Early Police Department Chief David Mercer gave area residents and business owners a lesson on how to stay alive in the event of a workplace shooting.
While the guest speaker of this month’s Early Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn, Mercer outlined the three steps of the A.D.D. system and gave business owners an idea of what to look out for in order to prevent a shooting from taking place.
“It’s a common thought for a lot of people, it’s not going to happen here,” Mercer said. “It’s a small town with small companies. It’s not going to happen. The reality is that is exactly what other people said in places where it has happened.”
During his presentation, Mercer gave attendees a brief rundown of the active shooter courses his officers teach throughout the year. Mercer said the first step is to identify any potential threat and contact area law enforcement before an act of violence takes place.
“Workplace violence, and a lot of times school violence, we go back and start investigating and we always see signs of it building up,” Mercer said. “Whether it’s on social media or statements he made to coworkers or other students, there are always signs. You can put the track together … He is building his way up to it. It’s a very common thing on social media. People are so hooked on that 99 percent of them have all but put it in words. They all but say ‘I’m going to shoot this person.’ It all built up in various statements. Be aware of that kind of stuff.”
Should an active shooter arrive at a workplace or school, Mercer recommended attendees follow the A.D.D. system – avoid, deny, defend – even if he or she has a conceal carry license.
“We teach, if at all possible, get out,” Mercer said. “If you have a way to safely get out through an exit, then do that and call 9-11. A lot of people are concerned with calling 9-11 in the heat of the moment – right then. Police can’t come through the phone and help you out. Make sure you’re safe, then call 9-11. Get yourself to a point where you can call.”
The second step of the A.D.D. system is deny, meaning block the shooter’s access victims such as locking a door or any other means closing off access to victims. Mercer said one commonality of all mass shooters is the gunman’s inability to negotiate a locked door.
“Lock the door, barricade the door, even if it doesn’t lock barricade it,” Mercer said. “He has to work harder to get through. All of the previous shootings in the past have proven the shooter does not spend a lot of time trying to get into a room. It’s just like car burglars … It’s the same thing with a shooter. A shooter will go through and try a door, but they never try to break-in a door or shoot their way in.
“As far as Sandy Hook, yeah he shot his way through some glass windows. As far as getting in a locked door none of the shooters have tried it. Lock the door, barricade it and get out of view.”
If leaving the scene and closing off access does not work, Mercer said the final step is defend. While a firearm is the best option, Mercer said any hard object will work, however, he said to using aerosols and sprays – such as a fire extinguisher – because it the person defending from the attack is often sprayed as well. He added to not try and reason with the shooter, play dead or hide because those methods are rarely successful.
“There are all kinds of things that can be used as a weapon in your office,” Mercer said. “Don’t wait to think about these things. Run them through your mind. In the classes we teach prepping your mind for something like this and how we teach police officers
Mercer said if a shooter is fended off not to chase or attempt to apprehend the shooter because of all the confusion. If order to avoid an accidental shooting in the confusion, Mercer recommended anyone still carrying a firearm once police arrive to immediately put it down.
“We do not recommend you go and chase the shooter because in everybody else’s eyes, they’re thinking you’re the shooter,” Mercer said. “If there are three or four people in the office and you’re all carrying and going out to find the shooter and you all see each other, nobody knows who is who. It’s the same thing for police. They come in and are looking for the guy with the gun.”
Mercer said his department will begin holding active shooter courses in the near future and believes it’s a worthwhile class for any workplace, church or civic group.
“We’ll put the active shooter class on for the public again before long,” Mercer said. “It’s a little over an hour long. It’s a good little class that teaches some good little things in it.”