ROCKVILLE — Civilians learned tactics that could help them stay alive in the event of an active shooter situation during a presentation by the Maryland State Police on Aug. 22.
The presentation, called Civilian Response to Active Shooter Training, was held at the Rockville Barracks and was developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University.
According to Maryland State Police, the ALEERT Center was created in 2002 to address the need for active shooter response training for first responders.
The program, designed for civilians and called the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE), was developed two years later in 2004.
“(CRASE) provides strategies, guidance and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event,” ALEERT wrote in their overview of the program.
These programs, along with 14 total programs created by ALERRT, are used to better inform and prepare people for active shooter and emergency events. The FBI considers ALERRT the national standard on training for such events.
The hour-and-a-half presentation covered the history and prevalence of active shooter situations along with civilian response options and medical issues.
State Trooper Michael Taluskie hosted the program for approximately 20 civilians on Aug. 22. He explained that the small size of the group was due to the limited space available in the barracks. Taluskie has been a trooper with the state of Maryland since 2008 and was certified to begin presenting the information sessions two years ago.
“I recognized that the public possessed a general lack of knowledge of what to do in an active attack situation. I wanted to make a difference in the community,” he said. “I wanted to arm people with the tools they might need to survive an active attack should they find themselves in that situation.”
During the presentation, Taluskie explained that there is no common profile for perpetrators who attempt to create an active attack event. Their only goal is mass murder.
He also noted that different methods have been used to create active attack situations. Mass shootings represent perhaps the overwhelming majority, but attacks in the United States also happen with vehicles, for instance – when an attacker uses a car or truck to plow through victims on the street – and knife attacks.
“Generally (these attackers) have an avenger mindset: they’ve been wronged by something or someone,” Taluskie said. “Scorned lover, possible employment situation (have been cited) but when they come into these things they come with an avenger’s mindset.”
About 50% of the time an attacker will target someone they know, but there have been many cases in which attacks were random, according to Tasluskie.
He went on to explain that some attackers will broadcast their intentions online through social media sites or talk about it with family or friends.
Taluskie said that the outcome of situations such as these depends on two factors: the response time of law enforcement officials and target availability.
Three minutes is the average response time for police, he said; in urban areas like Bethesda and Silver Spring response times can be much shorter. In rural areas like Poolesville the response time for law enforcement could be up to three minutes, which is in line with the national average, even in an emergency situation.
“Law enforcement is training every day, every month and every year to get better at our response time, to get there as fast as we can. What this training is designed to do is to reduce the target availability and give (civilians) some tactics and techniques to become less of a target,” Taluskie said.
He stated that some of the best things a civilian can do in an active attack situation is to Avoid, Deny and Defend (ADD). If possible, civilians should leave the area as soon as possible, not stay in place, and especially not play dead.
“Playing dead can’t be an option,” he said, “Too often, you won’t hide behind something that is bulletproof, and then you’ve cornered yourself.”
If a civilian is in a classroom or an office and stuck, one option Taluskie suggested is to lock and barricade the door. Even a simple doorstop is a very effective way of denying an attacker entrance into a space, he said.
In the event civilians are confronted by an attacker, Taluskie said, they can expect to do significant harm to the attacker and focus on soft tissue like the throat, eyes and groin.
“You should go in with the mindset that you’ll have to rip the (attacker’s) throat out,” he said.
When help arrives, Taluskie added, their focus will be on stopping the killing and apprehending the perpetrator, not attending to the wounded.
“Law enforcement will even step over the wounded to get the perp,” he said. But once the threat is neutralized, officers will tend to those who are trapped or wounded.
Taluskie recommended that when police arrive to follow their commands, keep your hands up and show your palms.
Delphine Harriston from Potomac was one of the attendees at the presentation. She explained that she wanted to attend so that she could help her friends and family and bring information to her church.
“I think the more you know, the more you are aware, the better,” she said. “The more aware you are of your surroundings and what you can do to make yourself safer, the better off you are.”
Harriston noted that it was helpful to learn about active attack events from the perspective of a law enforcement officer.
“I know I heard (about a situation) where officers walked right over people who were bleeding, and now I get that they got to get the killer, they have to get him first,” she said.
Harriston said that the program will help her to be more aware of her surroundings and look for exits.
“We all have to go out and enjoy life. I don’t want this (presentation) to stop me from doing anything, but I do think about (being more prepared),” she said.