Ep. 04 Active Shooter Awareness - Part 2

Appalachian State University Emergency Planner and host, Debi Trivette welcomes Capt. Johnny Brown of the Appalachian Police Department for a continuation of the discussion of active shooter situations and how people can be prepared.


Debi Trivette: Hi, thank you very much for joining us today. This is episode 4, Active Shooter Awareness Part II. I'm Debi Trivette, Emergency Planner for Appalachian State and we have a special guest, Captain Johnny Brown with us from Appalachian State Police, who was also with us for Episode 3, Active Shooter Awareness Part I. We're going to continue the conversation from our last podcast episode. Thank you for joining us today, Captain Brown.

Capt. Johnny Brown: Thank you, Debi.

DT: To recap the last episode, we teach Run, Hide, Fight for active shooter situations. Running is always the best thing you can do-putting distance between yourself and the assailant if you can do that. If you can't do that, then hiding is your next best choice. Hiding works, especially if you are good at it. The last thing, you may have to fight. But if you have to fight, remember you are fighting for your life and that is something you need to do to survive. So, if you are in a situation where hiding is your option, lots of times when I talk to the Building Emergency Teams on campus, they you say to me to barricade the door-I can't, my door opens out. Captain Brown, can you talk to us about that a little bit?

JB: Absolutely, so you're inside your office and you can't run, and hiding is what we've decided to do. So, you are wanting to make that environment preferably dark, cut down any noise makers, put your phone on silent, anything that could give away your position. We kind of talk about an immediate action plan. What do we do if somebody comes in the room? So, barricading yourself in the office isn't enough. You have to think about how can I make it harder for somebody to get through this door? That's the number 1-if you can make somebody spend precious seconds outside in the hallway thinking of how they are going to get into your office space then there is a good chance that they may leave that door alone and go to the next one. A door that is not barricaded. So, the door opens in or out. Obviously, if you are in your office and you can put a bunch of stuff in front of the door and that would block somebody from being able to push it open, then that works great. That is going to keep them out of that space. It doesn't mean that they couldn't do something to try to gain another entry way into that space or that they couldn't keep working to get in there but it's going to make it harder for them. But then if the door opens out to the hallway-just so you can visualize this, if you were sitting in your office or you were walking out of your door, and you open the door and that goes into the hallway, so you are kind of opening out into the hall. If you put a bunch of stuff in front of that door, it can still be opened and then they would just have to contend with whatever was stacked in front of it. So, how could we make that door safe? The easiest thing that I can teach people is a piece of furniture, something that will not fit through that door. If you put that object in the door space and you have an extension cord or a belt or a shoe lace or a piece of fiber optic cable that is in your office—anything that you can harvest to tie to the door knob and then tie it to that object, when that door begins to open, that shoe lace or that belt is going to be tied to the large piece of furniture that will not fit through the door opening and that will allow them to only open it a few inches, which will make it harder for them to gain entry into your office space.

DT: I remember last time you talked about most of the time these folks are looking for easy targets.

JB: Right.

DT: So, if it's too much trouble for them, then they are likely to go on somewhere else where they may not have so much trouble getting to somebody.

JB: You are exactly right. What an active shooter is wanting is groups of people bunched together. They're going for the numbers. When we see somebody being targeted, we are looking at more of a domestic situation. There is a reason that somebody is going after just one person and they are not going to spend time hurting other people around them because they are so focused on getting to that one person. There are so many offices on campus and all of them are set up in different designs and layouts and in different areas of the buildings so it's really up to the individual in that space to go through those what ifs. What if it happened today, what could I use? How could I use it? What could I go get to have today to make my job easier if this event was to happen? You've got to plan for this. You've got to plan for this to happen and go through those what if scenarios and if you have to go buy a little piece of rope or something to make your door secure then it is worth your investment, it's your life.

DT: Absolutely. So, can you talk to us a little bit about let's say that there is an active shooter situation and we're hiding, and the fire alarm goes off. What suggestions do you have about that?

