Last week, I attended an active shooter training put on by the Madison police department. The training was sponsored by First Unitarian Society, which also houses my synagogue, Shaarei Shamayim, and a child care center, so they invited staff and board leaders to this training. It is truly sickening that we now live in a world active shooter events have become almost daily occurrences. The school shooting on January 23rd in Kentucky, killing 2 and wounding 18 was the 11th school shooting of the year.
Meanwhile, our federal government does nothing to put an end to this madness and most states have actually made it easier to carry guns, rather than harder. While Americans who are as sickened as I am with the lock grip that the NRA has on our legislators should continue to exercise their political power to change this dynamic, I chose to take this training because I realized that if I was at an active shooter training, I would have absolutely no idea what to do.
It is important to keep in mind, that despite the increasing frequency of active shooter events, the chances of actually being involved in one are about the same as getting struck by lightning. Fortunately, that means that most of us will never have to experience the horror of such an event. However, just like we have all learned some basic lessons of what to avoid when a lightning strike takes place, it also makes sense to learn some basic and potentially life saving responses that we can all take if we are in an active shooter situation.
The training was gut wrenching. We listened to the Columbine High School librarian’s 911 call, which included sounds of gunfire, and sadly, a librarian who was not following the instructions of the dispatcher because she was in such a state of panic. While she survived, 11 students in that library were murdered.
However, the training also made me feel safer because I now feel that I have tools that I can use in such an emergency that I never would have thought of before. While some may seem obvious, most of us in the training did not know these basic principles known as A.D.D. (Avoid, Deny, Defend), before the training. While this is no substitute for going through the 2 1/2 hour training, the basic idea is:
- Always be aware of escape routes, even if it means breaking open a window.
- Leaving the area is the first priority.
- Playing dead, hiding and hoping are not successful strategies as they leave you without options if they do not work.
- Move into a room and lock the door.
- Barricade access points.
- Turn off lights and silence phones.
- Remain quiet and out of sight.
- Once barricaded, remain in place until rescued.
- If Avoid and Deny have failed, you must defend yourself.
- Use improvised weapons (e.g., a sharpie or scissors to the attacker’s eyes) and remember there is strength in numbers to overpower the shooter.
- Consider attacking at the doorway. The change in lighting and obstacles place in the way may be the best window of opportunity to attack the shooter.
At the end of the training, I realized that it was insufficient for our congregation that only one board member and I had gone through this training. Fortunately, the Madison Police Department offers these trainings for free and they will return to our synagogue and we will invite all our members in March. In setting up the training with Officer Matthew Magolan, I noticed the following quote at the bottom of his e-mail.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt “Citizenship In A Republic” speech delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
That quote made me realize that while I may not be able to save myself or anyone else if I am confronted with an active shooter, I now have tools that will at least allow me to try to save my own life and the life of others. While I have been given no comfort from our feckless government which stands idly by with thoughts and prayers instead of real action to stop these mass shootings, I do take some comfort in knowing that I now believe I will try my best to save myself and others, and even if I fail, I will die knowing that I tried my best.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.