School and workplace shootings—what we call “active shooter” situations— are difficult to talk about. No one wants to imagine an active shooter situation affecting our kids at school or our family members at work; but even though it is about as unpleasant a subject as we can imagine, it’s also one that, if we don’t talk about–if we don’t prepare–we might someday wish we had.
A few weeks ago, Mendocino County’s first responders prepared for the possibility of an active shooter situation by holding a one-day training at Mendocino College. The training was a cooperative effort with representatives from law enforcement, fire, ambulance and the education community. It took a superhuman effort to bring everyone together and I think it’s important to acknowledge the hard work everyone put in to help keep our community safe.
You see, I am very proud of our first responders and the work they do every day; I was especially proud of the work they did during this training. Our first responders practiced running towards danger, as well as what to do once they got there. It takes tremendous courage to run towards the things that might harm us and I know each and every one of our first responders won’t hesitate to do so, because they have committed their entire careers to helping people be safe.
While I hope our town is forever free of such horrific violence, I want to be as prepared as possible for every crisis we can anticipate. Active shooter situations do happen and it’s important that we know how to respond. Trying to figure out what to do while it’s happening can end with disaster.
With that in mind, here are some tips I shared a few months ago, but I thought I’d go over them again because they’re so important.
If civilians are caught in an active shooter situation, the rules are simple: run, hide and fight. If you can run from danger, run. If you can’t run or if running puts you in harm’s way, hide: lock and/or barricade the door, close the blinds, and be as quiet as possible while calling 911 to let law enforcement know where you are. If you can’t hide, your last option is to fight back.
You’re probably thinking, “Fight an active shooter? Is that even reasonable?!” The answer is YES! Active shooters are intent on harming people. If you fight, you make it hard for them. Don’t make it easy for them. Instead, fight!
If running away or hiding is not an option, throw items, yell and scream, work with each other as a team and act as aggressively as possible. I promise that first responders will be running to help you, so keep fighting until we get there. Commit to winning the battle; your chance of survival is proven to be much greater if you take action.
Another way to increase your chances of survival is to get accurate information, and the best way for law enforcement to quickly share information is through social media notification services like Facebook and Nixle. You can sign up for Nixle on our webpage, www.ukiahpolice.com, where you can also find more information about active shooter situations.
Nearly all active shooter situations share a few common factors. Attackers think that only through a violent action can the circumstances that torment them come to an end. Attackers most often plan their attacks, and each step is accompanied by behaviors like depression, withdrawal, suicidal comments, angry outbursts, and paranoia.
This is where all of us come in. Any one of us may be in a position to help prevent a shooting by recognizing these early warning signs and choosing to engage rather than turn a blind eye. Your courage might be the difference between a tragedy and helping someone in need.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police