Avoid, Deny, Defend: Civilian response to active shooter event on course in Millsboro

Millsboro Police Sgt. Barry Wheatley shows the Norris Hall classroom diagram of fatal and wounded victims in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting massacre.

MILLSBORO – You’re shopping at your neighborhood grocery store when you hear a loud bang in the front of the store.

Could it be a wooden pallet crashing to the floor? Or thunder? Maybe, but then there is another bang, then another and another … followed by screams and chaos.

It’s an active shooter scenario. What do you do?

In order, the recommended response to an active shooter event is Avoid, Deny, Defend.

Millsboro Police Department through community outreach is offering CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events) training that is built on the Avoid, Deny, Defend strategy developed by ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training).

“Avoid at all costs,” said Millsboro Police Sgt. Barry Wheatley. “If you can’t avoid, deny. If you can’t deny, defend yourself. You have every right to protect your life and those around you.”

Sixteen Millsboro residents filled a small conference room in the Millsboro Town Center Wednesday evening for the two-hour instruction presented by Sgt. Wheatley and Lt. Robert Legates. They are Millsboro PD’s certified CRASE instructors.

“I was certainly impressed by it. The two police officers were very thorough,” said Millsboro resident Sharon Schultz. “I learned a lot, I really did. It was educational and thorough.”

To view a video on Avoid, Deny, Defend and CRASE, click here.

Millsboro Police Lt. Robert Legates demonstrates the impact of heart rate and stress in reacting to an active shooter situation. The advice is to stay as calm as possible given the situation, using deep breathing techniques.

Packaged in the session was a PowerPoint punctuated with real and staged videos and photographs of active shooter/mass murder scenarios. The course features nationally recommended “do’s and don’t’s” when confronted by an active shooter event.

“Hopefully, you’ll find it useful. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this information,” said Lt. Legates. “But you’ll feel more prepared, knowing what you’re going to do in an active shooter event.”

In the chaos, fear and trauma during an active shooter event, preparedness and proper response is vital to increasing chances of survival.

Simple things such as: awareness of surroundings, additional exits and other escape routes; ways to barricade a door to deny intruder access; and no-holds-barred defense measures can spell the difference between life and death or serious injury.

Citizens attending Millsboro Police Department’s CRASE training stare down the barrel of a gun in the video presentation.

‘The point we are trying to get across is what you do matters. Every action you take is going to matter,” said Sgt. Wheatley. “It’s pretty simple. Can you avoid? Yes. If no, then run. If you can’t get out deny access to wherever you are. Shore up the door. Barricade the door. If all else fails defend yourself. You have the legal right to defend yourself. Delaware law, federal law, if there is an imminent attack on you with serious physical injury or death impending because this guy is shooting chunks of metal at you through a gun, you have the legal right to defend yourself.”

Common things such as scissors, pens, pencils, laptops, fire extinguishers, etc. can be used as makeshift weapons. Defense actions should target vulnerable areas of the shooter’s body – eyes, ears and groin – as well as attacking and neutralizing the weapon.

Lessons have been learned through past deadly mass shootings.

Case in point: the April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in which a lone gunman shot 49 people, killing 32.

The Virginia Tech Case Study revealed several different response options. “Different rooms did different things, and the different things that they did contributed to the casualty rates and survival rates in the room,” said Sgt. Wheatley.

In one classroom, the teacher (a survivor of the Holocaust) briefly held back the door and ordered students to jump from second-floor windows. The teacher and one student were ultimately killed but 10 students survived by jumping.

In another classroom, students laid on the floor with feet pressed against the door, preventing shooter access, Sgt. Wheatley said.

However, in other classrooms, non-barricaded doors opened the door to uncontested shooting, resulting in most of the fatalities. One student who opted to “play dead” was shot three times but survived.

“We talked about learning from the past,” said Sgt. Wheatley. “We want to use what happened and remember them, almost honoring them to move forward and protect people.”

Prioritized police arrival initiatives are: 1) stop the killing; 2) stop the dying; 3) evacuate the injured.

“We’ve got to go in and stop the killing. That’s our mission when we show up, in that order,” said Sgt. Wheatley.

Innocent bystanders caught in a mass shooting event are reminded they may initially be viewed by first-responders as “suspects” and must adhere to law enforcement directives: Follow commands, show your palms and do not move.

In a related effort, there is growing push for basic first-aid instruction, including Take 10 CPR and Stop the Bleed initiatives for people of all ages. Sgt. Wheatley said studies have determined that administering first-aid in a traumatic scenario actually “helps with the healing process because you did something. You are empowered. You did something. You barricaded the door. Yeah, some things went bad and he fired some rounds out. Billy got hit over here. But when it was over, I helped Billy; I helped put a tourniquet on.”

The July 11 CRASE course was the second of what Millsboro police hope will be many civilian instruction sessions.

“Our hope is that more and more people hear about it and we can do large classes. We have the facilities here, and I’m sure other places in town would offer their facilities,” said Lt. Legates. “The thought process is the more people we can get this nationally-recognized model out to, the better off we all are.”

“Any feedback that you have by all means please give it to us … good or bad,” Sgt. Wheatley said. “Our presentation, we can tweak it here or there.”

Information on future CRASE courses will be posted on the Millsboro Police Department Facebook page.

For additional information, contact Millsboro Police Department at 934-8174 or visit the department website: www.millsboropd.com.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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