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View From The Top

What if a mass shooting incident happened here?

By Joseph Piek/JBLM Public Affairs Officer

Published: 03:00PM September 26th, 2013

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown and Washington, D.C. Navy Yard.

See the connection? Each location is synonymous with some of our nation’s most deadly shootings.

Since April 1999 when high school students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., active shooter incidents have become far too commonplace in our nation.

This reality was highlighted during last month’s Anti-Terrorism awareness training by JBLM anti-terrorism specialist Kirk Johnson. He stressed these shooting incidents are not something that always happens to “the other guy.”

I’ll admit, I generally subscribe to this theory. That’s a view Johnson wants to change. Instead, he wants people to ask themselves, “What if I’m that other guy? What would I do?”

My wife and I were wrapping up a weekend visit to northern Virginia for a friend’s wedding Sept. 16. Our plans included visiting Washington, D.C. that day. Those plans changed after news reports revealed that Navy veteran Aaron Alexis entered the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, and then killed 12 people in an attack that began just after 8 a.m. He died later in a shootout with police.

For much of the day I watched D.C. news coverage as the casualty count climbed from three to 12 dead. I wondered how many of the people who died that day thought like me — “it always happens to the other guy.”

We need to face the reality that any of us could find ourselves in just such a situation. We need to openly discuss this fact with our co-workers, and then figure out what we should do if we’re involved in an active shooter incident.

Over the past 15 years, shootings have occurred in schools, colleges, shopping malls, theaters, churches, temples, military installations and elsewhere. No place is immune. Active shooter incidents, no matter where they occur, are unpredictable and evolve rapidly. Most victims are targets of opportunity, and law enforcement direct action is usually required to end these incidents.

Here are three key tips from the JBLM Directorate of Law Enforcement to consider in an active shooter situation. These are not sequential, and all are equally important. Your best choice is determined by where you are in relation to the gunman.
• Run as fast as you can. Do not gather personal items. Do not draw the gunman’s attention to you. Warn others along your path as you are leaving. Get someplace safe and call 911.

• Hide. Put a barrier between you and the gunman. Do not rely on just concealment. Use something that will stop or deflect a bullet. Plan to run if the opportunity presents itself; otherwise, stay put until someone convinces you they are the good guys and it is safe to come out.

• Fight as if your life depends on it because it does! Fight as a group if possible. Use anything available as a weapon.

Two tragic shooting incidents with mass casualties have occurred on military installations: 2009 at Fort Hood, and last week at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. Today, those installations are “the other guys,” but we too have to be prepared and not complacent.

Remember, if you see something or someone suspicious report it.

Take time to think about what you will do before something happens.

Finally, should you find yourself in such a situation, keep your wits and do not panic. Take action.

The worst reaction is none at all.