By Daltin Brock
More than 20, including students, faculty, and other members of the community, gathered on Thursday in Richardson Performing Arts Center for an active shooter presentation. The need for such an event is self-evident, especially for a college campus, where the presentation is being held. The scheduled run-time was a full three hours, and the presentation covered some of the darkest materials and tragedies in this nation’s recent history.
The presentation opened with an introduction by Dan Falk, vice president of student affairs and dean of students. He established the college’s history with the police department and their efforts to establish training and a plan in the event of an active shooter or attacker to the campus or community.
Falk continued by saying that this represents the first phase of their initiative, while the second phase focuses on community outreach and the sharing of information, with the presentation being one key example of this process. He was then followed by Lt. Robbie DeLong of the Winfield Police Department and Capt. Mike Westmoreland of Sumner County.
DeLong acted as the primary speaker during the presentation and began with details of his credentials over the last 14 years in which he has worked in various forms of law enforcement off and on. This includes periods as a speaker and instructor as well as an active member in the field.
The presentation focused on several central themes, which were making effective decisions and using data from past tragedies to show effective trends and how responses made the difference in the attacks. DeLong made sure to emphasize that, in a stressful situation, your body and brain can make irrational decisions.
DeLong detailed the process most people go through when encountering the situation, which constitute the three stages of disaster response of denial, deliberation, and the decisive moment. Denial is the period each individual goes through in a crisis, during which they refuse to believe or question that an event is happening. No one is immune to it, and it is a period where precious time can be lost. Its inaction can lead to harm or death. The shorter the period of denial and the faster one moves on, the better his or her chances of surviving the incident.
Following denial is deliberation, in which one decides on the best course of action for their survival. The decisive moment is last and represents the movement to act upon a course of action.
DeLong made sure to express that the situations are fluid and each person’s response should be based on their environments and experiences to optimize their chances. “We shifted from telling you what to do to,” said DeLong. Instead, the focus was on helping identify what is best for in an environment. There is a key set of options to focus on with avoid, denial and defend.
Avoid is the first and best option when dealing with an active shooter or disaster. If possible, one should always seek to run or get out of the way. This alone, according to DeLong and the research of Texas State University, greatly increases chances of survival. Another aspect of avoid is situational awareness. By being mentally aware of the environment one is in, such as being aware of multiple entrances and exits to the area, one gives him or herself more options and information to use when needed.
When avoidance isn’t possible, the next option is deny. At this point, one is attempting to create as many obstacles and barriers between them and the shooter as possible – lock, barricade and secure doors in any way possible, and to make sure to turn off the lights and stay out of sight. When done properly, this can slow or prevent the attacker from entry and give the person extra time to escape or allow the police to arrive.
Lastly, there is defend, which serves as the last resort when one cannot otherwise avoid the attacker. When or if the attacker manages to make it to the person, the best option is to launch a defensive. The department suggested equipping yourself with the best weapons at your disposal and securing yourself in a hard corner off the threshold or entry to your room or space.
Any heavy or blunt option can serve as a weapon, though other objects like heavy books, staplers, pens and pencils, etc. can be equally effective. The best bet is to get creative with your options and plan accordingly. An unprepared intruder will usually have their vision drawn into the center of the room and placing yourself in the corners off the door can help provide a key advantage in the fight to follow by allowing an approach from a relative blind spot.
Ultimately, the best way to prepare for any event is to understand how you and your body will react and how to control it in such a tense situation, as well as to plan extensively and script possible scenarios. If you can script out these possibilities and plan for them, you are already at a distinct advantage should an attack occur.
Daltin Brock is a junior majoring in English. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org