Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apparently, I am genetically selected to take the bullet when and if it comes to that

In the wake of the September 28th near-miss with a gunman at the very large library where I'm officed (at a very large university), the campus police have been seriously reviewing the reaction of students, staff, faculty, themselves, Austin PD, etc...  And they are making definite improvements.

So, today the Campus PD offered up a training session in my building to discuss the "Active Shooter" situation.  Basically it boils down to three options:

Figure out if you can get away
  1. if you can, do so
  2. if you can't, hide, try to secure the door and spread out
  3. if the gunman finds you, arm yourself with whatever is handy
I know this sounds pretty wacky, but here's the thing:  I think we all watch a lot of movies and we hope that we see the heroes get out of the scenario alive.  Everyone else who didn't?  A sad case, but... as we're the heroes in our own minds, we figure we'll pull through one way or another.

People asked a lot of questions, and you sort of were able to gather from the discussion who you did and did not want around you should an emergency situation arise again. 

The bottom line is that the cops don't know any tricks other than "use common sense", and they'll tell you that.*  There's no magic movie-hero secret to pulling through this thing.  The cops themselves have changed their tactics after Columbine (they don't set up perimeters anymore, they go in), and 9/11 taught all of us that we may be responsible for ourselves and others, thus #3 above.  And what they were really asking was that we think of a few plans, which...  may have been a bit much for a few in the room.

At some point we got down to the whole "you're trapped, now what?" scenario, and the officer was frank about assigning roles and finding heavy and solid items to throw at a gunman to at least slow them down.  I am a fairly large guy.  6'5" and fairly broad of shoulder.  And despite the fact I was kind of hiding in the back of the room of 50 people, the PD pointed me out and basically said "and you're going to want to assign this guy here...  he's going to have to go after the shooter if he enters the room."

Apparently being the largest and slowest moving target in the room just got me put on human shield duty for the library.  Sweet.

I don't know what this guy thought when he looked at me, but guns just really, really change the playing field.  When I get shot, I assume I will still totally bleed all over the place.  I am in no rush to ruin any of my t-shirts or jeans.  I also will die remarkably similarly to smaller people but require a 3XLT coffin.

I get it, I get it.  When we all go caveman, Largest Man must fight Fang Tiger when it comes to stalk the tribe.  And I'm also going to be able to hold the door closed a lot more convincingly than some of the dainty people in cataloging.  But don't expect me to get all enthused.  There will be no boons bestowed upon Largest Man for jumping Scary Man with Boom Stick. 

Straight up, I'm a pacifist because I can afford to be one.  I'm a 21st Century American who considers a physical threat to be a needle when they draw blood.  I'm a soft, pink desk-jockey who depends on geography, technology and economy to keep me from worrying about bandits, hooligans or roving bands of Mad Max bad guys.  I am not sure I'm ready to have a room full of terrified librarians hiding under desks somewhere down the road looking at me and saying "the cop said you had to fight the guy with the gun.  Go, Big Man."**

Good golly, how this "active shooter" business is messy.  But the messiest part is that the PD basically acknowledged that they know most people are going to make bad choices.  And given what I know of students, its kind of scary to consider what could go wrong (let's just say they don't take fire drills super seriously).

Anyhow, none of us want to think life or death situation when we think about our office. I'd like to think my efforts could save the day, but...  anyway. 

* however, "common sense" is not something you can teach in a 2 hour seminar
** they always call you Big Man, when people are delivering bad news


rhpt said...

For some reason, this made me laugh

"and you're going to want to assign this guy here... he's going to have to go after the shooter if he enters the room."

Fantomenos said...

I guess this is a grass-is-greener sort of deal, because at 5'7", I wish I could be the guy people wanted as a human shield. I mean if you do survive, I kind of think there will be boons bestowed upon Largest Man.

Maybe they should keep an angry bee in an emergency case or something, so you could Ferdinand-out on a shooter...

