walks into a classroom or hall and there is no escape route, persons should begin throwing anything and everything at them to interrupt the shooting and accuracy, according to ALICE information. This is a last resort as survival process.
“The very last thing we want is for you to come in contact with an active shooter,” Streater said.
The “E” is for evacuate.
Shawnee police are presenting this free program to area businesses in hopes each will come up with its own safety plan, just as they would for fire or tornado events. They’ve also taught this program at McLoud Schools and hope to be get their message to other schools as well. Future programs for the public also are expected.
Page 3 of 3 - Anyone wanting more information or to request a seminar can contact Sgt. Leader at 878-1725.