HYATTSVILLE – Officials want the public to know that the best way to survive an active threat is to remember to ADD – avoid, deny and defend. What citizens do in a threatening situation matters and every person has a right to survive. Last week, the Hyattsville Police held a public class on what civilians […]
HYATTSVILLE – Officials want the public to know that the best way to survive an active threat is to remember to ADD – avoid, deny and defend. What citizens do in a threatening situation matters and every person has a right to survive.
Last week, the Hyattsville Police held a public class on what civilians can do in the event of an active shooter or other active threat. Sgt. Mike Rudinski led the class through a program created by Texas State University called CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events).
Rudinski said he went to a class last year to train civilians on how to respond to threatening situations and said with the recent mass shooting in a night club in Orlando, Fla., and with the prominence of mass acts of violence in society, residents want outreach from their leaders to provide tools of survival.
“People feel like they are helpless in this situation and they are not helpless. They are human beings and they are resourceful. They are not helpless, and we have to work together as a community to stop these events and to respond to these events and stop the killing,” Rudinski said.
While the program focused around active shooter events, Rudinski said he believes in teaching citizens to respond to any “active threat” event because an active shooter is not the only possibility. He said a person can do harm with any weapon such as a knife or bomb, and the training can also be used in case of a fire or natural disaster.
“I don’t believe that an active shooter is the only possibility. An active threat is a possibility – knives, bombs, any type of device that can do harm to you,” Rudinski said.
Active threat incidents began to be prominent in society with the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in April of 1999. That event, Rudinski said, taught police and the country that the way they handled active threats, and particularly active shooter events, had to change.
“Up until that point, police departments responded to these incidents and they surrounded the incident and called SWAT,” he said. “And they waited.”
Rudinski said Columbine taught the country’s first responders they cannot wait for SWAT to respond and they have to act immediately. And while police response is critical, CRASE was created to let the public know they can and have to take steps to survive an active threat.
In 2014, from which the most recent data is available, there were 179 active shooter events in the United States. Fifty-five percent of those events were in places of commerce and 55 percent of shooters had some sort of connection to the place or another person. However, Rudinski said an event can happen anywhere and be carried out by anyone – perpetrators do not fit any one profile.
During the presentation and subsequent discussion, Rudinski and Cpl. Zach Nemser walked the more than 40 Hyattsville and University Park residents through how best to survive or ensure the survival of others during an active threat. And CRASE’s best advice goes well beyond playing dead – the public must take action to protect themselves.
Up until recently, police and officials have taught civilians to “lock down” and to stay in one place and shelter, but Rudinski said it is time to rethink that approach.
Rudinski said officials have created a theory of the “crime triangle” that consists of a target, opportunity and motivation.
“And if you take one of those three things away, you can’t have a crime,” he said.
If the “target,” the human beings, is taken away, whether through avoiding the threat (running away), denying access to the threat (through hiding and barricading), or by defending against the threat, than a mass casualty incident is less likely.
The worst thing a person can do in an active threat situation is hesitate, Rudinski said. Often times a person will second-guess the incident and question, “are those fireworks I hear?” or “is the smoke part of the show?” but, he said, that hesitation can cost you time.
“Do you want to take that chance? Most likely, it’s not fireworks,” he said. “Have you ever been in your building when someone threw fireworks in the hallway? Most people haven’t. So that’s something you may want to get over.”
A good way to distinguish between fireworks and gunshots is the rhythm. Each shot from a gun is made by the pulling of a trigger, so gunshots will have a rhythmic bang, Rudinski said.
Other key advice includes the basic lockdown procedures such as turning off the lights, locking the doors, creating barricades, and using a belt to hold a door that opens outward. But civilians also need to have a backup plan, and the last possible resort is to take action and fight back. Rudinski said in most cases, though frightening, a group can overpower a single shooter, or single threat.
Rudinski also suggested practicing combat breathing to calm yourself, staying fit to be able to run away, break through dry wall to create an exit or jump through a window, and script events in your head to acknowledge your exits and your backup plans.
The main takeaway from the presentation was, do everything possible to ensure safety. Rudinski said he doesn’t have all the answers and that each situation will call for a different action.
“You’re not helpless, what you do matters,” he said. “Defend yourselves with everything you have. It’s not nice to think about, is it? But I’m not talking about aggressive violence for the purpose of violence, for the purpose of hurting people. I’m talking about defending yourself.”
Nemser further emphasized that if a person’s life is in danger, they have the right to defend themselves with any force necessary. He said it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by six, especially if saving lives.
The Hyattsville police will continue with other information sessions this summer, including one on rape and aggression defense later this year.