DISCLAIMER: The following methodologies recap best practices for surviving an active shooter event as recommended by local law enforcement. It is important to note that all individuals must use their own discretion during an active shooter event, as to whether to run to safety or remain in place.
As event planners consider participant safety typical concerns include tripping hazards, inclement weather, and medical emergencies. But, in today’s day and age, planner safety concerns are quickly pivoting to active shooter situations. The team at Special D Events recently attended an active shooter training course hosted by Officer Christopher Furlong and the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department. Officer Furlong is a certified instructor in ALICE, a civilian response training program. Here are a few highlights:
- When it comes to dealing with an active shooter, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. People need to have the survival-mindset, understanding that they can make a difference in how the situation ends.
- The primary goal of surviving an active shooter situation is to evacuate. Studies show higher amounts of casualties occur when people stay at the site. Officer Furlong mentioned that in these situations often people are fearful of leaving as they think another shooter may be outside waiting. To counter that, he also told us that only 2% of active shooter incidents involve more than one shooter.
- Many emergency responders advocate following the steps in the acronym ALICE; which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. One thing to note is that this is not meant to be a sequential process, more so it is a list of options of how to handle this type of incident.
Alert. In an active shooter situation, an alert is considered as the first notification of danger. This could be hearing gunshots, a mass notification, etc. Each alert should be taken seriously because all types of information are vital for making decisions. Any and all methods of communication should be used to alert those around you.
Lockdown. This option is a great starting point but it does not mean to simply lock the door. A locked door is only a time barrier between you and the shooter. If the shooter wants to get in, they’ll find a way to get in. An enhanced lockdown involves barricading or fortifying the doors. Once in a lockdown, do not open to door for anyone – even the police. Police will get themselves in and notify every when the area is safe.
Inform. As soon as an incident happens call 911 as soon as possible. Inform the dispatcher of all details you have, most importantly where you are located. Be sure to include descriptive information about the location such as by baggage claim one or at the corner of Street A and Street B. From there, proceed to inform the dispatcher of other key information such as who, what, when, and how. As these situations progress, real time information is old information. If possible, stay on the line with the dispatcher to keep their end up top speed.
Counter. This option focuses on taking control of the situation. A great practice for counter acting is the OODA Loop Interruption. OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, and act. For example, if you see the shooter you could find something within reach of you and throw it at the shooter to make a distraction. If you can’t throw something, even making a noise or making a movement provides a distraction. Another practice is swarming. All you need is body weight and gravity to take control of the situation. One last thing to note about counter is that it doesn’t mean you have to fight. The practices listed above are effective ways without having to fight.
Evacuate. Of all the ALICE methods, evacuation will always be the preferred response in any active shooter incident. The primary goal is to remove oneself from the danger zone. There are two locations to evacuate to – a Rally point or a Reunification spot. A Rally point is a predetermined and known location for people to meet at in case of an incident like this. A Reunification spot is typically not discussed prior to an incident. Its goal is to provide a clear flow of traffic for first responders. In addition to Rally points and Reunification spots we also need to think about non-traditional evacuation techniques. These can include breaking windows, exiting a 2nd floor window if possible, or even breaking through a wall.
Unfortunately, active shooter incidents are something we need to be prepared for at all times. The ALICE model is a great starting point to be educated and prepared. Perhaps the best advice planners can give participants, however, is very simple — If you see something, say something.
-Christopher Holman, Meeting & Event Intern