Active-shooter incidents call for quick, effective responses

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Armed with a shotgun, Aaron Alexis, 34, entered Building 197 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., in late 2013 and proceeded to go on a killing rampage that left 12 dead and seven others wounded, before he was killed by police.

According to a 2014 Federal Bureau of Investigation report, there were 160 active-shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013. With more than 1,000 casualties, including nearly 500 killed during that time frame, the numbers are sobering. The report also notes that, historically, the number of active-shooter instances is trending upward.

Military installations have not been immune to active-shooter attacks as the incidents at the Navy facility in Washington, D.C., Ft. Hood, Texas, and three other identified in the report show.

The U.S. Air Force defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people, most often in populated areas. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. In some cases, active shooters use improvised explosive devices to create additional victims and to impede first responders.” 

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base officials want the base populace to not only be informed, but also ready to quickly, safely and effectively respond should an active shooter incident arise here. To better prepare personnel to respond to an active-shooter, base-wide quarterly exercises often have an active-shooter drill and such will be the case in this quarter’s upcoming exercise, but a new warning component has been added.

As a test location for a new alarm, base residents will now hear an alarm siren in addition to the tradition methods previously employed to alert them to the presence of an active shooter. An attack warning siren will sound, in conjunction with the lockdown announcement projected over the base’s Giant Voice system. The attack warning is a 3-to 5-minute wavering tone, and should not be confused with the disaster warning which is a 3-to 5-minute steady tone. 

An attack warning alarm, something many base personnel are already familiar with, indicates that an attack/hostile act is imminent or in progress and appropriate action should be taken immediately.

Situations involving active shooters can be terrifying and entirely unpredictable. Law enforcement will immediately respond to the shooter, but actions taken by individuals in harm’s way until police arrive can save lives. Individuals must be prepared to act quickly. If ever in this situation, remember your actions should be to run, hide and, as a last resort, fight.

If the shooter is inside your building, run to the closest exit or nearest room (if safe to do so) and lock or barricade the door. Leave your belongings behind as this may hinder your ability to escape quickly. Stay away from windows, stay down on the floor, and remain silent. Remain there until you hear an “all clear” from first responders. 

If you are caught outside during an active shooter, immediately seek cover and concealment. Try to stay on the ground and remain there until you hear an “all clear” from first responders.

You may, as a very last resort, use any means available to incapacitate the shooter by fighting back.

When safe to do so, dial 9-1-1 from any base phone. Keep in mind that phone lines will be busy, but when you are able to get through, be prepared to give information such as your name and location, the number of people with you, the location of the shooter, number of shooters, physical description of the shooter(s), number and type of weapon(s) held by the shooter(s), and the approximate number of victims and their injuries.

Once law enforcement personnel arrive and eliminate the threat, stay where you are, listen for the “all clear” to be given, remain calm, do not yell or make any sudden movements, keep hands visible, and follow all instructions given by first responders. This is for your safety.

Once the incident is over, be prepared to give investigators and Air Force Office of Special Investigations any pertinent information you may have, assist in taking accountability of your co-workers, and seek medical or mental health treatment as necessary.

Finally, remember that the facility where the incident occurred will be treated as a crime scene. You will not be permitted to reenter until the investigation is complete.

Active-shooter incidents are tragic and happen very quickly. Being prepared to take appropriate actions can save your life and those around you. 

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