2017-02-02 / Front Page

Seminar addresses ‘active shooter’ scenario

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

St. Maximilian Kolbe Church on Black Point Road was full of people last Tuesday, but the discussion didn’t center around religion, faith or God, but on a much different topic.

On Jan. 24, the Catholic church hosted an active shooter preparedness workshop, a joint venture between the United States Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Program Directorate Office of Infrastructure Protection and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The all-day workshop, according to a release from the Diocese, was aimed at helping staff and leadership of all religious denominations from all across southern Maine in “developing an emergency action plan, identifying strength and weaknesses in physical security and learning how to prevent possible disruptive incidents by recognizing behavioral indicators.”

The training also covered the “history of significant active shooter incidents through survivor stories and expert perspectives.”

“These workshops will educate participants on incidents of violence that have caused disruptions at churches,” Michael Magalski, the director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland who also had a distinguished career as a member of the United States Secret Service said in the release. “The day will include discussions about working with local emergency response teams, preparing communications protocols, and the best practices for planning and response.”

Daniel Rivera, who leads the active shooter program for the Office of Infrastructure Protection, said the idea is to supplement the emergency plans the churches and other faith-based groups might have in place already.

The Office of Infrastructure Protection, according to its website, “leads and coordinates national programs and policies on critical infrastructure security and resiliency” and conducts facility vulnerability assessments, as well as “provides information on emerging threats and hazards” and offers “tools and training to partners to help them manage the risks to their assets, systems and networks.”

“A lot of churches are in different spots. Some are more prepared than others. We want to see where we can assist helping people put together an emergency plan to stay ahead of the game,” he said.

The department, Rivera said, has been offering the program since 2011 when it held one for members of the chemical industry. Since then the department has held 200 workshops for 20,000 participants, including security directors, CEOS, human resource professionals, law enforcement officers, emergency responders and many others.

“We look for communities that can benefit from the training,” Rivera said.

Aside from the Scarborough session last week, the department held a training session at St. John Church in Bangor and in Dearborn, Michigan. An active shooter training workshop was recently held with the Washington Nationals, a Major League Baseball team in the nation’s capital. Sessions were held with night clubs in the wake of the June 12, 2016 shooting at the Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Florida and with faith organizations in South Carolina after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina the previous June.

“As that increases, wherever we can be most useful is where we continue to be,” Rivera said. “We don’t deliver training to any particular sector. We see active shooting training as something that crosses all of the critical infrastructure sectors.”

Rivera said 75 percent of active shooter incidents take place in venues where people go to be entertained or retail establishments where people shop.

Aside from workshops, the active shooter preparedness program offers individuals a 45-minute Active Shooter: What You Can Do self-study online course, training videos, a webinar and a series of brochures, pamphlets and other materials.

The creation of some materials stem from partnerships between the government and the private sector and from inquiries after active shooter events such as the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007.

“The emphasis is on creating an emergency action plan,” Rivera said. “The idea is to be ready because there is not much you can do during the incident.” The Department of Homeland Security, which was established in November 2002 by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, does, however, note that since “active shooter incidents are often unpredictable and evolve quickly. In the midst of the chaos, anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts.”

Rivera said the workshop, and others resources, teach a run, hide, fight methodology. The department recommends running if there is an accessible route. If not, find a place to hide out of the view of the shooter.

If the individual is nearby, remain quiet and silence noise making devises such as a cell phone. Call 911 as soon as it is safe to do so with a description of the shooter(s), location and weapons.

The last resort and “only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the shooter” by acting aggressively, throwing items, yelling and committing to your actions.

When law enforcement arrives, the department reminds people it is important to remain calm, keep your hand visible, refrain from quick movements or yelling and follow instructions from officers.

“It’s all about trying to stay safe for those five or six minutes that the incident is occurring and how to safely manage yourself in the situation until law enforcement arrives,” Rivera said.

For more information about proper response, visit: https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness. To inquire about an active shooter program in your community, email asworkshop@hq.dhs.gov.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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