Active Shooter Training

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department responded to public demand last week and held its first Armed Shooter or Violent Intruder Saturday training session.

More than 100 people learned what to do if something happened at their school, work or public space.

School Resource Officer John Warner said most people have the same thought when it comes to a shooting tragedy: "It can't happen here."

But Warner said everyone needs to learn what to do in the situation.

"When seconds count, the police are only minutes away," Warner said.

Columbia Police Department Sergeant Joe Bernhard said people don't know the best way to handle this type of situation.

"They've been conditioned over the years to rely on the police to protect them or that the police will save them, which the police department and sheriff's department in general is reactive to what happened," Bernhard said. "I mean, you're there when it's happening so you're the first responder. The person that is there that it's happening to, they're the first responder."

Because of this, Warner said a "crisis rehearsal" is necessary to be familiar with the process.

Warner explained what the police are thinking in an armed shooter situation and what their safety priorities are:

  1. Hostages
  2. Innocent Persons
  3. Police
  4. Suspect

Warner said the police get in trouble when they reorder that list.

Warner said many people want SWAT to get involved, but the Columbia SWAT team has a goal of a one hour response time--too long for an emergency situation like an armed shooter.

Warner provided some statistics on armed shooter situations:

  • 98% of armed shooters act alone
  • 80% have long guns
  • 75% have multiple weapons, with hundreds of rounds of ammunition 
  • the armed shooters have a less than 50% hit rate
  • 90% commit suicide on site, typically when they hear police sirens

When trying to find the suspect, police use what Warner called the OODA Loop:

  • Observation - Look at their surroundings
  • Orientation - Take in everything and what they are being told
  • Decision - Make a decision as to what to do
  • Action - Follow through with that decision

Warner said every armed shooter has an OODA Loop and the objective is to change his or her OODA Loop in order to disrupt the process. When that happens, police say the shooter messes up.

Warner said three main things affect the shooter's accuracy and skill: distance, movement and distractions. Running either toward or away from the shooter while shouting would disrupt the shooter's OODA Loop and decrease his or her accuracy.

Warner also described the A.L.I.C.E. procedure as what a building should do in an armed shooter situation:

  • Alert - Some type of notification system that something is happening.
  • Lockdown - If you have your own space, make it so you can barricade yourself in. If the shooter can't open the door and get in, he or she is more like to move on.
  • Inform - Give information about what is happening so everyone knows the details.
  • Counter - Focus on self defense. Throw whatever you have because weight doesn't matter. As long as it disrupts the shooter.
  • Evacuate - Run away from the building until you can't see the building anymore.

Attendee David Young was a Columbia reserve officer for 25 years and was trained on the police side of an armed shooter situation. He brought his wife to the session so they could both learn how to react as civilians. He said he thinks the information would be useful to citizens.

"I think a lot of people just freeze," Young said. "They don't do anything. And if they do anything, they run, they move, they holler at the person, anything like that, they're more likely to survive something like this than just sitting there and just doing nothing."

Bernhard said the police department will likely hold multiple Saturday training sessions in the future as the requests continue.