McNurlin: Have plan in place for workplace shootingsThe number of active shooter scenarios in workplaces has been on the decline since 2009.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
The number of active shooter scenarios in workplaces has been on the decline since 2009.
“But they are the most publicized and they are the most deadly,” Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin told the Red Wing Manufacturer’s Association during the group’s monthly meeting Monday morning.
McNurlin, along with Chief Deputy Lyle Lorenson, Patrol Sgt. John Blue and Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman advised area businesses on how to prepare for workplace violence and shootings.
The presentation had been scheduled long before Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead. Still, the incident was brought up several times during the course of the meeting.
“Active shooters are goal-driven individuals,” McNurlin said. “They want a body count and they come armed to the teeth.”
To help prepare for shooting incidents, McNurlin said all businesses should have plans in place. That includes creating evacuation strategies, partnering with a nearby business to take in evacuated employees and creating a designated location where law enforcement will be able to meet with witnesses and employees.
“That way all the people we need to talk to are all in one location,” McNurlin said.
Then, educating employees about shooter scenario plans is key, McNurlin said.
“You can’t stick your head in the sand because it’s uncomfortable to talk about,” he said.
McNurlin also suggested assembling a briefcase that can contain all of the building’s floor plans and locations of power boxes. That way, all that information could be handed over to law enforcement as they work through the building.
If an active shooter enters your workplace, there are three things you can do. The first thing is to try to evacuate, McNurlin said.
If that’s not possible, hide. Move large objects in front of doors to barricade yourself in and turn off your cellphone.
“Part of this is to remain quiet,” McNurlin said. “Your cellphone always rings in the wrong time,” McNurlin said.
If you are found, McNurlin said the best thing you can do is fight.
“If your life is literally on the line and you’re going to be shot anyway, what other option do you have but to fight?”
In addition, employees should be taught how 911 works on their phones. For some systems, simply dialing 911 will put callers through to dispatchers. For other systems, callers still need to dial 9 or another button to get an outside line before punching in 911.
If dialing an outside line is necessary, McNurlin suggested employers put stickers directly on phones stating so.
“The 911 call is very important,” he said. “The sooner you can make that call, the better.”
“Talk to your employees to make sure they understand that,” Chief Deputy Lyle Lorenson added.
Listen to responders
Once officers and SWAT teams arrive on scene after a shooting, employees should follow all commands. McNurlin said everyone inside the building will probably be treated as a suspect at first.
“Do what you’re told,” he said.
Another thing that many people don’t understand is that the SWAT team’s job is to stop the shooter, not to help the wounded or injured. “Their first order of business is to stop the carnage,” McNurlin said. “If you’re injured, they’re going to go by you.”
Another complication, Patrol Sgt. Blue said, is that now many shooters are dressing in masks and camouflage, clothing similar to what SWAT team members wear.
Blue said many teachers in the Connecticut shooting wouldn’t open their doors when SWAT team members came to evacuate them, fearing they were the shooter. Instead the teachers asked to see badges or business cards.
“That’s a good response,” Blue said. “They’re still going to have badges or they can slip a business card under the door.”
Lastly, McNurlin said all employees should be encouraged to report any threats, no matter how small they might seem at the time.
“There are warning signs and you can’t ignore them,” he said. “If someone’s willing to make threats you have to take heed of that.”
In addition, there are usually a number of warning signs before a shooting. They include an individual verbally threatening violence, mental health issues and distinct changes to an employee’s behavior.
“We’re not immune to it because we are in Goodhue County,” he said. “All employees have issues. It’s better to address it than ignore it.”