They wanted an effective, but not traumatic, active shooter training. 

Yuba College nursing students and Adventist Health staff Tuesday learned the Department of Homeland Security-encouraged “run, hide, fight” method of dealing with a shooter. They were taught by HSS inc., a Colorado-based company that offers between 300 and 400 trainings per year for hospitals, businesses and schools all over the country.

While it also offers decontamination and evacuation trainings, its active shooter program is, unfortunately, its most popular, said Christopher Sonne, director of HSS emergency management.

Trainers used the fourth floor of Adventist Health/Rideout hospital for the exercise. First, they were briefed on how to respond to an aggressor if de-escalating a situation doesn’t work. They were told the first choice is to run, if it is safe. In this situation they were restricted to the fourth floor, so they were told the second step: hide. That includes locking and barricading doors, turning out lights and silencing TVs and radios – don’t huddle together, they were told, and don’t come out of hiding until contacted by police. 

Sonne also talked of the possibility of being shot while running away. He said it’s not necessary to run in a zig-zagged pattern, and reiterated that the goal is to put as much space between yourself and the aggressor. And if shot, you may be surprised by how much you can accomplish thanks to adrenaline.

“Just because you may be shot doesn’t mean it’s over for you,” Sonne said. “Continue to remove yourself from the situation.”

The last option is to fight. While that step wasn’t practiced Tuesday, trainers said fighting back can best be done with a diversion, yelling and screaming, throwing items and improvising weapons, and subduing the shooter until they are no longer a threat.

“What we do before law enforcement gets here can be instrumental,” Sonne told participants. “When we look at these incidents from a real-world perspective, over 60 percent of the time, this incident will be over by the time police arrive.”

Then, the participants got a chance to try it out. 

Cliff Bain, director of operations for HHS, played the role of aggressor. He approached participants in the lobby acting like he was upset that his (fictional) brother died by suicide, and demanded to speak to the doctor he believed didn’t treat him well. Participants worked to de-escalate the situation, offering to help him themselves or call the doctor, but to no avail.

At that point, Bain pulled out an airsoft gun that looked like a real handgun, prompting participants to go into run-and-hide mode. After the quick flash of the gun, he put it away as participants locked themselves in patient rooms. They used the hospital beds to barricade the door and lock themselves in a restroom. Some barricades proved impossible for Bain and other trainers to breach; others simply used tray tables and chairs, which were easily moved. But the trainers pushed open the door and explained better ways to barricade.

And once a threat is subdued, the work is done, Sonne said. 

“We don’t pummel someone who is unconscious,” he said.

And there are only a  few rare instances where someone should handle a suspect’s weapon, he said; it could malfunction, and cause confusion for police who are responding to subdue someone with a weapon.

Sonne said the training doesn’t set participants up to fail. Instead of shooting off blanks or further confronting participants, trainers aim to simply teach in a situation mimicking what they might encounter.

“We’re not here to create victims, we’re here to train survivors,” Sonne said.

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