Police: Hope is not a course of action during active shooting situation

More than half of the mass shootings that have taken place throughout the country ended before police arrived, according to authorities who are training civilians on how to quickly react when the unimaginable occurs.

"Hope is not a course of action," said officer David Elliott of the Nashua Police Department. "Yes, we hope and pray it doesn't happen to us, but when it does you must take action."

About 25 civilians participated in a five-hour course on Saturday at the police station, which taught them how to respond to active shooting situations and how to apply emergency casualty care if necessary.

Elliott's advice to the group: First leave the area as soon as possible by searching for all primary and secondary exits.

Second, if you cannot get out of the danger zone, be sure to deny access to the intruder with barricades and other action.

Third, if the situation escalates, you must defend yourself.

"You have to use what you have at your disposal," he told the class, stressing the importance of understanding the reality of the situation and promptly doing what can be done to save yourself.

At most mass shootings the witnesses first report hearing what they think are fireworks, according to Elliott, who said fireworks don't belong in a school building or a mall or the workplace.

"Try to avoid rationalizing it," he said, adding that a person's first reaction should be to get out of harm's way. Don't let stress take over and don't take your phone out to call 911 until you are in a safe location, Elliott emphasized.

Look for all exits in the front and back of the area and try to avoid hallways while escaping. He said glass can be shattered and drywall can be destroyed to do whatever it takes to get to safety.

"Get the heck out," said Elliott. If that isn't possible, he said the next strategy is to deny the shooter access by locking doors, turning out lights, turning off cell phones and staying out of sight.

He recommended attaching a belt or strap to the top hinge of a door to prevent an intruder from entering.

Rubber door stop wedges can also be incredibly helpful, said officer Greg Miller, explaining shooters are searching for fast, easy targets and don't typically spend time breaking down doors.

If there is no lock on the door, Elliott said a belt can be placed on the doorknob and a person can pull on the strap to prevent entrance from the other side.

Cover any glass windows on doors and pile up desks, chairs or other furniture near the door to slow down the intruder.

He said the worst place to be is within eyesight of the intruder when he opens the door, explaining people cannot fight back if they are not close enough to the shooter. Standing behind the door, attacking him when he is off guard and being prepared to grab the shooter's gun and take him down is another step that needs to be seriously considered, said Elliott.

"Try to grab the gun, put it in tight and start fighting from there. We fight with everything we have, every tool we have and we fight with all we have got," he said, urging the class to search the room for anything that could be used for defense, including fire extinguishers and furniture.

He said the typical response time from police is about three minutes, stressing the need to survive during that short time frame - even though it could seem like an eternity.

All of the participants in Saturday's course registered for the class prior to the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.

Several participants said the horrific incident in Florida emphasizes the need to be prepared for the unthinkable.

"We know that these things are going to happen. You can't pretend it isn't going to," said Vincent Hargreaves, 16. "I know I will feel more informed and educated after taking this class."

With a father who was a former city police officer, Hargreaves said he understands the importance of not remaining static, but taking appropriate action in a time of crisis.

"It is better to be safe than sorry," agreed Daisy Ruiz, an intern with the city's Office of Emergency Management. "Why not be prepared?"

As a resident adviser at the University of Massachusetts campus in Lowell, Ruiz said she hopes to teach her residents some basic information on how to save themselves if an active shooter situation occurs.

The class also learned basic emergency casualty care from representatives with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center.

"Attendees receive classroom and hands-on instruction in specific bleeding control techniques that have proven to be effective. The topics of tourniquets, pressure bandages, chest seals and other emergency casualty care treatments are covered," said Mark Hastings, director of emergency management at SNHMC.

Posted: 2/25/2018 by Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader