Response to Active Shooter Events Presented by J. Pete Blair, Ph.D. Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Texas State University
Outline • Disaster Response Psychology • Defining and Identifying Active Shooter Events (ASE) • Civilian ASE Response • Policy
Disaster Response The background science of how people behave in high stress events
Three Stages of Disaster Response • Denial • Deliberation • Decisive Moment • Ripley, A. (2008). The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes And Why. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Denial • When in a disaster, many people do not admit that is a disaster or underestimate the severity • It is common for people to delay taking action • This delay costs time and lives • So why do people do it? • Normalcy Bias • Social Proof
Denial • Normalcy Bias • We expect things to be like they always are • A new situation is not expected • The brain will first try to describe the new situation as a normal one • It takes time and data for the brain to recognize that we are not in a normal situation
Denial • Social Proof (also linked to diffusion of responsibility) • In novel or ambiguous situations we look to others for information on how to act • If others are doing nothing, you will tend to do nothing • If others are acting, you will tend to act
Deliberation • Once people have moved past the denial phase, they enter the deliberation phase • You must decide what to do • This is a problem • Your brain is probably not functioning well because of the stress
Deliberation:Your Brain C System X System RefleXive Reacting Brain Fixed Emotional Fast • RefleCtive • Thinking brain • Flexible • Rational • Slow
Deliberation • Stress Response Physiology • Adrenaline is dumped into the bloodstream • Heart and breathing rates increase • Blood is shunted to the large muscles and essential organs • Cortisol is dumped into the blood – constricts blood vessels • Blood pressure spikes • You are stronger, faster, and will bleed less
Deliberation • Stress Response Side Effects • Your C brain is seriously impaired • Vision narrows • Auditory exclusion • Time distortion
Deliberation • When your C system is shut down, you are left with your X system • The default X system responses are • Fight • Flight • Freeze • These are pretty good responses – but unfocused
Deliberation • So what do we do? • Keep your C system functioning longer • Try to calm yourself • Combat breathing • Shift your emotion • Use your C system to program your X system • Think through likely events and responses to them before a disaster • Practice your actions
Decisive Moment • Once a decision is made • It is time to act • So act! – With purpose!
Active Shooter Event Definition • An active shooter event involves one or more persons engaged in killing or attempting to kill multiple people in an area occupied by multiple unrelated individuals.
The Shooter • There is no set “Profile” • Mindset • Deliberate, • Focused, • Uncaring - Detached • Coward - Bully • Many kill themselves when confronted by the police
Characteristics of AS Situations • Event happens quickly • Can happen anywhere • Post offices • Businesses • Schools • Military bases • Churches • Hospitals
Signs of an ASE • Hear or see gunshots • Bodies on the floor / bloodied victims • Lot of yelling, screaming, praying, disbelief, denial • People running and hiding
Fort Hood, TX (2009) • 1 Shooter • 12 Killed • 31 Injured
Reliable Metals, AL (2009) • 1 Shooter • Started by killing his family • Went mobile shooting random people • Ended up at his former employer • Committed suicide • 10 Dead
Edmond, OK Post Office (1986) • Postal Employee • Killed 14 • Wounded 6 • Killed Himself
Number of Deaths • The number of deaths is affected by two factors • How quickly the police respond • How quickly the shooter can find victims • ALERRT trains police how to respond quickly • We are training you now to slow the rate at which the shooter can find victims
Denial • Need to get past this phase as quickly as possible • If you hear gunshots of something that could be gunshots, act as if it is an active shooter • Go straight to deliberation
Deliberation • 3 options based upon 2 of the X system basic responses • Flight • Avoid • Deny • Fight • Defend • Freeze – Always the wrong choice
Deliberation • The event will happen very quickly • You will not have time to develop new plans • You must plan in advance • If you do not have a plan beforehand the delay in deciding what to do may cost you and others their lives • Failure to plan is planning to fail
Deliberation • The Basic Plan • Avoid the confrontation • Deny access to your location • Defend yourself
Avoid • Be vigilant/aware • Know escape routes for your location • Exits • Windows • Stairwells • Decide to leave at the first opportunity and report
Deny • Lock doors • Barricade access points • Door stops • Furniture • Rope doors closed • Cover interior windows • Darken the room • Go back into Avoid mode
Defend • The Active Shooter is trying to kill you! • If you can’t flee, you must fight! • Use a “pack” mentality • Swarm the shooter • Do not stop • Use whatever weapons you have • Attack weak spots (Throat, eyes, groin)
Defend • Get as close as you can to the access point before the shooter enters • Try to get a hold of the gun and get it pointed away from people
Defend • Hiding • There are very few things that will stop a bullet in most locations
Defend • Have a survivor’s (not a victim’s) mindset • Decide right now that your are going to do whatever it takes to survive • Getting shot does not mean that you are dead • The fact that you are still alive after the impact means that there is a good chance you will survive • You can and must keep going!
When Police Arrive • Uniformed and plain clothes – multiple agencies • Primary Goal – Stop the Killing • Priority of work • Find and confront the shooter • Will NOT stop to help the wounded • Will NOT escort people out • Help the wounded • Clear people from the building
When the Police Arrive • Understanding the POLICE point of view • The situation will be chaotic • They do not know who is a victim or suspect • They will treat everyone as a suspect until proven otherwise • Officers will be experiencing high stress, just like you
When the Police Arrive • Respond Appropriately • Follow commands (You might be handcuffed) • Keep your hands visible at all times and show your palms • Do not move or move slowly if you must
Personnel Issues • This will be a traumatic event • Expect mental trauma • Shock • Nightmares • PTSD • Survivor’s guilt • You need a critical incident stress management plan
Model ASE Policy • Our organization places the highest priority on the preservation of the lives of our employees and customers. If an active shooter event should occur, our employees shall use the Avoid, Deny, Defend model. • If it is safe for them to do so, employees should exit the facility immediately to AVOID the shooter(s). • If employees are unable to safely exit the facility, they should lock themselves in their current location and barricade the door to DENY the shooter(s) access. • In the event that employees are unable to utilize the AVOID and DENY strategies successfully, they should DEFEND themselves using whatever means are available. • Regardless of the option(s) utilized, employees shall call emergency services (911) as soon as it is safe to do so. • In the event of an active shooter incident, all employees will be required to undergo mandatory mental health counseling.
Questions? • Pete Blair, Ph.D. • firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com