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355th SFS Airmen participate in training exercises
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. - Members of the 355th Security Forces Squadron prepare to clear a room while running a scenario during their active shooter training exercise here Nov. 24. Security forces team members train diligently for any situation they may encounter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Dowdle)
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What to do in an active shooter situation

Posted 2/22/2011   Updated 2/28/2011 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Mike Washburn
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/22/2011 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz.  -- Imagine that you're in your office working, at the dining hall eating dinner or at the gym working out. Suddenly, shots ring out. There is an active shooter in the building. Would you know what to do?

The 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, 1994 shooting Fairchild Air Force Base, and the recent shooting at a Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords event right here in Tucson point to the importance of being prepared to respond appropriately to an active shooter situation.

An active shooter is defined as a person(s) who appears to be actively engaging in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. His/her intent is to harm as many people as possible and their selection of victims are random. An active shooter can do massive amounts of damage in very little time. The shooting in Tucson, Arizona happened very quickly, but the shooter still was able to kill six people and injure 12 including Ms. Giffords.

The 355th Security Forces Squadron has been training for active shooter response since 2006. According to Kevin Johnson, a trainer for the 355th SFS, if an active shooter situation arises, there are steps members of the base populace can take to help protect your life.


· Be aware of the exits. Familiarize yourself with multiple escape plans, not just one. Multiple exits mean you're never trapped in a building without a way out.

· Leave your belongings behind and get out as fast as possible. Your life is more valuable than anything you own, so protect it.

· When you exit, be sure that your hands are visible. In an active shooter situation, law enforcement is going to be the first on the scene. Make it clear to them that you are not carrying a weapon.

Unfortunately, there may be a time when evacuating from a building is not feasible. You may need to hide from the shooter.

Shelter in place

· Hide in an area that is out of the way and view of the shooter.

· Block the entry point into your shelter and lock the doors. Use desks, chairs, furniture or anything you can to secure the door.

When neither evacuating nor hiding out are feasible options and you're face-to-face with your attacker, attempt to defend yourself.

Take action

· Only take action as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.

· Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter.

· Act with physical aggression and throw items at the shooter. Try to attack vital areas of the body such as eyes, throat and groin.

When law enforcement arrives on the scene of an active shooter situation, it is important to do what they say, when they say it. According to Mr. Johnson, you should take the following steps when evacuating from an active shooter situation:

· Remain calm, and follow the law enforcement officials' instructions.

· Immediately raise your hands and spread your fingers.

· Keep your hands visible at all times.

· Avoid making quick movements toward law enforcement officials, such as attempting to hold onto them for safety.

· Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling.

· Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

If by chance you see the shooter, try to remember information that could be useful to law enforcement.

According to Mr. Johnson, witnesses to an active shooter situation should provide law enforcement with the following information:

· Location of the active shooter.

· Number of shooters, if more than one.

· Physical description of shooter.

· Number and type of weapons held by the shooter.

· Number of potential victims at the location.

Pay attention to your fellow Airmen and let someone know if they may have one or more of the following.

"As wingmen, each Airman has a responsibility to be aware of the following signs that may lead someone to take drastic actions against others," Mr. Johnson said.

Recognizing signs of potential workplace violence

· Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

· Unexplained increase in absenteeism and/or vague physical complaints.

· Depression/Withdrawal.

· Increased severe mood swings, and noticeably unstable or emotional responses.

· Increasingly talks of problems at home.

· Increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms, and other dangerous weapons and violent crimes.

"The best way to minimize the loss of life that can occur in an active shooter situation is to be prepared and act calmly," Mr. Johnson said.

The 355th SFS participates in regular active shooter response training exercises and is currently conducting briefings at all units on what to do in an active shooter situation.

"A thorough understanding of what to do in the event of an active shooter scenario by the men and women of Davis Monthan AFB is critical to resolving the situation with minimal injury or loss of life," said Col. David Uselman, 355th Mission Support Group commander. "The best preparation is an understanding of what to do before it occurs. "

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