FROM THE CHIEF
When we woke up on October 2, 2017 our world was altered again with the horrific news of the massacre in Las Vegas. As the day unfolded more grief and dreadful news as the number of injured and murdered climbed. Another day with headlines of a Mass Shooting… Shooting rampage… More than 50 people killed hundreds shot. The one we seem to read all too often Deadliest Mass Shooting in Modern Times. I have read this headline too many times over the last decade. With each mass shooting the number killed and injured continues to climb from single incidents.
Mass killings have been occurring for centuries. The attention of America has been captured ever since that fateful day on April 20, 1999 when the carnage occurred at Columbine High School. This day changed modern policing’s response to the active shooter. In New England the mass killing in Newtown Connecticut rocked our world and brought these killings too close to home. We were rocked again with the Boston Marathon Bombing. Over the last eighteen years law enforcement has constantly been changing and updating our response to active killers. With every mass killing law enforcement changes its responses and the public learns new ways to react and prepare. For every change we make the killers change their tactics. Each new tragedy reveals a new threat and we respond. The cycle goes on and on. Whether the attacker’s weapon of choice is a gun, a vehicle, a bomb or an edged weapon we all need to be prepared to react and survive. A terrifying thought that I am even writing about this or that we have to be prepared to react to a mass casualty situation.
Now we are faced with the newest mass casualty event as a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas on a group of concert attendees. It is beyond belief that a gunman would perch themselves high above an innocent crowd and open fire randomly. Each mass killing brings a higher casualty count and a higher death count. This has become a sick competition between active killers of the past and the future.
From all available information Las Vegas police and first responders, responded quickly and performed their jobs exceptionally under one of the most challenging situations. Watching countless videos from the scene and reading even more personnel accounts, it is evident that those attending the concert reacted extraordinarily assisting each other and the injured. Many individuals acted as heroes that day.
As the investigation unfolds we will learn more about the gunman, his motivations and more importantly about the victims and their families. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy from the victims to their families to the first responders and to America as a nation grieving another unimaginable tragedy.
We cannot live our lives in fear or the fearmongers win. There is a very small probability that we will find ourselves in a mass casualty situation. However, because of the criticality of a mass casualty situation we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to be as prepared as we can to respond in a way to mitigate the outcome.
How do we prevent, prepare and respond to an active killer mass casualty incident?
First, we have to understand that an incident like the one in Las Vegas is nearly impossible to prevent unless someone close to the shooter was aware of the plan and stepped in to report it. However, there are many things we can do to prevent, prepare and respond to violent attacks. Over the past few years I have trained law enforcement and civilians around the country on crisis response and mitigation, How to Survive an Active Killer/Violent Intruder Incident.
I begin by asking them, Are you Prepared for when Today is not like Yesterday?
With the fast pace life we all live it is easy to be distracted and caught up with what just happened or what we have to do to and not be aware of what we are actually doing at any one particular time. Being aware of our surroundings and the situations around us are vital to not becoming a victim. We spend some of our days on autopilot; while we multitask using our PDA’s, tablets, cell phones etc. Taking the time to be aware of our surroundings by scanning the area for suspicious people or vehicles can go a long way to keep us safe. We have all been in situations that just don’t feel right, we get goose bumps or the hair stands up on the back of our neck. It is natural for us to suppress these feelings. Many people who have become a victim tell me I felt something was wrong but I didn’t want to say anything so not to embarrass myself if I was wrong. My response to that is trust your gut. If you feel something is wrong then the odds are it is. If it does not feel right avoid it. DO NOT become a willing victim Stay Alert and Stay Safe.
It is easy to say Stay Alert but what does that mean?
I have broken this down into environmental awareness and situational awareness. Environmental awareness relates to where you are and what is around you. Paying attention to where you park, where you walk and where you sit. The environment around you can speak volumes if you are paying attention and being actively aware. Situational awareness is merely knowing what is going on around you. Is there a suspicious person lurking around, is there a person or an item out of place. Taking the time to look around before you enter a location, leave a location or approach an area will enlighten you on both environmental and situational safety. Remember Trust Your Gut, Our Sixth Sense will not let us down.
The best chance we have to prevent or mitigate a mass casualty incident is to stop it before it starts. That sounds pretty simple. But how do we do that?
Research has revealed that those who carry out Active Killer and Terrorist Incidents, both which have become all too often mass casualty situations, will in many cases go through five steps from fantasizing to action. Most recently however, terrorist activities have been skipping steps three and four.
I have listed the five steps below which have been published by the Police Educations Research Forum (PERF) and Lt Dan Marcou a writer for PoliceOne.com. I have added some graphics to their material.
5 Steps of The Active Killer
(PERF) / Lt. Dan Marcou (PoliceOne.com)
- Fantasize and/or Obsess over other Active Killers
- Plan their scenarios
- Prepare – Obtain Guns, Ammo, IED’s
- Practice – Includes study of the location
- Action – Begin killing – TOO LATE
- Pre-Attack Indicators
- Identification, Interdiction & Interception
Knowing the five steps that an active killer goes through gives us guidance on where along the process we can make a difference and derail their horrific plans. FBI research has revealed that in 81% of violent attack incidents others knew something was up and did not report it. This is where we all can make a difference.
In the Fantasy, Planning and Preparation stage are when these killers show their intentions to those close to them. Many times it is directly and other times it is through personal writings, letters, poems and many times it is through threats made on social media. Many times during these phases they will separate from their longtime friends, find a new group of friends that are questionable and start along a path of social isolationist behavior. This is where we all come in. Again trust your instinct. If you become aware of something that just doesn’t sound right or seem right it’s incumbent on all of us to Say Something. If you see something or hear something that causes you to stop and be concerned then report it. Law enforcement would rather investigate one thousand tips that turn out to be nothing than not have the one tip be reported that results in an active killer incident.
In step four they will begin their practice. This may be a sudden increase in visits to a firearms range or going shooting in a wooded area. It may be the building of a bomb or the mixing of explosive materials. We can interdict and intercept based on these pre-attack indicators which occur in steps one through four.
“Across the nation, we’re all part of communities. In cities, on farms, and in the suburbs, we share everyday moments with our neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends. It’s easy to take for granted the routine moments in our every day—going to work or school, the grocery store or the gas station. But your every day is different than your neighbor’s—filled with the moments that make it uniquely yours. So if you see something you know shouldn’t be there—or someone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right—say something. Because only you know what’s supposed to be in your everyday. Informed, alert communities play a critical role in keeping our nation safe. “If You See Something, Say Something™” engages the public in protecting our homeland through awareness–building, partnerships, and other outreach.”
“Reporting Suspicious Activity
To report suspicious activity, contact your local law enforcement agency. Describe specifically what you observed, including:
- Who or what you saw;
- When you saw it;
- Where it occurred; and
- Why it’s suspicious.
If there is an emergency,
Once we have reached step five of the active killer matrix all bets are off and we need to be prepared to react and respond with SURVIVAL as our goal.
When faced with a violent confrontation you must decide if you are being robber or you are being attacked. If it is an active killer situation you will know that immediately. No other situation in your life will come close to this and it will be readily apparent.
First, decide if you are being robbed or attacked
If you are being robbed do not resist give the robber what he or she wants. Remember your goal here is to avoid injury. To reduce your losses do not carry anything of value that you are not willing to lose.
Second, if you are being attacked decide NOW how you are going to respond
- Your Safety in these situations is the #1 GOAL
- If you can get away RUN and /or HIDE
- If you can’t get away FIGHT to survive
- Carry Pepper spray or Mace
- Attach a whistle to your key chain
- Use your Hands, Knees, Elbows and Feet
- Attack their EYES if you can
If you find yourself in an active killer incident regardless if it is a gun, an edged weapon a vehicle, or any other weapon your goal is SURVIVAL. Working with our trained instructors in crisis response and active shooter response we use the SARA method to instruct on how to observe and how to survive an active killer event. SARA takes into account that RUN HIDE FIGHT cannot be a linear process. You must take in current accurate information and adjust your response as new information becomes known and as the situation in front of you unfolds. These situations are dynamic and what was the Ok to do a few seconds ago may not be OK to do now. The process of continued Scanning and Analyzing will guide your actions.
SARA Scan, Analyze, Respond and Assess. This works on a continual basis and you repeat the steps as current information becomes known to you. This process is actually natural to how we would approach a situation.
