I recently received a call from a teacher asking about a refresher course on what to do in case of a school shooting. While a school or workplace shooting is not necessarily a topic you’d expect to worry about in a small, quiet town like Ukiah, the fact remains that these horrific events don’t just happen in large cities. They also occurin small towns, in places where people say things like, “We could never have imagined something so terrible happening here.”
I’ve written about these events in the past, but I think this is one of those subjects we must discuss periodically, and do our best to be prepared for. While I hope our town is forever free of such terrifying violence, being prepared could help reduce the injuries or deaths that often accompany these dangerous situations. Law enforcement experts have studied what we call “active shooter” situations and we know there are steps we can take to improve safety before and during the events.
I’m very proud to say that all of our law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County have contributed to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, and all of our first responders regularly train together for these types of events. It always impresses me that we have so many courageous men and women willing to run towards danger without regard for their personal safety, because they are so committed to ensuring the safety of others.
As a civilian in an active shooter situation, you should follow these simple rules: run, hide and fight. If you can run from danger, then run. If you can’t run or if running puts you in harm’s way, then hide: lock and/or barricade the door, close the blinds, and be as quiet as possible while calling 911 to let us know where you are. If you can’t hide, your last option is to fight back.
You’re probably thinking, “Fight off an active shooter?! Did I hear that right?!” Our response is, YES! Active shooters are intent on harming people. Don’t help them by making it easy for them. Instead, fight like your life depends on it.
If you can’t run away or hide, throw items, yell and scream, work with each other as a team and act as aggressively as possible. I promise that first responders will be running to help you win the fight soon. Commit to winning the battle; your chance of survival is proven to be much greater if you take action.
Nearly all active shooter situations share a few common factors. First, attackers believe the only way to end their torment is to take violent action. Second, attackers almost always plan their attacks, and each step is accompanied by behaviors and actions that are somewhat predictable (and recognizable, if we are paying attention).
It is rare for a person to “snap” out of the blue—to go from a sociable, well-adjusted person to a violent attacker. Usually, over time attackers begin to display anti-social behavior like increased use of alcohol or drugs, depression, withdrawal, suicidal comments, angry outbursts, and paranoia. Mental health professionals can help treat individuals with these symptoms, but only if the people struggling with these symptoms seek help.
This is where all of us come in. Any one of us may be in a position to help prevent a shooting by recognizing these early warning signs and choosing to engage rather than turn a blind eye. Your courage might be the difference between a tragedy and helping someone in need.
Sharing what you know, and staying informed, helps keep everyone safe. At UPD, we share information with the public through an email and smart phone notification service called Nixle. You can sign up for it on our website (www.ukiahpolice.com), where you can also find more information about what to do in an active shooter situation.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.