The chances of being involved in an active shooter situation are still remote for most Americans.
“You have a better chance of winning the Powerball,” said John Busch, protective security advisor for the Wisconsin District of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Still, such events are becoming more commonplace. Having a plan in place to deal with the circumstances can be the difference between life or death.
“Know what your options are so you can be better prepared,” said Busch.
Between 25-30 people attended Busch’s active shooter training and sex trafficking presentation Wednesday, Dec. 18, at the Holiday Inn Express in DeForest.
Busch’s talk touched on a number of related topics, including what an active shooter event is, how police respond, how to read an active shooter situation and what to do when law enforcement arrives on the scene.
Busch said an attack can occur in the workplace, schools and hospitals, just to name a few possible environments. He also said that such attacks may not always involve firearms, as he talked about recent edge weapons attacks in Europe. In defining active shooter situations, Busch said there is someone actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people – often in a confined space.
Many perpetrators have a history of negative behavior, according to Busch. He cautioned, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all profile of a possible active shooter. Usually, according to Busch, there is no pattern or method of selecting victims.
Most situations, he said, are unpredictable and evolve quickly. The average response time for law enforcement is three to five minutes, Busch said. It could be longer in very rural places. Meanwhile, active shooter incidents are sometimes as short as a minute or a minute and a half.
Preparedness is the key to survival. Busch compared such training to fire drills put on by schools.
“They didn’t do them to traumatize children,” said Busch. He added they conduct those drills so children can react appropriately. He pointed out that, as a result, there hasn’t been a child killed in a school fire since the 1950s.
An initial plan for dealing with an active shooter situation should come with options and the ability to know how to implement it.
Busch also talked about how there are often multiple indicators that can lead up to an attack. After the University of Texas tower shooting in 1966, law enforcement agencies began establishing SWAT teams. After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, it was determined that a different approach was needed to neutralize such threats and minimize loss of life. That led to Immediate Action Rapid Deployment squads.
People should pay attention to indicators that someone has the potential to become an active shooter. Mental illness can play a role, as can some sort of radicalization, according to Busch. Isolation and feelings of hate and anger can lead to violent behavior. However, Busch said that very few active shooters had previous arrests for violent crime.
Busch listed some common catalysts that can act as triggers. Losing a relationship is one. A change in financial situation is another, as is the loss of a job. Changes in living arrangements, some major adverse changes in circumstances, and feelings of humiliation or rejection are others.
During his presentation, Busch went through a 2014 FBI bulletin regarding preparedness for active shooters. There were a number of provisions, including making sure everyone knows the emergency response plan. Establishing safe rooms in the facility and communication protocols were others. Maintaining awareness of travel patterns during threats is also advisable. Vary times and routes to avoid predictability, said Busch.
Other things, like raising awareness of “all hazards training,” which teaches how to act effectively during a crisis, and making sure all the communication equipment is operable, are also important. Reporting missing or stolen equipment to the proper authorities is also advised.
So is following the “see something, say something” rule. Just noticing that something is amiss is not enough. Letting others know about it is just as important.
“It works if you do something about it,” said Busch.
Busch talked about how important it is to notify supervisors or the authorities if you see something that appears out of place.
“Say there’s a guy that’s been here two days in the parking lot taking pictures. Is that normal activity?” said Busch.
In such instances, it may be necessary to have increased visibility of armed security.
Paying attention to what is going on around you and in your environment can be crucial.
“You have a better chance of picking up on something that is not normal,” said Busch.
Be careful about what you put out on social media, advised Busch. It’s a way a perpetrator can find out your location.
Noticing indicators that someone may be on the verge of acting out is important, too. Such possibilities include increased instances of coming in late to work, talk of violence or the smell of alcohol on that person’s breath.
Instead of leaving that person alone, it’s a good idea to get them some help. That way, Busch said, “It’s possible to off-ramp an individual to get them off the pathway to violence.”
Busch also said that in 60 percent of active shooter situations, there was prior knowledge about the possibility of an attack. However, nothing was done. Either the threat was discounted or discredited.
During an active shooter situation, keep provisions of the “run, hide, fight” rules in mind.
With regard to the “run” part of those suggestions, always have escape routes in mind, leave belongings behind, evacuate and help others do the same, do not attempt to move wounded people, keep hands visible when encountering law enforcement and follow officers’ instructions.
In trying to hide, make sure you’re out of the shooter’s view and give yourself protection. Be sure not to trap yourself or restrict options for movement. Lock the door, if possible, and barricade it. Be sure to close the door, cover yourself and move away.
Fighting back is the last resort, only to be used if your life is being directly threatened. In such cases, Busch advises acting as aggressively as possible, throwing items at the shooter and improvising weapons, yelling and committing to your actions.
And when law enforcement arrives, remain calm and follow instructions. Keep hands raised. Don’t grab at officers. Be sure to listen and proceed to exits. And give details of shooters, but don’t go overboard. Describing a shooter’s ethnicity is not advised. It could lead to mistaken identities. Stick to physical characteristics. If a shooter has a long gun, that’s something to tell the authorities so they can add stronger armor to their bodies.
As attendees were leaving the presentation, they were given cards with information on what to do when human trafficking is suspected and a list of indicators that suggest when it is taking place, while also detailing the differences between smuggling and human trafficking.
The Blue Campaign to stop human trafficking suggests some questions to ask when human trafficking is suspected. Is the victim in possession of identification and travel documents? Was a victim coached on what to say to law enforcement and immigration officials or recruited for one purpose and forced to perform some other job? Is the victim’s salary being garnished to pay off a smuggling fee? Was the victim forced to perform sexual acts and does the victim have freedom of movement or the ability to contact friends or family? Can they socialize or attend religious services? Has the victim or their family been threatened with harm if there is an escape attempt? Is the victim a juvenile engaged in commercial sex? Have there been threats of deportation or law enforcement action? Has the victim been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care or other life necessities?