JBER to conduct active-shooter drill|
Posted 1/22/2015 Updated 1/29/2015
by Chris McCann
JBER Public Affairs
1/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- While carrying privately owned firearms on a federal installation is illegal, shootings still occur. From the notorious 1995 attack by William Kreutzer Jr. at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the Jan. 6 attack at the El Paso Veterans Affairs hospital at Fort Bliss, Texas, shooting incidents can and do happen.
Just as fire drills are something even kindergarten students become familiar with, quick and proper response to shooting drills should become ingrained.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will conduct an "active shooter" drill Thursday, Jan. 29, to evaluate JBER personnel on their reaction.
The "Giant Voice" loudspeakers will announce the lockdown, as will phone calls, texts and computer pop-up notifications through AtHoc.
Often, people complain they can't hear or can't understand announcements over the Giant Voice, but Stephen Spealman of the JBER Inspector General Office, who plans emergency exercises, said the acoustics in buildings vary so much, the loudspeakers are primarily designed for those outside, such as on the flightline. Even weather conditions affect whether the sound echoes.
If the message is unclear where you are, check other notification methods.
Regardless how you become aware of the lockdown, there are a few simple steps to follow in the case of an active shooter - someone who is moving through an area, actively seeking targets.
"The time to plan is not when you're hearing champagne corks down the hall," Spealman said, clarifying that people often mistake the sound of small-arms fire. "The time to plan is now."
Each office should have a plan - how to escape the building, where to meet up in the event of a shooting incident, and a way to get accountability of all personnel.
Individually, have a plan too - know where the exits are and mentally walk through your responses with different scenarios. With proper planning, an alert will initiate a response you've already thought through.
"Lockdown is a simple way to tell everyone there is an active shooter on the installation," he said. "This should immediately cause you to think about what you should do."
In your building
If the shooter is in your building, you have three choices, Spealman said.
Evacuation is your first - and probably best - choice if you can safely do so.
"Experts say getting away is the safest option," he said. "Generally, once a shooter is in a building, he stays there until he runs out of targets."
Once out, meet up with co-workers, stay alert, and take roll.
"Get accountability, then you can tell the first responders how many people you're missing. But if you aren't checking each morning on who is around, you won't have any idea. Each office is different, but you should have good accountability."
The next option is to hide inside a locked room with something heavy against the door and a desk between you and the door. Turn off the lights, set your cell phone to silent, and be quiet. If you can contact a co-worker to let them know where you are, do so - quietly, then go silent.
"The guy won't shoot you if he doesn't know you're there," he said.
The last resort is to try to incapacitate the shooter. "This is only when all your other options are gone," Spealman said. "He's going to kill you. You can't talk him out of it. You are fighting for your life, so give it everything - no half-measures here."
Anything in the office can be a weapon, he pointed out. The commemorative baseball bat on the wall, a heavy glass paperweight, even a trash can may be used to incapacitate an attacker.
"There are a thousand things you can do," he said.
If you are in the building when first responders show up, Spealman said, follow their instructions precisely.
"Move slowly, keep your hands in sight, and don't bum-rush them," he said. "They will be yelling and telling people to stay down. If you're moving, you're a threat."
The first group of responders will be military police or security forces searching for the shooter - not medics to treat the wounded. Even if it's only an exercise, stay still until those first responders give the word. In an exercise, moulaged personnel will test the police, but they're carefully selected for safety.
"You don't want to be tackled by a cop," Spealman pointed out.
Elsewhere on the installation
If this isn't happening in your building or work areas, you still have some things to do, Spealman said.
First, lock down the building - that's why it's a lockdown - and heighten your awareness of suspicious people in the area. Account for your personnel, and report it up your chain of command, then stay in your area until the all-clear is given. Even after that, stay away from the scene - let the first responders do their jobs without having to worry about you too.
"Does this exercise apply to you? In a word, yes," Spealman said. "What should you do? React. Just as you respond to fire or earthquake drills, respond to this; it's the same as any other safety drill."
The Wing Inspection Team will have personnel throughout the installation to test the response to the shooting scenario - to evaluate specific areas and objectives designed by leadership.
All work areas on JBER are involved in the exercise to some degree, Spealman said. Families in the housing areas should be aware of the exercise, and use the reminder to consider what precautions they might take. The Department of Homeland Security has information on their website regarding active-shooter scenarios which anyone can access at dhs.gov, and the Air Force has a website and an app at beready.af.mil which also offer pointers.
"It's pretty much the same information," Spealman said - escape if you can; hide if you can't escape, and if necessary, incapacitate the attacker.
While exercises may seem commonplace, participation may save your life one day. Plan now for emergencies, Spealman said.
"Don't be paranoid, but be prepared."