HONOLULU (KHON2) — After a recent shooting at a Texas elementary school shocked the nation, Honolulu police were prompted to inform the public on what to do during mass shooting events.
To enhance situational awareness, the Honolulu Police Department’s Major Events Division regularly gives presentations that cover critical incident situations, upon request.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Lt. Neil Han of the MED gave a condensed version of that presentation to help bring awareness on how to prepare for active shooter incidents.
What is considered an ‘active attack event’?
HPD defined an active attack event as an attempted mass murder occurrence where the intent of the attacker is to engage in killing multiple people in a community.
Data from the FBI revealed that active attack incidents amounted to a total of 316 attacks that happened from 2000 to 2018 in the United States.
The data was based on events where attackers had used either guns, knives or vehicles to attempt mass murder.
Of the 316 events calculated, about 50% of that occurred in commercial locations and around 24% happened in school areas.
Active attack events are considered unpredictable because the suspect has no profile during the event.
“There is no current profile regarding (attackers) that’s why it’s hard to predict when — where — when it’s going to happen,” said Han.
How to respond to an active shooting event?
While active attack events have occured with attackers using guns, knives or vehicles, HPD’s presentation’s main focus was the response to an active shooting event.
According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes before law enforcement arrives on the scene. Within that time individuals are forced to prepare both mentally and physically.
HPD said if you think an active shooting event is happening, act immediately by remembering three important tactics – ‘Avoid, Deny and Defend.’
“If the victim can do something to protect themselves, whether it’s run, hide or fight or whatever it may be — do it. You could save your own life,” said Han.
Avoid = Run
HPD said the first phase in responding to an active shooting event is to avoid the situation by running away and leaving as soon as possible.
Knowing at least two exits in any facility you visit will prepare you in getting away from the situation of an active shooter event.
When it’s safe to do so, immediately call 911 and law enforcement will respond to take down the attacker.
Having law enforcement on the scene will prompt the attention of the attacker to turn away from civilians.
Deny = Hide
If you can’t run from the situation, HPD said the next step is to deny or hide.
When hiding from an attacker, people should lock the doors, turn off lights and stay out of sight.
Hiding is a step that can help keep you, keeping away from the suspect’s attention.
HPD added that if you can, you should not only lock doors but actively barricade doors to further protect yourself from the suspect.
“Whether it be putting tables, podiums whatever it is, keep stacking it up,” Han explained.
Even while you are in the deny phase you should continue to think of alternate exits.
Don’t forget to turn off your phones or any electronics.
Defend = Fight
If you come to a situation where it is time to fight or defend yourself, HPD explained the first thing to think of is your position.
Your position should be in an area where you can readily attack the suspect when they come to your area.
When you come in contact with the shooter, Han said to “grab the (shooter’s) gun, grab a hold of it – and fight like there’s no tomorrow.”
Use whatever you can to neutralize the attacker to protect yourself and others, said HPD.
While the situation at hand is dangerous and frightening, HPD said it’s important to shift your mindset away from fear and focus on neutralizing the suspect.
In the event of an active attack event, officials stated you have the right to protect yourself. Do not fight fairly but fight to survive.
When law enforcement arrives
During active shooting events, law enforcement often have little information on who is involved and who is not. HPD said it’s important at this time to cooperate with the police and follow their commands.
According to statistics, the quicker law enforcement is on the scene the quicker the situation can be stopped.
Law enforcement are trained to focus on three things during the events of active shooting: stop the killing, stop the dying and evacuate the injured.
Officers’ initial response to an area of mass killing is to ‘stop the killing’ from happening or continuing. At that time the injured may need help but law enforcement have been trained to first focus on neutralizing the attacker.
“They’re not worried about anything else, there are shots being fired. They have to stop the killing,” stated Han.
The next phase in law enforcement’s response is to ‘stop the dying’ by providing treatment to the injured on the scene before victims can be transferred to a higher level of care.
In the process of ‘evacuate the injured’, law enforcement’s goal is to get victims to a hospital as soon as possible.
According to HPD, for the past four years the police department, Honolulu EMS, fire personnel and other law enforcement agencies have done cross-training together to better respond to active shooting events.
Resources are provided in the Avoid, Deny and Defend tactic were developed by the ALERRT Center at Texas State University.
People can request to have a more in detail and full-length presentation on the HPD’s Active Shooter Presentations by clicking here.
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The HPD can also assist in raising awareness of active shooters’ possible characteristics and behaviors that may be pre-incident indicators before an attempt of mass murder.