POWNAL >> "It could happen here."
That was one message from a recent training session on how to protect yourself during an active shooting or robbery.
About 20 people, a combination of business owners and emergency first responders, turned out to the American Legion Post 90 on Monday for the Workplace Active Shooter Training, sponsored by Pownal Rescue Squad.
"The dynamic of whatever you're used to — it doesn't matter how long you've been doing this — everything changes when you get to an active shooting incident," Amalio Jusino, president of Emergency Response Consulting, LLC, told attendees. Jusino also serves as assistant chief of the North Adams Ambulance Service.
Crystalee O'Dell, head of service with Pownal Rescue Squad, said she wanted to hold the training to educate local businesses and their employees. She said it was prompted by the robbery last month at the Stewarts Shops.
The presentation followed the Department of Homeland Security's national model on how people can increase their chance of surviving either type of incident. It included a five-minute video and a slideshow of federal statistics and specific actions to take in the scenarios, No gun control views were discussed and sensitive details and graphic images were not shown.
Homeland Security defines an active shooter as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."
Jusiano said while there's no way to prevent something like that from happening, "we can enhance our response and change the way we do things."
Jusino explained the Homeland Security model of "run, hide and fight."
"The natural instinct when you hear a gunshot is to hide first," he said. "You need to retrain your brain."
Immediately run in the opposite direction of the gunshot, Jusino said. Leave your cell phone, jacket and anything else behind. Keep both hands open and elevated so law enforcement can tell you are not the shooter.
Then, hide out of view, blocking any entrance into the hiding place. Turn off any lights. Disable your cell phone ringer and vibrate-mode.
Fighting, Jusino said, should be a last resort. He said to do anything you can to incapacitate the killer by throwing things, punching or hitting them.
While an active shooter often wants revenge, a robber often wants money.
In the event of a robbery, Jusino said to do nothing that would jeopardize one's safety.
"There's nothing in that store, in your home, or in your place of work that's more important than you," he said.
He advised employees should cooperate by giving the individual exactly what they want. Employees should be told to treat weapons as real and loaded, even if they are out of view; not make loud noises; and when the individual leaves, tell customers they need to immediately leave because there was a robbery. Employees should preserve evidence by not touching anything and should call 911 and should not call their boss, other employees or family members, he said.
Employers were encouraged to have code-words for certain incidents, planned escape routes, and a chart of automobile logos for identifying cars.
For either scenario, Jusino said to take note of someone's height, possibly using an exit door frame for reference, as well as their clothes, facial features, hair, etc.
"Be the best witness you can be," he said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979