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Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures: How to Respond to an Active Shooter

Published on February 20, 2013

Portage County – What if a violent intruder showed up at your workplace or school, intent on shooting to kill? What would you do?

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

P2149710With Teddy Roosevelt’s empowering quote in mind, a hands-on tutorial on how best to respond to an active shooter was sponsored by the Portage County Safety Council at the Ravenna Elks Lodge on Valentine’s Day. Captain M. Renee Romine, retired Army Reserve Captain, Certified A.L.I.C.E. Instructor, presented the program to a standing-room-only crowd of area administrators, safety directors, policy makers, and human resources managers.

With the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on our collective conscience– along with Chardon High, Aurora, CO. movie theater, Virginia Tech and other deadly incidents–mass shootings are a disturbing reality of modern society.

The A.L.I.C.E. Active Shooter program — presented by Kent State University — stands for Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter, and Evacuation. It was developed by two law enforcement officers following the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. KSU has provided A.L.I.C.E training to more than 5,000 faculty, staff and students over the past 13 years.

At the core of the program is the directive to increase your probability of survival by doing everything in your power to make yourself a difficult target. Typically, a shooter will take down as many victims as possible within just a 10-minute time frame. The natural response for victims during this critical time is to Fight, take Flight or Freeze.

“Do something,” Romine encouraged. “You are not helpless. Do whatever you can. Keep moving to create a more difficult target.” For instance, those at Virginia Tech who took a professor’s advice to break out a window and jump out onto the grassy lawn below, survived. Similarly, students who laid on the floor and braced their legs against the door of a classroom, successfully barricaded themselves from the Virginia Tech shooter.

Thinking ahead, having a plan in place, and conducting practice drills help individuals and groups to be ready if and when that dreaded moment occurs. Focusing on the Counter element of A.L.I.C.E., Romine suggested throwing things in the assailant’s face to confuse and distract him. This creates an opportunity to swarm and disarm him; or to run and escape when his vision is impaired.

Romine also suggested that workplaces and classrooms be equipped with crisis buckets filled with barricading and first aid supplies, including rope, duct tape, medical materials, etc.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed a helpful video available on YouTube, titled, “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.” The 6-minute video provides clear and concise examples of how best to react in the event you’re caught in the crosshairs of an active shooter.

The bottom line: Don’t freeze! As Teddy Roosevelt also said, Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. It could save your life.

Estelle R. Brown

About Estelle R. Brown

Estelle R. Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Garrettsville with her family. She has written and taken photos for newspapers, magazines and e-zines for the past 25 years. She also enjoys working on public relations projects, including web content, newsletters, posters, brochures, press releases, and other creative endeavors. She enjoys writing compelling stories about her community as a contributing reporter for the Villager.

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