BY VERONICA COONS
LARNED — Chuck Clanahan, CPP, is a protective security adviser with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He provides on-site assessments all over the state for locations ranging from churches, hospitals, schools and government buildings to cattle feedyards, shopping malls and stadiums. He consults with businesses and organizations of all sizes. Tuesday, he provided two 90-minute training presentations that were open to the public at the Pawnee County Courthouse at the invitation of Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King.
“As a consultant, when I go out and visit places, this is what I try to stress: You need to have the mind set of not if an active shooter incident is going to happen, but when,” he said.
Most of the people he visits agree that a shooting at their location is foreseeable. But they also admit they haven’t yet done anything about it. He pointed out that most of these same locations have regular fire and tornado drills, and it’s time active shooter, or rather active assailant drills, be added to the list.
“No one is immune to shootings,” he said, noting that he can’t think of a type of location that hasn’t been targeted. “Every place I go to has unique challenges. Active shooters are quick, and most shootings are over in seven minutes. It can feel like a lifetime. It’s important to keep in mind that in the initial phase, bystander intervention is essential.”
Most shootings are over with before law enforcement steps foot in the building, he added. That’s why DHS is pushing active shooter training, he said. The training has saved lives.
“It’s not because the number of shootings have gone down,” he said. “It’s because average citizens are beginning now to take action.”
Clanahan went over the principles of Run. Hide. Fight. This is the current DHS public awareness campaign. Essentially, getting out of the building quickly and safely is the best course of action. That’s because statistically, active shooters don’t leave the building once they enter. It’s important to take note of your surroundings, wherever you may be, and note potential exit routes. This, he said, is something trained law enforcement officers do automatically, but it’s something everyone should train themselves to do. When leaving the building, he added, keep hands up and fingers spread, so responding law enforcement can see you are not the shooter.
Hiding and fighting are two other options. Know which way the door swings in the room you are in, and consider ahead of time how to lock it or barricade it in the event you need to. Turning lights out, covering windows, staying low to the ground and away from the door are also recommended.
Silence is critical. In addition to remaining quiet, it’s important to silence cell phones. Even the vibrations of a call can alert an active shooter to your location. Often, when word gets out about an incident, well-meaning people begin calling, he added. Do not emerge from hiding until law enforcement arrives.
In the event you need to fight, it’s important to consider ahead of time what weapons are available. Improvisation may be needed. Consider the following: Is there a fire extinguisher? Sharp or heavy objects? Where will you attack, high or low?
Clanahan charted the typical reactions of people both trained and untrained for active shooter events. There is the initial realization that a shooting is happening, followed by a moment where your mind searches for what to do next. Those with training will react quickly and heighten their chances of survival but those who haven’t trained for an event will tend to freeze, and fail to act. Their odds of survival go down.
He also touched on the DHS campaigns to “See Something, Say Something” and “Stop the Bleed.” See Something, Say Something encourages individuals to be observant and pay attention to signals that don’t seem right. Alerting law enforcement or others who can help may prevent an incident.
Stop the Bleed speaks to the fact that Emergency Medical Services do not begin to assist the wounded of an active shooter event until after law enforcement has neutralized the threat. It could be several minutes before help is available, so it’s important to be prepared to administer first aid, whether to yourself or another. Presentations he’s made to schools in recent years have resulted in some districts providing trauma kits in each classroom, Clanahan said.
In the past 12 months, Clanahan has made 104 presentations around the state, free of charge. Churches contact him the most. Hospitals are a close second. Schools, surprisingly, call him the least.
He can be reached through the Topeka office of the Department of Homeland Security. There are also numerous DHS active shooter training videos available through YouTube.com and the DHS website has several online active shooter training course videos that any individual can access. (https://www.dhs.gov/private-citizen)