JB: So, one thing that we know is that if there is an active shooter in a building, there is a very high chance of that fire alarm going off because if they are shooting, then shooting creates smoke from the gun powder being burnt and also just the percussion of the gunshot, if it's underneath a smoke head, is enough to make the smoke head go off. If you have lived on campus, then you know how easily these smoke alarms can go off. It doesn't take a lot to make them go off, so a gunshot and multiple gunshots are definitely going to do that. So, just because the fire alarm went off it does not mean it is your best option to get up and leave. We've been taught since we were little kids when the fire alarm goes off it's time to leave the building. What causes the fire alarm to go off? So, you are taking that, and you are building the totality of all the circumstances of what else is there? Do you smell smoke? Do you see a fire? Is there more information that you can pull from to think this is a real fire and I do need to leave? We know that it has happened in the past that fire alarms have been pulled to try to get people to go outside so that they could be bunched together and be easier targets. So, that doesn't mean that it is your best bet to leave but take everything into account. Okay, the fire alarm is going off, I am on the first floor, I could open this window and get out if I needed to, but I don't smell any smoke, I don't see any flames-just be aware of that. If you smell smoke and if you see flames, then obviously I would say that it is worth my chance to try to leave on foot at this point. I am going to run and go through the escape route of the nearest exit. Which hopefully, you've done fire alarm training for which ever building you are in and you know what route you are going to be going and if that route was blocked, what other route you could use to get out of the building.

DT: Let's say that an active shooter situation happens on campus, what happens when police come on the scene? What does that look like?

JB: So, there is a lot going on, but our main job is we want to stop or isolate the shooter. That's the number one priority for us because until that is met, until that objective is met, people are going to keep hurt until we can stop or isolate the shooter. So, we've got to get in the building, we've got to try to identify where the shooter is at, we're moving to that position and then our goal is to hopefully get the attention back on us, or the person flees, or we go into other means of being able to protect ourselves and other people that are in that room. So, until that is met, we are going to do nothing else. Which means we are going to bypass people that are maybe injured. The reason that we are doing that is because if we stop to try to help somebody and that person is still controlling another space, then every second that we are not finding them is another second that somebody else could be getting injured or killed. So, we have got to find that person first and then we have people coming in behind us that are going to form rescue squads and basically come up to start trying to help the wounded and to set up a triage and a casualty collection point and to really start working on the medical side of things. So, going through if we are able to quickly determine where the shooter is at, in law enforcement, we say the one plus one rule. Where there is one there's two and where there's two there's three so we are continually thinking about just because there is one shooter in the building doesn't mean there couldn't be another shooter. But once we isolate that first shooter then we going to kind of switch roles. We are still looking for a possibility of a second shooter but until shots are fired or we have some type of intel driving us to that we're going to go back into rescue mode trying to find the wounded and get them the treatment that they need. And then at some point we're responsible for searching that entire building. So, if you chose to hide, and you are in your office space, you could be in there for a long time. I can't really put a number on it, but you've got to think, okay, we've got to find the shooter, now we are getting injured people out of the building, and we are setting up a triage area. So, if you are okay and you are in your office, just get comfortable and hang out for a little while until we start clearing the building. Once we have the wounded treated, then we will go back in the building and start doing a full sweep to get everybody out and evacuated and we don't want you just to leave. We want to know who was in the building, where you were at and if you need any help.

DT: So, if we see a police officer coming through are, we supposed to wave at them-hey, come here and stuff like that?

JB: I think everybody's reaction would be to wave and say hey I'm here get me out of here but if you are okay, we're bypassing you. But one thing law enforcement is trained to look at is the hands. So, we know that the hands can kill us, so we're looking at the hands to determine if there are any weapons. So, if you've decided to arm yourself with something, anything, it could be a hammer, it could be a baseball bat, when you see law enforcement, you need to drop that object. Because they are going to tell you to drop it. We'll talk later about why you had it and what you were doing with it. Our main thing is to look at the hands and make sure the hands are clear, so, we ask that people put their hands up around head level, finger tips spread open so that we can see that there is nothing in their hands and then law enforcement will move on and try to find where the shooter is at.

DT: Like you said, this could take hours. What about before law enforcement get here and we are hiding-what if somebody comes knocking at our door and they say they're police-let's say they say that what do we do?

