Active shooter class in Kootenai County offers lessons in survival
Sat., Aug. 27, 2016
What should you do if you find yourself in an “active shooter” situation? Run – even if you have to jump out a second-story window to do it.
“They are going to hunt people,” said Community Service Officer Gary Shults of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. “If you stay there in the location they will shoot you. You need to get out of there however you can.”
There were 179 active shooter cases nationwide between 2000 and 2014 – incidents in which one or more shooters targeted people in an enclosed area. A little more than half of the shooters have a personal connection to the location, Shults said.
In response, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office has begun offering classes on how to survive an active shooter situation. The classes were offered first to businesses and schools, and were so popular the Sheriff’s Office decided to offer them to the public.
Shults taught the first active shooter class offered to the community Saturday. The class filled up almost immediately after it was announced, as did the second and third classes planned for September and October. Shults said he now plans to offer the class every month.
People are often slow to react and when they do their instinct is to hide, Shults said. The best course of action is to get out. If that’s not possible, people should lock themselves in a room, turn off the lights and try to stay out of sight so the shooter thinks the room is unoccupied. If a door doesn’t lock, barricade it with something heavy or use a belt or tie to make it harder to open.
If all else fails, Shults said, people must be prepared to defend themselves.
“Don’t fight fair,” he said. “Fight to win.”
People who are armed may used their gun to defend themselves, but Shults said people should not try to hunt down the shooter themselves.
“We do not want you trying to take them out,” he said. “We need you to get out of Dodge. There may be another person.”
In general, be aware of your surroundings and identify where exits are located, Shults advised. Go through scenarios in your mind so you’re less likely to freeze if something does go wrong.
Shults played 911 tapes and videos of real and reenacted active shooter cases, including ones at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. He talked about what people did right and what they did wrong.
Above all, people need to have a positive, determined mindset, Shults said.
“You are not helpless,” he said. “You can take care of yourself. You can win and you can go home.”
As active shooter situations have become more common, police tactics have changed. Law enforcement used to set up a perimeter and then try to negotiate with the shooter. But now the first few officers on scene will enter a building with one goal in mind: stopping the killing, Shults said.
Once police arrive people need to follow instructions, which usually includes raising your hands and not making sudden movements. Police often have limited information and are not sure what they’re walking into, Shults said.
“You really need to listen to law enforcement because we do not know who is who,” he said.
Gina Price signed up for Saturday’s class because she works in the Kootenai County Administration Building.
“We do have shelter-in-place plans,” she said. “I would just like to be prepared.”
She said she found the class useful and will share some of what she learned with her teenage children so they can be prepared at school. Her husband is already signed up for the October active shooter class.
Retired pharmacy technician Gail Bowen said she heard about the class at her senior center.
“It sounded like a good idea,” she said. “It was more information than I would have given thought to.”
She said she thinks the information she learned will make her more aware, but making such a change in perspective permanent might be difficult.
“We weren’t raised with this mentality,” she said.
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