Last night I was watching the news and a story came on about unsafe drinking water at a school. They interviewed a distraught mother who provided, what I’m sure they thought was the perfect soundbite: “I send my kids to school to be safe.” My initial reactions was, “Well, no you don’t you send your kids to school to be safe, you send them there to learn.” The talking heads on the news continued with the next story about cloud seeding and the next sound bite was, “Cloud seeding is absolutely safe.” I must admit, at this point I gave a little snort of disgust. Asbestos was once touted as being absolutely safe, so much so it was plastered in huge letters across movie theater curtains, television commercials and product packaging. We know now, that asbestos is far from safe; it is deadly. The cold, hard truth is nothing is “absolutely safe.” What we think to be safe today may not be safe tomorrow. We have certain inalienable rights in this world and as unsettling or disheartening as it may be, safety is not one of them.
Sadly, we are not guaranteed absolute safety anywhere. Bad things happen — at a mall, at movie theater, while you are enjoying a nice meal at your favorite restaurant, at our child’s school, or on a college campus. Some things are beyond our control — sinkholes, falling trees, landslides, cancer, or a driver having a heart attack. Others are precipitated by bad people or those with mental illness. No, safety is neither a right nor a guarantee. We can, however, do our best to mitigate risks. We can make our homes and workplaces as safe as possible. As government workers we must acknowledge the reality that our workplaces could be a target to those wishing to do harm. Active shooter situations are a scary, but real possibility. The location of these crimes are as random as the victims. The best we can do is be prepared, be trained, and ready to react.
There is a lot of good training information available for prepare staff on how to react in an emergency. Most workplaces have fire or earthquake drills already in place. Active shooter scenarios should be included in the mix. Contact your local law enforcement agency to see if they are available for safety training in the workplace.
The current recommendation on active shooter situations from The Department of Homeland Security employs Run. Hide. Fight scenario. They have a basic safety card available to download here.
Ready Houston has prepared an excellent training video that can teach more than I can write in this blog post. Plus, they experts in the field. You can find the video on YouTube.
I hope you never find yourself in an active shooter situation but I also hope you take the time to learn and be prepared should on what to do if you are ever faced with an active shooter situation. If nothing else I leave you with these three basic principles:
- If it is safe, get out
- Plan escape routes ahead of time
- Leave personal belongings– just get out
- Take others with you, but don’t allow them slow you down
- When you are safe, call 911
- Hide out of view – plan hiding places ahead of time
- Block the entry to your hiding place
- Lock the doors if possible; consider safety devices like those found here
- Silence your cell phone or other electronic devices
- Don’t put yourself in a spot where you cannot easily move
- Be quiet
- As a last resort and only when your life is in immediate danger be prepared to fight
- Improvise weapons. Find things that can be used as a weapon such as a chair
- If building policies allow, consider stocking pre-determined hiding spots with items like long-range wasp spray, pepper spray and/or a baseball bat
- Attempt to incapacitate the shooter
Thanks for reading and remember — Be Safe. Be Prepared. Be Ready to Run. Hide. Fight.
Wendy Dutenhoeffer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.