VICKSBURG, Miss. - More than 60 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers and civilians with the 412th Theater Engineer Command attended active shooter training April 7 at the George A. Morris Army Reserve Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jackson Division, led the one-day seminar to discuss best practices in dealing with an active shooter/mass-shooting situation including support available to assist in incident planning, response, management and resolution.
"Today's seminar is focused on active shooter crisis management issues and concerns, mainly we're wanting to provide information to our partners whether they be military or law enforcement or even school districts and teachers," said Supervisory Special Agent Jeffrey J. Franks, crisis management coordinator for Mississippi, FBI, Jackson Division. "Providing information, hopefully useful information, on what they can do to plan and prepare for an active shooter or similar type crisis. A lot of these issues we discuss can be used across multiple platforms and multiple types of crisis, but we pretty much bring it under the umbrella of an active shooter for the purpose of this discussion."
Franks explained the FBI has responded to active shooter events across the United States, compiling data from 160 incidents from 2000 to 2013. Using this knowledge and experience, they cover a variety of topics, including behavioral indicators, law enforcement response, trauma response capabilities, dealing with explosive devices and interacting with the news media.
This information is very important for the 412th TEC's staff according to Master Sgt. Jared Dean, force protection noncommissioned officer, 412th TEC.
"I coordinated this training because there is a need for it," he said. "The threat level we have indicates the highest probability threat we face is an active shooter scenario."
Knowing how to react to an active shooter situation is the first step.
"Most active shooter situations really are over often before police even arrive," said Franks. "There may be delays in the police response due to the geography or due to the structure. People have to understand what they can do to protect themselves."
One part of protecting themselves is to have a plan.
"What we hope they take away is the understanding that there needs to be a plan and this plan needs to be practiced and if they are faced with an active shooter situation, they at least have some knowledge of what they can do to survive it and maybe even engage so they can help bring the situation to an end," said Franks.
Dean has developed a plan and this training helped him to polish what is already in place.
"I got out of this a lot of different key points on how to refine and improve our plan," said Dean. "Also to establish partnerships with the local law enforcement, local emergency responders and other agencies in the area. We can benefit from partnerships and sharing of resources. I learned those relationships are critical to being successful in this situation."
Another critical part to being successful is to follow the advice of the FBI with their "run, hide, fight" program.
"Essentially, if they are able to run from an unsafe area to a safe area, that is optimal," said Franks. "If they cannot, we provide some basic information on what they can do to shelter in place, so to speak, to hide, as far as securing doors and shutting off cell phones and being as quiet as possible and hoping the active shooter will bypass them. If that is not possible, the running and hiding, then actively fighting, almost as a last-ditch effort."
While Franks does emphasis fighting should be a last resort, he also concedes the order is situation dependent.
"Depending on the situation, it may make more sense to go immediately to fighting or immediately to hiding. Obviously fighting wouldn't be an option perhaps for little kids in a school. It depends on the situation and it depends on the audience your talking to," said Franks.
Dean believes this training was important for the 412th TEC and said he received positive feedback from the attendees.
"I hope it won't be useful, but I think it's good to be prepared so in case something unfortunate does happen, we can put in place some of the lessons we've learned here," said Dean.
Dean hopes the training never has to be put into practice, but also hopes the attendees gained some insight to the why of everyday force protection operations.
"I hope everybody just gets a better perspective of what goes into the protection program we have here, why we do the some of the things, why it's important to keep doors locked, why it's important to maintain accountability of personnel, why it's important to have a plan and why it's important to exercise that plan so people can be familiar with what's supposed to happen in an emergency situation," he said.
Franks emphasizes a majority of active shooter incidents occur in the workplace so this training is not something to be taken lightly.
"I commend the military in general and this command in particular of taking this interest in active shooter training. We read a lot about active shooter incidents at schools, but by far the majority of these incidents have occurred in the workplace," said Franks. "So, this installation is really no different than any other workplace, you have a large group of people coming together with a particular mission in mind. It could happen here just like any other workplace, any other business."
Dean, with the support of the 412th TEC leadership, reached out to the FBI to coordinate this training. That initiative impressed Franks.
"I think it shows your leadership is very forward-leaning and wanting to make sure the employees get as much information as they can to be as well armed, so to speak, to extend the metaphor, to react appropriately to an active shooter situation," said Franks. "I'm glad your leadership it taking the effort to give this information to the troops and the civilian workers here."
Dean encourages other entities to take the initiative and coordinate for this training.
"I would like to see this sort of training everywhere, because it's ubiquist throughout the United States, the FBI is everywhere in the country and all it takes is a phone call to have somebody come in and coordinate this level of training," said Dean. "It's free and it can only help. Hopefully, you never have to use it, but it's a skill-set you can draw from if you need it."