Citizen’s Police Academy Week 3: Active Shooter Response

This week the LaGrange Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy covered a topic that most don’t often think about, but could very well save a life. The third week focused on the response to an active shooter threat.

Older folks know that the idea of a mass shooter wasn’t always a part of our collective conscious. It seems like they happen far too often nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case.

That all changed on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman, a former Marine sharpshooter, took rifles to a tower at the University of Texas at Austin and opened fire on the people below. His 90 minute killing spree took the lives of 14 people and injured 31 others. The incident finally ended when police reached the top of the tower and shot Whitman.

The incident made police departments across the country learn that they needed a plan to deal with similar incidents in the future. From this, Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams were developed at police departments throughout the country.

As we now know, these incidents didn’t stop and police quickly learned that their initial plan of setting up a perimeter and having SWAT teams handle the situation doesn’t work very well. The problem being, SWAT teams can take an hour or more to respond. That gives the shooter time to plan and time to barricade themselves in with hostages.

Now police follow a rapid deployment concept. When an active shooter incident happens, on duty officers respond and try to take out the threat as quickly as possible to minimize casualties. This response plan has drastically reduced response time to an average of only three minutes.

Of course three minutes is much better than an hour or more, but here’s the hard truth that police have discovered. Despite their training to get there as fast as they can, response time is now unlikely to significantly reduce the casualty count from an active shooter event. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), just under two-thirds of active shooter fatalities occur before police arrive. About 36 percent of fatalities occur in the first two minutes and 69 percent occur in the first five minutes.

Should you find yourself in an active shooter event, police are coming, but your own actions affect your chance of survival far more than police response time.

Police say the first few minutes are critical and your immediate actions should be focused on maximizing your personal safety until the threat is stopped.

LaGrange Police recommend the response plan developed by Texas State University: Avoid, Deny, Defend (ADD).

Avoid the threat by paying attention to your surroundings and get to a safe area. Have an exit plan and move away from the threat as quickly as possible. The more distance and barriers between you and the threat, the better.

Deny the threat access to your area. If you can’t run, find a way to hide. Lock doors and turn off the lights. Active shooters often just want to maximize the number of people they can kill, so they aren’t going to fight to get into a locked room that they think is empty. Remain quiet and remember to silence your phone.

Defend yourself if you have to do so. Remember that you have a right to defend yourself, even with lethal force, if someone is trying to kill you or others.

Should you be forced to fight, commit and be aggressive. Do not fight fairly. This is about survival. Go for weak points like the eyes, throat, or groin.

Call 911 when you can safely do so and give the operator useful information. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, don’t guess. Most importantly, don’t assume someone else is calling 911.

When law enforcement arrives, show your hands and follow all commands. They don’t know if you are the shooter.