What do I know, just spit-ballin' here.

Paul Toohey said...

I'm going to go tell everyone I work with that I will be the one hiding in my office if we have an active-shooter situation...or I'll be the guy running...

...I'm no shield...I'm also no hero.

The League said...

Honestly, it made me laugh, too, in an eye-rolling "oh, great. Thanks." sort of way.

I will be sure to send along the "angry bee solution" to the police! It makes as much sense as the "hurl your hot coffee at the shooter" solution that was pitched.

J.S. said...

This is the best post you've had in a long time.
And if you're going to be getting shot a bunch, make sure to at least get up a good head of steam so that your unconscious body might still and on the shooter!

Anonymous said...

What?? That's like the most asinine comment ever. Most shooters employ handguns. Handguns are notoriously inaccurate beyond feet and even then, in most firefights close range with handguns, there are significantly more misses than hits. This is with trained shooters.

So you appoint the largest target to take on the shooter? The real tactic is to pick the fastest, smallest guy to take the attack point and have everyone follow up after to take him out. Sheesh!!

Also, there's something called a Concealed and Carry license in Texas.


The League said...

I don't know what Texas law is at this point, but I believe that you can't carry weapons on campus (we still remember August 1, 1966) with or without Conceal and Carry. I prefer this as a deterrent so police can confiscate and arrest.

And I really, really get queasy thinking about what a shooting gallery it could become if students were carrying weapons on campus. I can't see any way in which, unless we were super lucky, that it wouldn't lead to greater chaos for everyone involved and the police (who are going to kill anyone they see with a gun).

I also don't know much about strategy when it comes to weapons. Nor would I presume to know what a shooter is going to carry (I think the VT shooter had a number of firearms). Nor how to disarm someone, which seems like pretty high level military training.

But, I think that if someone smaller wanted to be the hero of the day, that's fine... but I can see why they'd want the Human Shield between the shooter and everyone else.

Anonymous said...

CCHs are illegal on campus. I was joking a little bit. I'm not a fire breathing NRA type because I do believe in limitations on gun ownership but people always seem to forget the Appalachian School of Law incident where the shooter was subdued by two students who retrieved their CCHs.

I still think it's really weird that you're told by the police that you don't get a vote to decide who to be the human shield.


The League said...

Well, I don't think he was so much assigning it as part of my job duties as he was trying to make a point about different roles and who might be appropriate for the roles. Apparently the students in one of the halls where a 2nd shooter had been rumored were organized by a TA who'd had the training and actually did this. And, yeah, big dudes get door duty.

As per the handguns... I think you'd have to be a crazy (or Jet Li) to think that also having a handgun wouldn't improve your personal chances for success. And in some situations, its going to be helpful, possibly.

In our situation, if you walk through the library there are people in a 360 degree pattern around you at almost all times, and that this guy who entered our building had a modified AR-15 or AK-47, it sort of changes the dynamic. The guy at Appalachian State wasn't on a rampage, so much as after a specific target and had a .38 pistol.

So, you know, its just unpredictable. Not to mention, if a student is motivated and figures he wants to kill several people and knows it means his own death..? I don't like to think about escalation.

Flat out, I'm not carrying a gun. I never will. But if you're in the active shooter situation and the only fact you have is "there is someone with a gun", and suddenly you have multiple people with guns, your situation just got a LOT more confusing.

The cops rely on reports from people, and given how confusing things got at UT with a possible second shooter when there was no second shooter, you can see what would happen if even one in every 50 or 100 students on a campus the size of UT pulled out their 9mm. Suddenly they're shooting each other and the actual gunman is in another part of the building altogether.

Laura said...

I much prefer discussing survival strategy in zombie scenarios.

J.S. said...

I'm also more in favor of discussing zombie scenarios. Incidentally, I think the vote for human shield should really involve a quick calculation on which person in the room has the least to offer to society. Seems much more fair than just basing it on size.