The mantra for dealing with an active shooter has long been “run, hide and fight” — a response one expert says needs to change. Expert Disputes Common Response to Active Shooter.
The approach of run if you can, hide if you can’t run, and fight if you must is a highly flawed process to follow in the midst of terror, said Chris Grollnek, one of the top nationally-recognized active shooter and domestic terrorism prevention experts for critical incident response.
“Why would you think hiding under a desk would be a good idea?” Grollneck said. “If I told you there was a bomb, you would run. It’s the same principle.”
In the face of an active shooter situation, Grollnek said people need to be trained instead to evade, evacuate and engage as a last resort.
Grollnek, who’s spent nearly a decade researching active shooter incidents since being involved in one himself at the McKinney Police Department in 2010, said evidence shows running works, while hiding doesn’t.
“If we don’t install the message of ‘get out’ into everybody,” Grollneck said, the next question has to be, “What are your chances of surviving if you’re hiding?
“If you’re on aisle six, hiding behind toilet paper and the (active shooter) sees your foot, well, bullets go through paper.”
The nightmare of coming face-to-face with an active shooter became real Tuesday morning when Mohammad Moghaddam, 54, walked into Walmart, 4215 Canyon Drive, and fired his gun once before taking the store manager and another employee hostage. Whether Moghaddam, also an employee, ever had the thought to open fire on the crowd is unknown.
City officials said his actions were not considered a terroristic threat and instead were summed up as workplace violence following a dispute over a promotion.
Grollnek said while it is important for businesses such as Walmart to have a comprehensive protocol for active shooters, it’s also crucial for the general public to be prepared.
In any situtation, Grollnek said people should know where the exits are, take an assessment of their chances for escape and, if traveling with others, discuss what to do in case of an emergency.
When escaping from a building, Grollnek suggests running, using a cover and throwing things in the air to distract the shooter.
He also said it’s important to understand that the person with the gun has a strategy.
“They have a plan,” he said. “You just have to be smarter than their plan.”
By national average, active shooter events tend to end in seven minutes. Typically it takes law enforcement 17 minutes to respond to the scene of a shooting and develop a course of action.
The exact timeline of Tuesday’s incident at Walmart is not yet fully known. The initial 911 call was received about 11:06 a.m. Fire marshals and police officers arrived in less than five minutes. After the SWAT team entered the building, the incident ended about an hour and 15 minutes after the initial call.
Among events Grollnek has studied, the average time responders reach a first victim, alive or dead, is 23 minutes.
“Given those statistics, we must reach further to provide common sense training to every employee and beyond,” he said.
Walmart did not respond to an email request Wednesday about its policies and procedures in the case of an active shooter inside a store.
An official spokesperson released the following statement Tuesday: “As soon as we heard about the situation at our store in Amarillo, Texas, we acted immediately. All customers and our two associates who were held hostage are safe.”
The bottom line, Grollnek said, is that people need to realize we live in a different world today.
According to federal statistics, there has been an uptick in violent workplace incidents.
From 2006 to 2010, the last year for which final data are available, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported an average of 551 workers per year killed as a result of work-related homicides. Of the 518 in 2010, 77 were multiple-fatality incidents.
“We must ask ourselves, ‘What if another one happens tomorrow?’” Grollnek said.
Mohammad Moghaddam’s mugshot was taken from a 2003 driver’s license application.