Scanning is merely looking around and making note of what we see around us. This is where environmental and situational awareness come in. Prior to our brain being able to process anything we must be paying attention to what is happening. If we do not see it or hear it then we cannot process it. As I mentioned above it is vital that we turn off our autopilot and stopping multitasking. This is especially important when in an area we are not familiar with, when we are in public and particularly when we are at large events or gatherings. When we are on auto pilot or multitasking we cannot pay attention to our surroundings. Do not become a willing victim through inattentiveness. When arriving at a large gathering or an event or even out to dinner, look for all the exits and determine an action plan if something were to unfold. We do not want to be paranoid we want to be prepared to respond. Scanning is a continual process that you must conduct while the situation is ongoing and in the immediate aftermath.
What are we looking for or listening for?
We are looking for and listening for things that are out of the ordinary. Loud noises; a sudden rush of people to or from an area; items that are out of place; and particularly people that are acting inappropriately for the venue. Our gut or sixth sense serves us well in this area. Remember trust your instincts they will not let you down.
Analyzing This is one of the most important steps in the process. Here we can digest our observations. We have to ask ourselves what is it that we are seeing or hearing. It is not enough to see something or hear something. We must absorb and process the events that are unfolding, and determine the best that we can what is happening. This analysis will drive our response and ultimately our ability to take the action(s) that is necessary to remain safe. Analyzing is a continual process that you must conduct while the situation is ongoing and in the immediate aftermath.
Responding There are many methods that I instruct in for the response model. One of the best models for quick and efficient response that applies if you are in public, at a large event, at work or in a private function has been developed and publicized by the federal government. We additionally have to be prepared to respond with buddy aid self-aid first aid. The use of tourniquets has saved countless lives both in the military and in active killer situations around the world. The time has passed that we can wait for the trained professionals to save our lives. We need to obtain casualty care skills so that we can survive that fatal window before the professionals arrive.
We look to the Department of Homeland Security for their RUN, HIDE, FIGHT system to guide us in these situations. Again RUN HIDE FIGHT should not be considered a linear process. You actions need to be driven by current accurate information and the situation as it develops.
HOW TO SURVIVE A MASS SHOOTING
- Run if a safe path is available. Always try and escape or evacuate even if others insist on staying.
- Encourage others to leave with you but don’t let the indecision of others slow down your own effort to escape.
- Once you are out of the line of fire, try to prevent others from walking into the danger zone and call 9-1-1.
- If you can’t get out safely, find a place to hide.
- When hiding, turn out the lights. Remember to lock and barricade doors and windows. Silence your ringer and vibration mode on your cell phone.
- As a last resort, working together or alone, act with aggression, use improvised weapons and fight.
Run Hide Fight
YOUR GOAL HERE IS SURVIVAL
ASSESS Once we take an action, whether that is to evacuate the area, lock down and barricade or even fight we need to evaluate the situation. This is an ongoing process. As we take action the attacker will most likely respond to our actions. Our assessment has to take into consideration current and accurate information that we have access to. Based on our assessment of what is happening NOW we will be able to adjust our response. Scanning, Analyzing, Responding and Assessing (SARA) is a continual process that you must conduct while the situation is ongoing and in the immediate aftermath. It should not been seen as a linear response that must occur in order. This process should continue until the threat has been neutralized or until you have safely extracted yourself from the situation.
We have three Natural responses to fear which we must address. The three responses affect how we react when confronted with fear; when we are taken by surprise or an alarming situation arises. The resulting mental and physical shock factors impacts our ability to take action.
The Three NATURAL Responses are:
- Fight: Counter Strategies
- Flight: Evacuate, Barricade, Lockdown
- Freeze: Inability to react – This is an Undesirable Response
Some individuals naturally will Fight and others naturally will seek Flight. The factor that can get us Killed is the Freeze factor. Training and Practice is the key to overcome the Freeze Factor. Seeking self-defense and personal safety training will go a long way to avoid the tendency to Freeze. We need to train our brains the way we train our bodies. As the saying goes “We train as we fight because we fight as we train”.
In summary Self-protection and survival is an ATTITUDE. Decide today that if confronted with an active killer incident your will fight to survive. Get training and stay up to date with the most current information on defending yourself and mitigating an attack, KNOWLEDGE breeds confidence. CONFIDENCE is the best deterrence to becoming a victim. Remember to learn to recognize and trust your instincts. Situation and Environmental Awareness are your life lines. BE ALERT of your surroundings and Stay Alert to Stay Safe. Do not become a willing victim. When faced with Danger, You Must DO Something. One of my favorite quotes is:
“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
©Joe Solomon 2017
 Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something
 Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something