Training tests survival plans
February 14, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 14, 2013) -- Preparing for a life-or-death situation can be a grim truth, but installation officials said it's a necessary reality that people need to face.
Organizations and offices on Fort Rucker participated in Tactical Tuesday to go over and implement hands-on training in a scenario Feb. 12 as if an active shooter had entered their building, and Deena Jones, plans, analysis and integration office director, said the training was beneficial and necessary for her office.
"What I wanted us to do was talk about some of the defensive measures and actions that we would take within our office," she said. "This gives us an opportunity to get into a real situation of scenarios to see what we would do."
Jones said that their office has had an emergency action plan for active shooter scenarios that has been revised since it moved to Bldg. 5700, but it has yet to have an opportunity to play the plans out.
"We want to validate that the emergency action plan will hit the high-level defensive measures that we need," she said. "What's paramount is safety and survival. We don't like to talk about survival, but that's the environment we could potentially be in."
The office came together in the morning and began by first reviewing the materials and guidelines provided by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
Russ English, plans specialist for PAIO, facilitated the training and began by going over a broad view of the scenario if the incident happened elsewhere on the installation. They talked about how they would be notified, what they would do and reviewed evacuation routes for their side of the building.
In the event the shooter was in their own building, English reviewed with the staff the three actions of how to respond: evacuate, hide out or attack.
English said the course of action to take was situation dependent, and in the event that his office needed to evacuate, he wanted to make sure that each member of the staff knew exactly where the exits were, which routes to take and where their specific rendezvous point is.
Jones said it was important for all members of her staff to meet at the specific rendezvous point to make sure they account for everyone.
One specific point that English made was that they were advised not to pull the fire alarm in the evacuation process. Pulling the fire alarm could potentially put more people in harm's way and cause mass confusion, he said.
Evacuating would be the course of action to take if it was known that the shooter was in the building. If the shooter was closer to their location in the building, the correct action response would be to hide.
During the exercise, staff members looked for potential hiding spots within their offices that they could find shelter and hopefully avoid detection, and even practiced barricading themselves in a room against an intruder. They went over different steps to take while hiding, like turning off cell phone ringers, locking doors and turning off lights.
As a final course of action, they went over the last-case scenario, which would involve the shooter entering their office and the staff having to attack the shooter as a last resort.
English said they should use any type of improvised weapon that they can from letter openers and screwdrivers to pencils and hot coffee. They discussed that they should only attack the shooter, however, if they are in imminent danger, and emphasized that in that moment it would truly be a life-or-death situation and that people should fight for their lives.
The office also reviewed and discussed what to expect when law enforcement arrives on the scene and stressed that everyone should comply with officers' demands.
"The first responders aren't there to assist the injured," said English. "They are there to get the aggressor."
Kristina Davis, lead management and program analyst at PAIO, said walking through the plans made it easier to reinforce the lessons learned.
"I think in emergency situations people can recite the steps, but you really have to take the actions to do the steps," she said. "Actually getting up and walking around and practicing just helps put that in your mind and you'd be able to draw on that during a real emergency."