Last week I attended Penn State’s training program on how to deal with an “Active Shooter” scenario on campus.  Since Penn State is not a “gun-friendly” environment, I was interested in hearing their recommended approach on how to protect yourself in this worst case situation. The program consisted of a PowerPoint and video presented by a plainclothes PSU officer.  The 7 minute video was well done, a dramatization filmed on campus in the new Business Building.  

Their plan is called “The Five Outs”.  It consists of:

Let’s look at each one individually.
1. GET OUT -“get yourself and others out of the area to somewhere safe”.  This makes sense. If you can identify that something has gone wrong and a bad situation is happening, don’t dally, get the heck out and as far away as you can. Distance is your friend.  Get behind cover (i.e. something solid that will stop a bullet) if possible, not just concealment (something that hides you from sight, but isn’t solid enough to stop a round). 
2. CALL OUT“Call 911.  Give details on your location and what you saw or heard.”  Pretty
straightforward.  Don’t assume someone else has called. Any details from multiple calls as the situation unfolds could be helpful in coordinating the response teams.  
3. HIDE OUT – “If you can’t get out, turn out the lights, hide until help arrives.”  May be your only option depending on proximity of shooter.  I’d re-order this step after the next one.

 4. KEEP OUT – “Lock, block, or barricade the door.  Be prepared to act.”  Hopefully you have a door that locks.  Hopefully you have a solid door and/or an office that doesn’t have windows.  Yeah, I know, people love windows and the light and open feel.  But it’s very exposed from a security perspective.  If your door doesn’t lock, what can you use to block it?  In the video it shows them using a 3-ring binder to shove under the door.  The officer acknowledged that it probably wasn’t the best choice.  Here’s where I thought they had an opportunity to educate and provide/demonstrate suggested solutions.  For example, can you add a
Kick down Door Stop on the inside of your door?  What, Physical Plant  won’t approve or install it?  Screw that, who’s responsible for your safety?  Install it yourself and don’t tell anyone.  They won’t notice and if they do, deal with it. Ask forgiveness, not permission.  How about a Wedged Door stop?  Not great, but it still might slow someone down.  Shooters know that they only have a limited amount of time until the Response Team arrives, and if they want to inflict maximum damage for a bigger headline they
need to move quickly.  As seen in the Newtown tragedy, if the shooter thinks that a space is unoccupied, they move on looking for other targets.  How about a “
Big Jammer Door Brace”?  Something like this is portable, can be stored behind your door or behind a shelf and slipped into place easily.  It’s also something great to have at home or in an apartment.  
5. TAKE OUT – “As a last resort, take out the shooter however you can.”  If it comes down to it, fight for your life.  If you are with a group, rally them to overwhelm the attacker.  Obviously this would be more effective if you had your own firearm.   But Penn State does not allow concealed carry on campus, so if you are law-abiding and compliant, you won’t have a firearm.  What else can you use?  Hopefully you have other parts of the force continuum at your disposal, for example, pepper spray, collapsible baton, and folding knife.  Any/all of these can be discreetly kept in your desk. Too scary for you or your officemates? How about a claw hammer and big-ass screwdriver?  “Ya know, I always
seem to be hanging pictures or fixing chairs in my office and I keep forgetting to take these tools home.”  The hammer can also be used to break some windows depending on the thickness/style of glass (if you have a first floor office and can use that for an exit  point).  How about a Louisville Slugger?  I attended a conference in Louisville and everyone received a bat with their name inscribed. I kept it in my office for years, not because it was especially meaningful, but because it was easily explained (“Yeah, I’m a huge baseball fan
and this is part of my memorabilia display”) and I could use it to whack the crap out of someone if I had to.  How about a fire extinguisher?  Not only is it a good idea to have one around for obvious reasons, it’s a great improvised weapon.  You can use it to spray on someone to blind/distract, and then use it as an impact weapon.  What about heavy brass
candlesticks?   Even if you aren’t allowed to burn candles, it could still be decorative (and useful). Make a mini-shrine to Manti Teo’s fake girlfriend if you have to.  The point is, be creative.  Even in the most non-permissive environments there are things that can be stored or displayed in your office that could act as a last-ditch weapon if needed.  
I appreciate Penn State’s honest efforts at addressing this topic and offering this training. However, I disagree with their stance and policies regarding concealed carry.  The officer presenting the training told us that 37% of Active Shooter scenarios happen at the workplace and 17% happen in Academic environments.  They asked the class why they thought that was true. There were several ideas, like stress, a poor economy, mental
illness. I offered “Do you think it’s because they are both gun-free zones with lots of targets?” That went over like a belch in church.  At first total silence, then the officer sputtered a little bit and replied “well, there are probably people carrying concealed there even if they’re not supposed to, so it’s probably not really gun-free zones.” Huh?  Acknowledging that people ignore the signs/rules so it’s really not gun-free, so that’s not really a reason why something might happen there? With logic like that, we could all run for President (and probably win).  

The other suggestion I would make is that if the University recommendation is to get out and/or hide and wait for the Response Teams to show up, then you should try to build confidence in the officers and the response teams.  Don’t send a less-than-fit, unarmed officer in plain clothes to give the presentation.   This particular content provider had no Command Presence and didn’t really instill confidence that “Yeah, these people are in control and are the type that I want covering my back or coming to save me from a nasty situation.”  In my opinion it was a lost opportunity to build a credible presence and
comfort level in the University’s preparedness program.

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