From a church Bible study to a well-armed military installation, nowhere is safe from the threat of a mass shooting, recent events have shown.
In the United States, 385 people have been killed in mass shootings in the last decade; 370 have been injured.
It’s enough to make even the most secure, comfortable community want to take action to protect themselves. On Thursday night, it was the Dunes community.
“You need to fight like your life depends on it because it does,” Lt. Eric Di Lorenzo of the Myrtle Beach Police Department told a ball room full of residents at The Dunes Golf & Beach Resort in a crash course for civilians on how to survive an active shooter event Thursday night.
Di Lorenzo told the crowd to forget the old saying of “run, hide, fight” and instead remember to “avoid, deny and defend.” He offered tips similar to the call to run or fight, but said hiding in wait for a bullet should never be an option.
The first few minutes after a gunman starts firing will be the most critical. Survival depends on what you do.
The average response time for the first two officers to arrive on the scene of an active shooting is three minutes, Di Lorenzo said. “He’s got less than three minutes before we show and then guess what? It’s game over.”
The 1999 shooting massacre at Columbine High School perpetrated by two students, who killed 13 and wounded more than 20 others before turning guns on themselves, changed the way police respond. Instead of waiting outside for nearly four hours for a SWAT team, police are going in and their first priority - battling their instincts to help the wounded - is to stop the threat, he said.
“The person has entered into a location armed with one intent and that is to ... do it better than the guy before him,” Di Lorenzo said. “The active shooter wants more notoriety than the guy before him.”
The shooter is after a higher body count, but police say you need to be after survival. The death toll in an active shooter incident, depends on two key elements: how fast police can get into the scene to disable the shooter and how the people at the scene have reacted to the shooter.
Di Lorenzo and MBPD offered the following tips to help civilians survive:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind. Know the best way to escape a room, building and location should an active shooter arrive and keep those exit routes in mind.
- Leave your belongings behind.
- Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
- Help others escape, if possible.
- Do not attempt to move the wounded.
- Prevent others from entering an area where the active shooter may be, if possible.
- Call 911 when you are safe.
“We want you to be aware of your surroundings,” Di Lorenzo said. “Escape is the best option.”
Di Lorenzo said that if escape is not possible, people need to deny the shooter access to more victims.
- Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view.
- Lock the door or block the entry to your hiding place.
- Take everything inside the room and pile it in front of the threshold or doorway and any other entry point into the room.
- Use filing cabinets, desks, bookshelves (anything heavy) to barricade a door if it opens inward. Think heavier and more... more is better.
- Silence your cellphone (including vibrate mode) and remain quiet.
- Wedge the door - placing a doorstop backwards underneath the door or wrapping a cord or belt around door handles can buy you some time by making it harder for the shooter to get into the room. And remember the shooter is likely in the mindset of creating the most casualties in the shortest amount of time (before police arrive).
- Try to stay on the hinge side of the door as the perpetrator tries to breach the door. This will force him to lead with a body part or weapon which can be attacked and potentially hide you from view.
- Fight as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.
- Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
- Act with as much physical aggression as possible. You’re life is on the line.
- Assuming you are not armed with a firearm, consider utilizing improvised weapons. In every room, there are improved weapons that could be used for defense (like hot coffee, belts, scissors, books, etc.)
- Commit to your actions... your life depends on it.
- And remember to have a plan in place for your family. Short code words like “stay” or “go” can help parents convey to children if it’s time to stay close or to run for safety and what they should do if a parent falls behind.
Thursday night was the first of three Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events classes the city of Myrtle Beach and MBPD will be holding. Other classes will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Base Recreation Center, 800 Gabreski Lane, in The Market Common and at 6 p.m. on Jan. 26 at the Mary C. Canty Recreation Center, 971 Canal St.
For more information about the classes, call Henry Bresadola at 843-918-1806 at the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
The decade’s deadliest U.S. mass shootings
49 killed, 53 injured - Pulse nightclub, Orlando, Fla., June 12, 2016
32 killed, 17 injured - Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., April 16, 2007
26 killed, 2 injured - Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012
14 killed, 21 injured - Inland Regional Center, San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, 2015
13 killed, 32 injured - Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 5, 2009
13 killed, 4 injured - American Civic Association, an immigration services center, Binghamton, NY, 2009
12 killed, 70 injured - Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater, Aurora, Col., July 19, 2012
12 killed, 8 injured - Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2013
9 killed, 9 injured - Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1, 2015
9 killed, 1 injured - Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, S.C., June 17, 2015