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Portland Police: Businesses Should be Prepared for 'Active Shooter' Scenario
08/20/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Today in Georgia, a man entered an elementary school and fired shots. Luckily, no one was killed. But in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., killings, schools across the U.S. received training in how to deal with a so-called "active shooter." The Portland Police Department wants businesses to be just as prepared, and held a training for a local business today. Patty Wight was there.

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Workers at Apothecary by Design's offices in Portland got training today on how to deal with an "active shooter."

The training Portland Police Chief Mike Sauschuck gave to local pharmacy Apothecary by Design wasn't a role-playing scenario - it simply offered advice, such as: Scope out your workpace ahead of time to plan an escape.

"That means today, when you're on your break, take a look at the building a little bit. Maybe you park on one side of the building, you always walk in one door. You've never been on that side, you don't know where that door comes out," he said.

Gone are the days, says Sauschuck, where workplace safety training mostly entailed encouraging workers to lift with their legs. Though Maine consistently ranks among the safest states in the U.S., Sauschuck says bad things can happen anywhere - and have happened, in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado.

"You know, we're not out here trying to make a very safe community paranoid about active shooter scenarios," Sauschuck says. "There's no indication that there's any concern that we should have around active shooter. But, it's also that we're all mindful of scenarios like this and we can be careful - we can do a better job as a community about being safe."

The training Sauschuck gave to local pharmacy, Apothecary by Design, isn't a role-playing scenario - there are too many hypothetical situations with an active shooter, he says. Sauschuck says it's most effective to remember a basic mantra:
"Yeah, 'Run, Hide and Fight,' - it's a pretty straight-forward protocol."

Simlar to fire safety's, "Stop, Drop, and Roll" protocol, "Run, Hide and Fight" is designed to be simple and easy to recall in a frightening situation. "Run" means your first priority in an active shooter situation is to leave the building, and, if possible, encourage others to go with you.

And if it's not possible to run, Sauschuck says, find a good place to hide. Barricade yourself. Lock doors, turn off lights and cell phones. If you do find yourself directly confronted with an active shooter, Sauschuck says, then fight - with whatever you can. Throw a stapler, or a chair.

"You don't want to be that easy target," he advised. "You're going to make this a problem for the individual. You want him to move to that next spot. You want him to move down the hallway because he doesn't want anything to do with you."

The strategy for these types of situations has evolved ever since two students shot and killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado. At the time, SWAT teams were brought in to craft a plan before entering a building. But time is of the essence in an active shooter situation, so now, as soon as two police officers are on the scene, they move in to stop the shooter.

And people - like pharmaceutical technician Jen Rogers - need to know how to be as safe as possible. "I've never quite known exactly what to do, but I feel now like I have the tools to actually be able to handle the situation," she says.

Apothecary by Design Principal Catherine Cloudman says at a pharmacy, it's particularly important for staff to be well informed.

"Just the idea of taking a moment in a day when there's nothing else going on to walk around or just be aware - like when you're on a plane and they say, 'Know where all your emergency exits are,'" Cloudman says. "It's the same idea as being at work every day. Know where all your emergency exits are. Know that there's a room you can go and hide in if you need to go and hide."

Chief Mike Sauschuck says he hopes the training at Apothecary by Design will encourage other businesses to learn what to do should an active shooter situation occur. He says there are free online resources, including a short video, at the Department of Homeland Security Web site.

Photo: Patty Wight



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