(Out of respect for the victims and families of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, we have eliminated my usual light-hearted “firedog-isms” from this blog post. Our hearts go out to all of those who were affected by the shooting.)
The deadly rampage at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater on Friday, July 20 is being called the worst shooting in U. S. history. Twelve people were killed and 59 were injured when 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly purchased a ticket and walked into the suburban theater along with other movie-goers. He immediately left the screening room and reemerged moments later, dressed in full tactical gear and a mask. After releasing two canisters of gas, the suspect is said to have used an assault rifle, shotgun and at least one handgun, to fire more than 40 rounds into the crowd.
Minutes later, 200 uniformed Aurora police officers converged on the complex and arrested Holmes, who initially cooperated by warning about booby traps he had rigged in his nearby apartment— including incendiary and chemical devices and trip wires.
The shooting has struck a collective nerve across the country because:
- The event occurred in a “safe” bedroom community.
- Aurora is located just 17 miles southeast of Littleton, which was the site of the infamous Columbine shootings in 1999.
- The shooter was a very bright, well-educated student who graduated from Westview High School in San Diego, where he excelled at school and played soccer. He later studied science at the prestigious Salk Institute in La Jolla.
- It brings to light the fact that incidences of this type can occur anywhere and anytime.
For their part, one of the largest theater chains in the country, AMC, has banned costumes, tightened private security and is working with law enforcement to strategically place plain clothes’ officers in theaters throughout the country. What’s more, officials are increasing security at large venues such as concerts, railway stations and the airport.
The Department of Homeland Security has prepared several free resources which provide lots of helpful instructions, and defines an active shooter scenario:
“An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempts to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method used to their selection of victims.”
Because active shooter situations are often over within 10-15 minutes, before law enforcement officers arrive on scene, it is important for individuals to prepare themselves mentally and physically to deal with active shooter situations.
Here are FEMA’s best practices for coping with an active shooter situation. If you follow these simple steps, your chance of being a victim can be greatly reduced:
- Be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- Take note of the two nearest exits in any facility you visit.
- If you are in an office, stay there and secure the door.
- If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
- As a last resort, attempt to take the active shooter down. When the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her.
The FEMA Active Shooter booklet includes comprehensive instructions for evacuating, hiding out, responding when law enforcement arrives, training staff members for active shooter situations [including creating an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)], as well as additional suggestions for preparing for and preventing active shooter situations.
We provide all users of the RJWestmore Training System ready-access to FEMA active shooter booklets, pocket cards and posters. What’s more, you can go online (through the RJWestmore Training System) or directly to FEMA.org for Active Shooter Certification. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.