By Heather Clark, Fort Campbell CourierAugust 5, 2011
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (August 4, 2011) -- “Within the span of 16 minutes, the gunmen killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. A savage act of domestic terrorism, their crime is the deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States.” " Sheriff John P. Stone, Jefferson County, Colorado.
There is no grading system when it comes to acts of violence. However, they can seem especially terrifying when they are completely random and claim multiple innocent lives.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood. Norway. Those words alone are enough to invoke feelings of dread. Each of these places, and several others, saw a multitude of casualties at the hands of active shooters.
An active shooter is defined as “an armed person who has used deadly physical force on other persons and continues to do so while having unrestricted access to additional victims.”
The second week of Fort Campbell’s Antiterrorism Awareness Month, Aug. 8-14, will be devoted solely to active shooter response procedures. During this week, installation personnel will be briefed on the characteristics and purposes of active shooters as well as actions to take if faced with this highly dangerous situation.
Unlike hostage situations, active shooter scenarios typically leave little room for reasoning or negotiation. An active shooter usually has a straightforward agenda: to harm as many people as possible until cornered or captured by law enforcement. Escape from the law is not a typical priority.
Little can be done in terms of preventative measures. Unfortunately, the onset of assaults is usually the first indication that an active shooter is present. However, since active shooters typically seek out crowded areas, people can and should remain aware when in places such as shopping centers or theaters.
“Look for any possible indicators of an active shooter in the crowd,” said Gordon Sutton of the Emergency Operations Center at Fort Campbell. “If any suspicious activity is seen, it should be reported.”
If the situation is beyond the point of suspicion, Sutton advises people to keep the strategy simple when possible.
“Get out,” said Sutton. “If there is a way out, then use it. Don’t worry about pocketbooks or the stuff you may have just purchased. Just get out of the building as fast as you can.”
In reality, quick and easy exits are not always at the ready.
“If you can’t get out, try to find a secure room and lock the door,” said Sutton. “Close the blinds and lie down in the furthest corner available.”
The EOC advises people in a secured room to barricade the entrances with any resources available. Once the room is secure, first aid can be administered to injured parties.
Keeping as calm as possible will be helpful while waiting for the arrival of the authorities. Many people will expect an immediate rescue once sirens are heard. People must remember that finding and disabling the active shooter is top priority for responders. Until the shooter is subdued, the threat remains active.
To make things easier for the authorities, the EOC recommends placing a sign or symbol on the door or window of a room that lets others know the room is locked, secured and possibly contains injured victims.
“Organizations and unit areas all need to work out a plan,” said Sutton. “Know what the warning symbol will be. Have a plan and rehearse it. Make sure everybody in the building is aware of the plan.”
In active shooter situations, some people will have an internal debate about whether or not to engage the shooter personally and try to eliminate the threat. Sutton does not believe there are any easy answers in such a situation, and that it boils down to situational necessity and personal preference.
“If there’s no way to get out, and people are being shot at, I suppose a person could just lay there and get shot, or try to take the shooter out,” said Sutton, “but only if it is a last resort and there is no other choice.”
For most people, the best course of action will be to escape immediately or find the most secure location possible. If it is possible to contact authorities without immediate risk, people should do so. Important details should include the physical description of the shooter, location and types of weapons at the shooter’s disposal.
For more information about active shooter response procedures, contact the EOC at (270) 798-6160.