What will the cops do?

When an attack does occur, the actions we take can affect how those who are called on to respond will act. Our actions can put us at risk for being mistakenly shot, or our actions can help public safety to quickly identify and take down those who mean us harm.

It reminds me of the joke about a church gossip who kept sticking her nose in everyone’s private life. Church members were not normally happy with these gossip activities, but they feared her enough to not confront her. One Sunday, she made a serious mistake when she accused a new member, named George, of being an alcoholic. She boldly told everyone that she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the town’s only bar the previous afternoon. George was a man of few words, and when he was confronted by the church gossip, from a distance, he stared at her for a  brief moment, then just walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny the allegations; he said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of the gossips house, and left it there all night! The implication he made sent a message.

Whenever an active shooting occurs, law enforcement will be called upon to respond. Much like the way George dealt with the church gossip, we can send a message to public safety, simply by the actions we take. When they arrive, there are things you can do to help protect yourself, and to help police to do their job more quickly and effectively.

In years past, law enforcement would wait for additional officers and equipment to arrive before making entry into the building. All of this changed after the 1999 Columbine Colorado High School shooting. Law enforcement learned important lessons from Columbine. One of those lessons was the longer an active shooter is allowed to go (without be confronted by law enforcement), the more damage they will do.

In most instances, law enforcement will engage the shooter as soon as possible, even if only one officer arrives on scene.  By taking the proper actions, you not only reduce your chances of being mistaken for the shooter, but you also assist the police by making it less confusing and threatening for them.

The police have predetermined procedures in place to help protect you, and then separate actions to protect the police, in an active shooting situation. It is important to note that the police have a primary objective; stop the killing. This means they will usually bypass the injured and dead, and only focus on the shooter. In most instances, this means that help for the victims of the shooting will not come until the shooter is under arrest or neutralized.

On the other hand, most people believe that fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will come to help victims while the incident is still active. This couldn’t be further from the truth. National, state, and local protocols prevent fire and EMS from going to a scene until the scene is safe. In fact, in order to pass their test as EMS providers, they literally have to ask the question “Is the scene safe” to their evaluator.

While fire and EMS may be called at the same time as law enforcement is, they will stage themselves out of harm’s way until law enforcement tells them that there is no danger to the firefighters and EMS workers. They may stage at an area a mile away, or depending on the circumstances, they may stage even further away than a mile. This revelation makes your cooperation with law enforcement even more important. The longer it takes them to get the incident under control, the longer it will take for medical help to arrive on scene.

Over the next few days, I will be discussing ways to help law enforcement, and the “Do’s and Don’ts” of what to do when they arrive on scene. Until tomorrow, … Mark