JB: So, I treat this just like I am at my house, I am not going to open the door unless I know who that person is and if it's law enforcement, we'll announce that it is law enforcement and you can even call 911 even if this was at your house. If you said that there is a person outside and they are knocking at my door and they are saying that they are law enforcement and I need to open it. Can you confirm if there is actually a law enforcement officer here? If you dial 911, it's going to that jurisdiction. So, there hasn't been a lot of people that have said that they were acting like they were acting like police in the building. But you will know when we're there. So, if an active shooter event happens and that phone call was made, which is extremely important and we talked about that last time making sure that phone call is made, you're going to know police is on the scene. You're going to hear our radios; you're going to hear us communicating-this will probably be several minutes into the event happening before we start knocking on doors asking if people are inside and if they are okay. If you don't answer that, there is a good chance we're going to end up breaching that door to make sure somebody isn't in there that needs some type of medical attention.

DT: Okay, we need to answer if police come to the door. We need to at least answer or imagine that they are going to come in.

JB: Yes, because the reason that we are going to come in is there could be a chance that you got hurt and that you went in your office and you shut the door and that you are laying in there in need of medical attention. So, if the door is locked, we're going to treat it as if there is somebody in there that locked that door. And if they're not answering, then we want to make sure that they're okay. So, we are going to do a good knock and announce because we teach the run, hide, fight and the fighting part, quite frankly, I don't want to walk into somebody's office and find that they have a baseball bat or a claw hammer or any other weapon. So, we want to make sure that we are doing a good job communicating who we are and what we're doing. Before we come in that room, we going to get to a spot that we can hopefully see you and you can see us and then we are probably going to ask that person to leave the room instead of us coming into that unknown area. The reason that we don't like going into the room is that there may be somebody else in there hiding in a corner. It's easier for us to bring people out to us. If we're out in the hallway, we've already secured the hallway. So, the room is a big unknown to us and we would rather people come out to us so can handle them out in the hallway and then once everybody is out of the room and they say that there is nobody else inside, then we'll go in the room to make sure that we are not missing anybody. Then we will flag that room as safe, call it into command and we'll move on to the next one.

DT: Let's say that we're running and as we are running, we see police in the path where we are running. Is there anything we should do in that situation?

JB: Don't grab onto us. If we are walking down a hallway, don't grab us, don't push us, don't try to hide behind us, just get off to one side. When law enforcement sees a group of people running, we're automatically going to get to one side of the hall because we want to create an opening for them to be able to get around us. We don't want somebody to grab us and start pulling us and saying that they went here but we are going to ask you for some information. We're going to ask where is the shooter? What does the shooter look like? The last known direction of travel-so that we can get some type of information to push us deeper into the building to find out where they are at. So, if you are able to give us that, great; if not, and you are just running out of the building, then run toward the nearest exit and keep your hands up. You can tell us where the shooter was at or what room he was in and then get away from us so that we're not tied up in the hallway talking to people because if the shooter was to present themselves out in that hallway, law enforcement don't want innocent people between us and the shooter. We want to get them away from us as quickly as possible so that the shooter's attention is on us and not the innocent.

DT: Thank you very much. Is there anything else you can think of that we would need to elaborate on, or have we pretty much covered it?

JB: Just ask questions. That's what you're here for and that's what our agency is here for and if there is something that we can help. Everybody goes through the what if games-what if this was to happen and you can play the what if game forever, but it is a good game to play. What if it happened? What have you done? What steps have you taken to make yourself safe? What steps have you taken to make your students safe and how can you be the voice of reason to help somebody when they are in fight of flight mode and they are not able to gather their thoughts? Because if you can have a few people in the room that know what they are doing, they can help steer and kind of help direct people to what they need to do to make sure that they are safe. So, pull them with you, make them leave with you if it's time to run, make them help you fortify the room, whatever you can do to put objects in the way so that you can buy yourself more time. Ask us questions, we're happy to come talk to you, talk to your class, or talk to a department and we'll go through some of these what if games and we'll look at your layout and we'll come up with a good plan of what you could do if this was to happen.

DT: Thank you so much, Captain Brown. Remember Run, Hide, Fight and doing nothing is the very worst thing you can do. So, have a plan to do something. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like more information about emergency management at Appalachian State, please visit our website emergency.appstate.edu and if you have any questions, please email them to safety@appstate.edu. Thank you very much.