Armed with a 9-millimeter handgun, a 22-caliber handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a man entered a classroom building, chained and locked several main doors and went from room to room shooting people.
That was 10 years ago on the campus of Virginia Tech, yet its impact is still relevant today.
Since that event, the prevalence of acts of violence, particularly active shooting events, have increased significantly.
In response to these events, Salisbury University Police Department hosted a civilian response to active shooter events (CRASE) training April 24 to inform the campus community on methods to increase chances of survival in an active shooter event.
In a collaboration with Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), a program started in 1999 to train Law enforcement on what to do in shooting situations, CRASE arose out of Texas State University and travels across the country to educate civilians.
Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Stephen Hallman and Sgt. Ted Antal have trained nearly 3,500 people through CRASE and they plan to continue training civilians to keep the community safe.
“We already have a plan…I’m talking about giving you something extra that goes onto that plan without any major meetings that have to occur or walking through a bureaucratic system or getting approval,” Hallman said. “This is things that you can apply here and now to keep you safe which is the whole goal of this training.”
The training first took a closer look at the three main stages people go through when in a high-risk situation.
The first stage: denial.
People often base their thoughts off of prior situations, so when things out of the ordinary occur they attempt to rationalize them. Officer Hallman explains that this is the first fault people make that delays reaction time.
“We don’t want to delay, we want to investigate what is going on to determine whether or not there is actually a threat,” Officer Hallman said.
The second stage: Deliberation.
Within this stage the body’s innate stress response begins to kick in.
Cognitive abilities decrease.
In this stage the officers emphasize the importance in taking counter measures and attempting to remain calm.
“Anytime you’re in an emergency you must verbalize ‘calm down,’ it is vital,” Hallman said. “It is restoring hope to the situation. People’s understanding of hope varies at different levels but it is very important.”
Staying calm is not as easy as it sounds, and CRASE presented some tactics one should use when in such circumstances.
“Combat breathing, or tactically breathing…It’s just slow controlled breathing to retake control of that sympathetic nervous system, and let the parasympathetic system take back over – that calming-down relaxing moment that you need.”
The final stage is the decisive moment.
To take action, or to not.
Sgt. Ted Antal revealed that the most important method to survival is taking action.
“You have to have the will to fight,” Antal Said. “What are you fighting for? What motivates you? Get angry.”
These high-risk situations where life is at stake can be extremely scary, but the training pushes civilians to take that fear and put it into action.
“Fear is important,” Antal said. “We have to acknowledge its presence but we can’t let it take over.”
Various members of SU’s staff and faculty attended the training as well as several students.
SU senior Carrie Harlow attended the event and expressed gratitude for the officers coming out to give the training. She thought that the event was very necessary in the element that these acts of violence are becoming more prevalent.
“I like how they mentioned that we have to get out of the mindset that it won’t happen here,” Harlow said. “It’s becoming more common unfortunately, and it’s important that people know what to do and how to react.”
Safaa Said, who works for SU’s Instructional Design and Delivery Office, found the training to be very eye-opening and important. She said she took a lot away from the tips the officers’ provided for how to react.
“I think this kind of training is very important because we hear in the news every day that something bad has happened, and we need to learn how to deal with the situation,” Said said. “And I learned a very important thing to do is to vocalize to myself ‘keep calm, calm down, so you can react better.”
The officers encouraged those in attendance of the meeting to share the tactics that they’ve learned with others to continue the awareness and survival tactics that are necessary in violent events.
“Why we believe the civilian response to active shooter events training is so important is because at any place, at any time, bad things can happen to us, and understanding the psychology of being prepared for an event and knowing the steps and the things we can do to not be passive for an event are vital to surviving all these instances,” Hallman said. “There are things we can do to improve our chances of surviving.”
By CAROLINE STREETT
Featured photo: CRASE training (Caroline Streett image).