HQC Active Shooter training teaches ‘Run, Hide, Fight’

By Christine Born DLA Public Affairs

If caught in an active shooter situation, knowing what to do before something happens is key to survival, the McNamara Headquarters Complex’s anti-terrorism officer said Sept. 15 during a National Preparedness Month seminar at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

James Johnston, an anti-terrorism officer in Defense Logistics Agency Installation Support, presented two seminars on “Run, Hide, Fight,” the three responses employees are encouraged to follow during an active shooter scenario.

“Active shooter incidents are unpredictable and evolve very quickly,” Johnston said. “Threats are everywhere with terrorists attacks, violent extremist acts of revenge and lone wolf attacks on innocent people occurring somewhere in the world on a weekly basis. Knowing what you are going to do if it happens to you greatly increases your odds of getting out of the situation alive.”

While the odds are low that an active shooter situation will develop in one of DLA’s buildings, the chances of it happening are not zero. Since 1966, more than 200 active shooter attacks have occurred in the United States, resulting in 1,328 deaths and more than 1,400 wounded, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics.

The goal of an active shooter is to inflict mass casualties, Johnston said, and statistics show that most active shooters, about 98 percent, are male and act alone.

The three responses should be taken in order, Johnston said, with fight being the last resort. Employees should first try to run, or evacuate, if the option is available and the shooter is far enough away to avoid. Johnston said employees should know of and practice multiple ways to get out of an area or building. In addition, employees should take their car keys, common access card and cell phone with them since the chance of getting back in the building to retrieve them are low.

If trapped, the next option would be to hide, Johnston said. Employees should find an interior office, and lock and barricade the door.

“Sixty percent of the active shooting situations ended before police got there,” he said. “The events lasted an average of 8 to 12 minutes, so that is a long time to be on your own.”

If an office is not available, employees should hide under a desk and out of sight. With the help of HQC Emergency Manager Reginald Davis, Johnston demonstrated how employees can crawl under a desk, and pull in trash cans, boxes or a backpack to help camouflage themselves. Another way to easily hide a potential victim is to pull in a desk chair that has a long coat draped over the back, Johnston said.

During the training, Johnston pointed out a few more tips that could potentially save lives, including silencing cell phones. Another method employees can use is to pull their CAC card from the computer and if possible, put up a sign that says, “Back in five minutes.”

“These things give the illusion that you are not there,” he said. “But try to remain in a crouched position so you can jump out and attack the shooter by the feet if they see you.”

Although fight may be the last resort, depending on the situation, the initial reaction should be to move to another location, Johnston said. 

“Remember, the shooter is more often than not trying to kill as many people as they can, as fast as they can,” he said. “So chances are, unless they are seeking you out personally, if you hide as we demonstrate, they will likely pass you by. As soon as it’s safe, call 911 or 100 here in the headquarters [complex].”

But if fight is necessary, employees should look around for items to use as weapons, Johnston said. Some examples are heavy items like a three-hole punch or fire extinguisher, scissors to stab with and even car keys that can be used to slash at the attackers face.

“If you and several of your coworkers train on what to do if a lone shooter traps you, your odds of overpowering them increase,” he said.

Johnston also said employees shouldn’t pull the fire alarm since it causes panic and can put people in the line of fire as they flee.

An active shooter may be a former or current employee and employees should alert security and human resources if they see someone acting in an unusual manner. Although random, statistics show that 93 percent of active shooters showed signs or symptoms before they attacked.

Some indicators of a potentially violent person may include some or all of the following:

Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Unexplained increase in absenteeism
Depression or withdrawal
Mood swings or other out of control emotional responses
Increased talk of violence, about weapons or other violent behaviors