The 9/11 terror attack changed the way Americans think about and law enforcement / the feds treat hijacked airlines, and San Bernardino and Paris are changing the way that Americans think about “active shooter” situations in the gun-free zones in which they tend to occur.

Previously, office workers were taught to hunker down and hide (under a desk, for example) if they could not get away from the building.  This is a bad plan.  Now, however, “active shooter training” for office workers does not recommend hiding, which was often in plain sight; instead, the recommendation is to fight back—with books and other objects that can be used to “distract” a terrorist or assailant.

The Washington Post reports:

Spooked by a year of high-profile rampages, hundreds of companies and organizations like NeighborWorks are racing to train their workers how to react to a shooter in their workplaces. And after decades of telling employees to lock down and shelter in place, they are teaching them to fight back if evacuating is not an option.

The idea: Work as a team to disrupt and confuse shooters, opening up a split second to take them down.

The paradigm shift in response — from passive to active — has been endorsed and promoted by the Department of Homeland Security. Last month, it recommended that federal workplaces adopt the training program “Run, Hide, Fight” . . . .

At NeighborWorks, almost three dozen employees were taught to throw things at a shooter — chairs, books, purses, pens, phones, anything — and swarm. Those items don’t seem all that threatening compared with an AR-15, but that’s not the point.

“If you can move him from offense to defense, you have changed the outcome of the event,” said Greg Crane, a former SWAT officer whose company, the ALICE Training Institute, trained workers at NeighborWorks as well as at Facebook and Apple. “He’s thinking about what you are doing to him, not what he’s doing to you. Mentally, he’s going through a whole different process.”

Because most shooting rampages end before the police arrive, training companies are adjusting accordingly.

“If you’re passive in the face of extreme violence,” Crane said, “you’re going to get hurt.”

The training companies aren’t teaching fighting as the centerpiece of an active shooter response. Getting out — not locking down — is the first option. (Many of the students killed at Columbine High School in 1999 were hiding in the library.)

Barricading in a room is another option. ALICE and others show workers how to stack chairs, desks and other office items in front of doors, and then use belts and computer cords to secure hinges and doorknobs.

But in many cases, those options won’t work, and battling back becomes the last best hope. To convince workers that’s their best option, Zimmerman runs a simulation with a shooter entering a room and workers instructed to respond the way their brain is essentially programmed — to hide from danger, ducking behind desks or tables.

Jazz Shaw over at HotAir points out that tossing a book at an armed assailant may not be the best idea.

Well… okay. I suppose something may, in some cases, be better than nothing. But this approach seems to ignore some fundamental realities. One hour of training for your average data entry clerk probably isn’t going to get her ready to charge a guy holding a .357 magnum armed only with the latest edition of Spreadsheets for Dummies. The majority of untrained civilians are going to freeze up anyway, and unless you happen upon a truly unusual group you’re unlikely to get a large bunch of people who are all going to instinctively swarm towards the guy with the gun. If only one or two wind up doing it, they’ll simply be the first ones shot.

He has a point, a couple of points.  It does seem that it would be better to do something than to cower in place and await your “turn” to be slaughtered, and . . . is this really such a good idea for the general public?  Swarming is only as good as the number of the swarm and there must be some threat assessment involved (what weapon is the shooter or terrorist using? how many shooters/terrorists are there?  where are they located? how far away are you/the people swarming? and on and on.).  There are, however, opportunities for action, such as when a lone gunman stops to reload his weapon more than a dozen times, as did the Virginia Tech shooter.

Unarmed people have taken out potential shooters and terrorists (the thwarted Paris train terror attack comes to mind), but the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun remains a good guy with a gun.  WaPo has the answer, but dismisses it out of hand:

Gun rights proponents have a much different view of what works. They say that if more law-abiding citizens were armed, more mass shootings could be prevented. But most employers ban guns from the workplace, even in states that embrace concealed-carry permits.

That’s something that may need to change, too.

[Featured image via WaPo]


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