The world has changed a lot since O’Fallon Police Detective Brian Gimpel began his career in law enforcement 18 years ago.
“I never thought in my lifetime I’d have to go into a church and teach them how to prepare for a killer to come into their establishment — never,” Gimpel said.
But that is part of his job description now.
With the rash of mass shootings that have plagued the country, law enforcement has had to become more proactive when it comes to active-shooter events. Police are also reaching out to educate the members of the public, who may one day find themselves caught in the crossfire, how to survive such a situation.
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O’Fallon Police Sgt. Patrick Feldhake and Gimpel teamed up to give just such a lesson Wednesday, Jan. 10. to at an O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Katy Cavins Community Center.
The 4E Active Killer presentation first provides education, but also talks real-life options — escape, evade, engage — should bullets begin to fly.
“Victims are selected at random. These things are unpredictable and evolve fast, so knowing what to do can save lives,” Gimpel said.
Options for survival
Feldhake said there are three natural responses people have in these situations: fight, flight or freeze.
“When an active killer situation presents itself, you must be prepared, both mentally and physically,” Feldhake said.
If you run, police said you should have an escape plan in mind. Forget taking any belongings, concentrate on getting yourself out of harm’s way.
If you hide, lock doors or create other barriers between you and the shooter. And stay quite, police said.
Fight only as a last resort.
“Some of this stuff may not work for every business in here, but you all go to the theater, you all go to the mall, you go into the restaurants, you go to Six Flags, you go to church — these are all targets,” Gimpel said.
If you call 911 to report a mass shooting event, the following information is important to give, if you know it:
▪ Location of the shooter(s)
▪ Number of shooters
▪ Physical description of the shooter(s)
▪ Number and types of weapons they have
▪ Number of potential victims in the location
What to expect when police arrive
The first officers on the scene will not stop to help the injured.
“Procedure has changed now, so that first officer on the scene is going to go into that building, that business, that school, or whatever it may be to eliminate the threat that’s inside. So no more waiting for emergency response teams,” Gimpel said.
Expect rescue teams to follow the initial officers, and they will be the ones to treat and remove anyone who is injured.
It’s also important to remain calm and follow police instructions. Keep your hands up and avoid pointing, screaming or yelling at officers. Drop any items in your hand, i.e. bags or jackets. Do not ask questions when evacuating.
Once you have reached a safe location, police will likely keep you there until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been interviewed. Do not leave that area until police have given the all-clear to do so.
Getting the word out
St. Louis-based company Tier One Tactical Solutions trained O’Fallon police officers, and provided the presentation information to be disseminated to other public or private groups like local schools, churches and businesses.
Paul Evans, chamber president, told attendees that while it’s an unfortunate presentation, it’s a necessary one with useful information for all.
“May we never need it, (but) in this day in age, you never know,” Evans said.
Gimpel said, it’s important to remember that “you can’t profile for these types of events, either.”
Matt Smallheer said he had “great takeaways” from the presentation that gave him “some serious peace of mind.”
“(The) presentation was overly realistic — almost scary, but I’m happy to hear it, and I’m really happy to hear that the O’Fallon police are preparing for this type of situation should it arise,” Smallheer said.
Smallheer said the information hit close to home.
“I’ve got two kids in the O’Fallon school system, and every parent’s greatest fear is: ‘What if something like this happened?’ So knowing that our police force is working with the schools to prepare for something like this is pinnacle,” Smallheer said.
Smallheer, owner of Tye-Dyed Iguana & Indoor Cultivator in O’Fallon and an O’Fallon City Council member, said the officers also broke down some of his own misconceptions.
“You never really think of this type of situation happening at a commercial business, but I learned today that it certainly can,” Smallheer said. “Given attacks have happened to city councils before, I’m very happy to hear that we can be trained to avoid something like that in our council.”
When an active shooter attacks, what are your options?
Run: Have an escape plan and leave belongings behind. Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow; and, help others if possible, but don’t move the wounded. Stop others from entering area where attacker is. Keep hands visible, and call 911 when you are safe.
Hide: Silence your cell phone, including vibrate. Stay quiet and hide out of the attacker’s view. Lock door or block entry by building a barricade with surrounding furniture or objects.
Fight: As a last resort fight when your life is in danger. Attempt to incapacitate the attacker and act with as much aggression as possible. Improvise weapons or throw things at the attacker. Commit to your actions — your life depends on it.
Source: O’Fallon Police Department