By LOU WILIN
In a sign of dark times, Findlay manufacturers were encouraged Thursday to get employees trained to deal with active shooters.
The chances of an active shooter incident involving deaths and injuries in a given place is still statistically low. But such incidents have been occurring more frequently nationwide in recent years.
Representatives of local manufacturers attended a panel discussion in Findlay offering tips about how to deal with active shooters. The event was sponsored by Gilmore Jasion Mahler accounting firm.
The main takeaway for employers is to seek companywide training from a local law enforcement agency or a private company, said Hancock County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Price.
Being prepared takes time and money, but it is the only way to minimize the violence.
“If you don’t train together, don’t work together, you can’t accomplish the goals you set,” Price said.
The popularly known responses to threatening situations are fight or flight. But there is a third common response which people have to an active shooting situation and it is most frequently a fatal one: freezing.
No one knows how they are going to respond until they are in the situation, Price said. But training and repeated planning and drilling can help people respond better and prevent injury and death.
“We can prevent a lot of it with knowledge that it’s going to happen. Typically we don’t get that knowledge until the first shot is fired,” said Travis Thompson, director of risk management for Hylant in Toledo.
“But if you can come up with a plan by contacting local law enforcement, they’ll come in, they’ll shoot a gun. They’ve got little blank things so you can hear what it sounds like. If any of you have heard gunfire in your workplace before, it sounds completely different than what you think.”
Thompson and Price handled a couple of employer inquiries about their views on people legally carrying concealed weapons. Both gave cautionary responses.
“I’m not opposed to it. But the thing I tell people is, ‘Are you training? Are you ready to handle what that means?’ That’s a big step to make,” Price said. “That’s a huge step.”
Thompson, too, said carrying a firearm would not be wise or realistic for many people.
“It takes a very special person with an awesome responsibility of a deadly weapon in their hand and hours and hours and hours of training,” he said. “Twelve hours of shooting at a piece of paper that does not fire back does not qualify you.”
Fighting back against an active shooter is the last resort. The first course of action should be to run away or evacuate the area. When that is not an option, a person should hide and lock or barricade the door if possible.
When hiding is not an option, the last recourse is to fight back. But rather than try to use a gun, throw something at the assailant, Thompson said.
“When you get ready to throw an object at a human being, they’re going to try to protect themselves,” he said.
Workplaces are full of objects that can become handy missiles. Thompson suggested one he learned from a second-grade teacher: a can of soup or vegetables. He said he even keeps one on his own desk.
“If you can’t run because there’s no clear path to get to safety and you can’t hide because there’s nowhere we can lock and be safe and you’ve got to fight back, an innocuous can of soup,” he said, holding a can for the audience to see.
“This doesn’t look very threatening at my desk. It sits there … What do you have at your desks? What do you have at your places of employment that you can throw and fight back?”
The idea is to disrupt the assailant and to buy time until police arrive.
“That split-second may mean the difference between life and death for you or your co-workers. What do you have available?” Thompson said.
An employer in the audience asked what the signs are of someone who could potentially become a shooter. Ellyn Schmiesing, executive director of Focus, said some common traits have been identified in active shooters:
• They have a history of violence.
• They have a history of alcohol abuse.
• They are people who blame co-workers, supervisors and the company for everything, including their own faults, mistakes and poor performance.
Their frustration mounts and mushrooms into resentments which can lead to bullying co-workers, yelling at a supervisor, hitting inanimate objects, Schmiesing said.
A company that responds can make a difference. But if it does not, things can go from bad to worse to tragic.
“If those (behaviors) are not responded to at an organizational level, then that person becomes comfortable with that. The guilt that may have handled that lessens. So one act becomes two, becomes three, becomes four,” she said.
“And then all of a sudden, there’s that triggering event that creates that large opportunity for a very, very bad situation.”
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin