Don’t Be Caught Off Guard: Active Shooter Incidents with Anthony Corwin
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According to the FBI, the number of active shooter incidents identified in 2021 represents a 52.5% increase from 2020 and a 96.8% increase from 2017 in the United States. Anthony Corwin, the Managing Director at Active Violence Emergency Response Training, walks us through how to appropriately respond in an active shooter incident in this episode. Tune in to learn how you can remain situationally aware of your surroundings and how psychological safety in the workplace can save lives.
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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and wellbeing of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously, have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.
Hi, and welcome to The Safety Guru today. I’m very excited to have with me Anthony Corwin, who is a managing director at HSI. AVERT is one of the leading training organizations in active shooters, which is a very important topic to talk about. We often talk about injuries in the workplace, but as Anthony will share, it’s a leading cause of death in America in the workplace. So, Anthony, welcome to the show.
Hey, thanks, Eric. I appreciate you having me here.
Talk about this topic today, an important topic. So, tell me a little bit about the situation around active shooters and why workplaces really need to think about investing in training around it.
Yeah. So, it’s an unfortunate, I think, reality that we’re all being faced with that active shooter and active violent events are increasing kind of year over year. These incidents are not confined to a specific geography or even a demographic anymore. They’re happening in places that we frequent on a weekly or even daily basis, whether it’s our workplace, if it’s place of worship, schools, shopping centers, et cetera. These are now kind of happening where we frequent. And it’s an unfortunate reality that they’re happening more and more that we need to be prepared on what to do if we were involved in one of those type of situations.
Yeah. And it seems to me, at least from what I’m seeing in the news, is that the frequency of incidents is on the rise. It doesn’t seem to be diminishing by any means.
Yeah. And I’m sure there are lots of different causes based on each situation. Specifically going through a pandemic. Things have, I think, been followed up a little bit. And we’re seeing especially in the workplace. OSHA estimates that more than 2 million people are affected in workplace violence. Like you mentioned earlier, it’s one of the leading causes of fatalities on the workforce that are being reported on a yearly basis. And then there are incidents where, again, whether it’s at a workplace or it’s somebody who is connected to that workplace or one of the employees, again, they’re happening more frequently. And it’s now a higher call to action to make sure that people know what to do, similar to what we’ve kind of grown up with by getting trained for like CPR or fire drills or earthquakes. Active shooter training is becoming one of those now staples that people need to learn what to do in that situation. Because seconds matter when something happens on how you’re going to respond and react and hopefully save your life and maybe save others at the same time.
And it seems to be industry agnostic. It’s not just if I’m in retail, I need to think about this. Like you mentioned, it could be somebody in the workplace. It’s almost any workplace now needs to start reflecting on how I prepare for this.
Yeah. They don’t really have stats on the types of industries, but it does go across all retail. We’ve seen at Walmart; we’ve seen it at large chains. We’ve seen that manufacturing facilities, we’ve seen it again, places of worship, all different denominations. We see it at schools. Those tend to really kind of take the headlines for the news, et cetera. But it’s happening again in our backyards. And it’s on a frequency that is increasing in an unfortunate circumstance.
Absolutely. Let’s talk about some of the tactics that you advocate around driving improvements or creating more focus on it. One of the things we talked about is situational awareness. And situational awareness applies to everything in the work environment. But tell me a little bit about how that applies to active shooter type situations.
Yeah. So, within the verb program, situation awareness is designed for people to be more aware of their surroundings. We use the phrase which has been used for a long time for a lot of stuff, which is see something, say something. I think nowadays we all get caught up in a world where technology is at our fingertips and we’re so focused on getting access to all the things that are happening to us at once. We don’t have as good of a situation. Whereas for us, when we’re walking either into our office, if we’re walking into a shopping center, we’re in the parking lot, et cetera, and we try and get people to be a little bit more aware of their surroundings, something that looks funny or feels funny, usually our gut reaction is pretty right on. So, we want people to have a little more awareness when you walk into a facility to understand kind of how that facility is set up in terms of if it’s shopping, if it’s a grocery center, are there multiple exits? So, if something were to happen, you kind of have an understanding of what you would do or how you could go about either escaping or evading a situation.
So, if we’re not familiar with where we are, we want to get familiar. So, we do have that kind of background for how to respond again. And those immediate seconds where you don’t really have time to think, sometimes you just got to react.
Right. So really scanning the environment, looking for anything that looks different, maybe somebody who’s not seeming comfortable, I’m assuming, in their skin at that moment or something seems a little bit off. Also, being aware of emergency exits, maybe even if you’re in a restaurant, positioning yourself so you have a line of C-suite views of what’s happening. Is this really what we’re talking about?
Yeah. There’s lots of warning signs, too, that we see in a lot of the situations when they do some of the research and the investigations that there were signs of individuals later on that, again, were either overlooked or maybe just were not reported because they didn’t really think that it would escalate to that flat level. So again, we want to make sure that we’re taking the precautions if we do see something to alert someone in a leadership position, whether it’s HR, et cetera, on things that we may be aware of, because that may be added to other things that are going on that people have noticed as well that could hopefully help have a conversation to prevent something from happening if that were the case.
So, in a workplace setting, it’s really getting to know your teammates, your colleagues. Seeing something seems a little bit off some is a bit different. I know we’ve had several guests on the podcast talking about for a leader to actively care for their team members. Right. To get to know them better, understand what’s working for them, who they say, save for things of that nature. But that’s also where you can see some signs that, hey, somebody’s a little bit different today or something seems to be bothering them. Exactly.
Yeah. And we want to make sure people have that empowerment, to be able to take that to a leadership level two, again, just to make sure we’re checking on people, we’re making sure that everything is okay because we all have a lot of stresses in our life and it’s always good to kind of check in and make sure that we’re all at least responsive to that, to make sure that we are taking everyone’s mental and physical health into the highest importance.
I think it’s really important. The first one is really being aware of the situation, what I’m walking into, if it’s a workplace in terms of people around me. So, if I do encounter a scenario where somebody is there is an active shooter, what are some of the things that I should be looking for or thinking about doing? Yeah.
So, our program is based off the Department of Homeland Security fundamentals of run, hide, fight. We use escape, evade and attack. But we always want people to first and foremost, try and get away from danger. So, running or escaping. And sometimes you don’t know where to run to. If you’re not familiar with the situation, if you don’t have a designated area of where you should be evacuating to, or if you think that the assailant may be in that area, you also don’t want to run towards the danger. But that’s always first and foremost, if you can get away, you can get away safely, then that is always the best option to take first and foremost.
But that strikes me if I’m in that situation that there’s so much happening, it’s chaotic. You may not even know where the person’s in where they’re located. Right. What do I do if I’m not sure? I know there’s an active shooter, but I don’t know which direction to go.
Yeah. So, the next thing to your point, if you don’t know where that gunfire is coming from because a lot of times as loud as it is in the Echo effect, you’re not going to know if it’s North, South, east, or west. And if you don’t know and can’t see that there is a safe area to run to, the next thing is going to be how do you evade or how do you hide? And then understanding the difference between cover and concealment. So, cover is going to stop bullets if you’re behind like a concrete wall or steel teams or something, whereas concealment is just going to be able to hide you so that the individual will be able to see you. So, like drywall or something. It’s not going to stop a bullet, but hopefully it’s going to keep you out of sight for that individual, so they don’t see that you are there. So, understanding the nuances. When you are in a situation where you can’t run, what’s your next best option? How do you hide and hopefully prevent yourself from being seen by that assailant as they are going through the facility?
I think also gets into if you’re aware of the surroundings, you know what’s happening, you know, okay, this is a concrete wall or this is something that will shield me. Or maybe you’ve seen a spot where you could go hide, which saves you that pressure seconds, assuming I can’t evade and I’m not sure about if there’s a clear path for me to escape. So, what do I do next? Because when you talk about fight and attack, it strikes me as pretty risky to go head on.
Yeah. And this was developed. This is part of the training with our experts who bring a lot of over 30 years of law enforcement and private security experience on how to disarm or fight an assailant, if that truly is your last resort, to your point, if you can’t escape and you can’t evade and now you are in a situation where I don’t have a run, I can’t hide, and they are going to be coming to where I am. What is my last resort? And we use some different techniques, simple disarming, whether it’s a long gun or a handgun. We use different types of things to do where you can use a group, hopefully because you can always want to use a team to overcome the assailant if you can versus one-on-one situation to be able to get that dangerous gun, long gun, or handgun away from the assailant and then subdue them until police can arrive on scene. Most active shooter incidents end in under ten minutes. And most of them are going to end before police even arrive on the scene. So, we want people to have that confidence that if I don’t have any other way to get out of the situation, what can I do to hopefully protect my life and those and others?
So, we talk about how to disarm, obviously, but then how to go after the critical senses of sight and breathing so, you know, attacking the eyes, attacking the nose, et cetera, that no matter how big you are, how strong you are, that’s going to render somebody, no matter what, to be on defense if you’re taking those kind of situations with them. So, we want people to understand what they can do in a worst-case scenario. We always talk about if you’re in an office situation and your doors don’t lock, etc. Or how to put yourself in certain areas around the door. So, when they do walk through, then you can take that action of disarming them. You can throw anything you can at them. At that point, there’s no rules. So, you do everything you can to hopefully save your life and try and render that assailant to where you can get the weapon away from them and keep them contained until police can arrive and then take care of the situation.
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So, you mentioned earlier that most incidents happened within or end within ten minutes, which is a lot shorter than I would have ever predicted because everything you hear is it feels for everybody that’s there like an eternity. How does that impact some of the actions you might need to take as a result? Because I’m assuming the first responders, when they show up, they don’t know that the situation stopped.
Yeah, that’s exactly it. Police when they arrive on the scene, their number one objective is to get into the scene and render it safe and secure before they can declare as being safe. So, to your point, a lot of times it’s taking much longer than the actual incident because they don’t know if it’s been secure and safe at that point. Once police get on scene and can secure it and either subdue the assailant or can identify that it’s now no longer an active scene. That’s when an EMS can respond and go in and treat those that have either been shot or wounded, et cetera. And we spent a good amount of our time with the training, which kind of sets ours apart from other situations, which is folks don’t bleed control. So, we want people to become immediate responders. You can bleed to death in under three minutes. So again, if an active shooter situation has taken place in under ten minutes, usually before police can even get on scene and then render it safe or secure, that individual who may have been shot. And if it’s a severe arterial bleed, again, three minutes, you could die.
And that’s one of the leading causes of preventable deaths is bleeding to death. We want people to understand how to pack a wound, how to apply a tourniquet, how to be able to save someone’s life. That the first responders. The police that are going through trying to render it safe are not able to add assistance to those individuals. It’s only then when EMS gets there that they can start to get those victims and treat them. That could be a pretty long time at that point, depending on the different scenarios and the scenes. So, we really spend time on how to apply tourniquets, how to pack a wound if you don’t have a tourniquet, all those things to hopefully help stop that severe bleeding so they can get the aid that they need when EMS does arrive, and they are able to get onto the scene itself.
Which also leads me to think that it’s very valuable to inform the first responders because the sooner that they can let EMS come on board, the more lives get saved.
Yes, there are different protocols to do. If you do apply a tourniquet to somebody, you want to make sure you do things like put across or a T on the individual’s forehead. So, when they’re walking through, they know that somebody has a tourniquet on them. It’s also important if you can if there is an active scene when you’re calling 911 to report it, if you can let them know if there are some different casualties or fatalities taking place, any kind of descriptions you can give, if you know the active shooter so they’re aware of who it is or if there’s multiple people, all those things are going to kind of help the first responders when they get on scene to understand what they’re going to be encountering potentially. But we really want to give people the tools and the confidence on how to be an immediate response in those critical moments when they’re not going to be able to get the immediate attention that they need from EMS when the scene is still kind of in an active situation.
Yeah, it’s terrifying. It definitely makes you think that it’s worth understanding how to prepare because some of these things I probably would have caught from watching a movie or too many movies. But some of these, I think, are not necessarily the learnings, and it’s not the best place to learn from Hollywood on how to respond in a case like this now.
And the hard part is you don’t really know how you’re going to react. So, we talk about the kind of flight versus freeze scenario and everyone’s going to react a little bit differently when you’re put into that situation as much as we go through some of the training with it, until you’re in that situation, you don’t know if you have the flight or freeze reaction because your body is going to instantly choose one path or the other. We hope that the training allows you to understand going into it, what your options are so you can respond accordingly. But we teach people to get somebody off the X. So, if someone does freeze, you want to go up there and you want to make sure that you’re kind of tapping them on the back in an aggressive manner to get them off that X to help them help them run or help them evade, et cetera. Because, again, you just don’t know how you’re going to respond in that situation when it is a real-life incident.
Absolutely. So, we’ve talked about some strategies, the situational awareness, the escape of a tack, or I think you talked about online security, referring to it as run, hide, fight. What are some additional considerations organizations can take to minimize the impact or the likelihood of happening if something like this happening?
Yeah, I think it depends on the type of industry and organization. So, when we go to training, we try to talk about different ways that you can hopefully you can’t necessarily 100% prevent it, but you can minimize the different risk. So, if you’re facility open to the public, if you’re a retail situation, obviously you’re going to be a public facing if you’re a private business, do you have specific key entry so employees with keys going get in like a key Fob, et cetera? Do you have cameras? Do you have an alert system throughout your organization where if there is an emergency, active shooter situation, fire anything else that you can alert employees of what’s going on in an immediate situation? So, we try and walk them through things like that. We also look at how their facility is laid out. Again, something you wouldn’t really recognize. A lot of times that would make a difference. But do all your doors open inwards? They open outwards. Do they all have locks on them? Do they have windows on them? Certain things that again, we kind of take for granted and don’t really pay attention to. But in that type of situation, if it’s an inward opening door, then how do you barricade that door?
We kind of walk through. If it’s outward opening and doesn’t have a lock, you can’t barricade it. So, what could you do in that situation? We go through some different kind of drills where we show how you can set up a room if someone were to come in to hopefully distract them enough to where you can then in those split seconds, go for that attack phase and you can hopefully subdue them. But we go through different scenarios, and we really try to look at each facility kind of as a standalone situation because everyone’s a little bit different on their workforce. Again, are they a public facing company? Do they have security on site? Certain facilities have private security there, so there are different measures you can take. None of those are going to completely prevent something from happening, because a lot of times it’s going to be their employee or a known person to that company. So, it’s usually not just a random person that’s going to walk in and have one of these incidents happen. So, we just try and give people the understanding of what to look for. And then obviously that situational awareness keeping a little bit more of a closer eye on things.
Something does seem a little bit funny, or someone appears to be acting a little bit differently. We want to make sure we’re taking those as serious as we can to ensure that we’re having those conversations early and often before something were to happen.
I think it matches a lot of themes you’ve talked about before in this podcast around. I got to share actively caring. If you know your teams’ members really well, you’ll recognize some signs that maybe something’s off. You may recognize some themes from mental health and maybe some challenges that are impacting them. You may not necessarily think there’s an active shooter situation coming out of it, but the position of care is the right way to drive forward. Is there value in doing drills? And I bring this up because I remember once, many moons ago, I was in a business meeting, and it was in a nuclear site. Obviously heightened sense of security in that environment. In the middle of it, they ran a drill. Is that something that’s recommended in businesses as well?
I mean, for us, we like to do drills because even though you can’t replicate a true situation, you start to get some of the muscle memory down. So, like, for example, for tourniquets, never put on a tourniquet before. Once you a few times, you start to understand how it works. In an emergency situation, you don’t have time to kind of read the instructions and kind of look through it, et cetera. So, it’s not a difficult task, but something if you’re not familiar with it, you may be a little bit kind of hesitant to do something you’ve never done before. So, we want to get people to do some of the actions. We do some of the barricading drills to kind of show them how to set up a room, how to do the disarming, if nothing else, to give them the confidence that they can do it if they were to have that situation. Some people have never even handled a gun before. And while we use orange kind of replica weapons, sometimes that’s a little bit of an uncomfortable situation. So, we want people, if they’re open to it, to at least understand what you could do to get that weapon away from somebody and to have that confidence.
So, if something were to happen, at least in the back of your mind, you know you’ve done it before, and you know what to do and how to go through that kind of process of actually doing the disarming or putting a tourniquet on or packing a wound. Those are things that we want to get people familiar with to where that muscle memory is, at least there and they’ve known it before, and they could do it again if they had to.
It’s not dissimilar to earthquake drills that you didn’t counter in Southern California or actually most of California just to make sure people are prepared in case something was to happen.
Yeah, just like CPR, we do CPR, we do compressions, all that kind of stuff. So, people get the understanding of what the actual action is. So, when they do or they happen to have that situation where they are called upon to do it, at least they’ve done it before, and they have that kind of skill. Kind of not necessarily ingrained, but they are familiar with it.
Grained. Well, Anthony, thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing some of your insights around it. Hopefully none of the listeners will ever have to encounter a scenario like this. I appreciate you at least sharing some tips. If somebody wants to get in touch with you to learn more, what’s the best way to do that?
Yes, our website is getavert.com and we go through the whole process of the course itself. You can become an instructor to train either within your organization or we have instructors across all of the US that we can deploy to go out and train organizations. So, check out the website. We got a lot of resources on there and love to talk more to people that are looking to take their training to the next level to ensure that their employees or them as individuals have the skill sets to act if a situation were to happen. Perfect.
Well, thank you so much.
Thank you, Eric.
Thank you for listening to the safety guru on c-suite radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the pack. Grow your success cap through the hearts and minds of your teams. Eric Michrowski.
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ABOUT THE GUEST
Anthony Corwin is the Executive General Manager for HSI, overseeing the Emergency Care business division. HSI’s Emergency Care business supports a multitude of brands and solutions, some of which have been staples in the market for over 40 years. MEDIC First Aid, ASHI, EMS Safety and AVERT make life-saving skills accessible to everyone with the hope of making an impact on as many lives as possible.
Anthony has a true passion for leading the day-to-day efforts and helping to drive the mission of Making Workplaces and Communities Safer. For more than six years, it has been Anthony’s honor to support over 50,000 authorized HSI Instructors who bring a passion and commitment to CPR and AVERT training to their organizations and communities.
As Managing Director of AVERT, Anthony shares what he’s seeing in the training industry, “The U.S. is experiencing another year where mass shootings are occurring nearly ten times per week. People are calling every day to get training and further develop their life-saving skills.”
Anthony continues, “The hope is that the skills learned during AVERT training are never required. However, should the time come that a person finds themselves in a life-threatening situation, AVERT training will have them prepared on how to respond and save lives.”
For more information about AVERT and to take the corporate safety readiness survey, go to https://hsi.com/solutions/active-shooter-training/corporations.