RICHMOND, Va. — It was a packed room in the Virginia Dept. of Health Thursday morning. State employees there were taking notes on what to do when a nightmare becomes reality.
“These are not happy trainings,” Lt. Stephen Robinson, of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, explained. “Because it brings a critical incident to true light.”
In light of the deadly shooting in Virginia Beach, the Virginia Division of Capitol Police is taking extra steps right now to make sure state employees know what to do it a gunman came into their office. They are hosting training sessions for employees throughout the week. Capitol Police holds 10 to 12 each year, as well as trains their officers on how to handle these situations annually.
“Active shooters have been around forever, and they happen everywhere. This time, it happened close to home,” Lt. Robinson said.“In today’s world, people aren’t aware of what’s going on around them. These events make it where people can start to become aware of their surroundings and what’s going on around them.”
There are between 6,000 and 7,000 state employees on a typical weekday Capitol Square. There are about five dozen buildings that make up the campus as well as parking facilities.
People can’t bring a gun into state buildings, except if they have a concealed carry permit. That permit allows you to bring them into the building with state lawmakers’ offices, Pocahontas Building, and the Capitol building.
Lt. Robinson says active shooter situations last for about 10 to 15 minutes, and it’s not like a “tornado or fire drill” because every incident is very different. What you do in that time is critical. The tips from Capitol Police could be useful in any active shooter situation.
There are three main things you can do:
- Get out of the building or area the shooter is located. The harder you are to see when exiting a building, the harder it is for the gunman to hurt you.
- If it’s not safe, hide and barricade yourself in a room. Think ahead, before one of these situations happen, and find two or three places to hide as well as where to get out of the building.
- At some point, if the shooter is near you, you need to be prepared to defend yourself. Anything that could become a weapon, like a fire extinguisher or even a pen. The fire extinguisher would prevent the shooter from seeing and cause trouble with breathing. Robinson says most people flinch and duck away when pens are thrown at them. Being distracted for a few seconds could allow you to run away from the shooter or take them down.
Remember, as you may be calling 911 or texting loved ones, to silence your cell phone so the gunman doesn’t hear you.
If you see police, don’t rush them. Officers will be in a heighten state of awareness and are on the lookout for the suspect or suspects. So, make sure to show your hands.
If you have a concealed carry permit, Lt. Robinson says remember the police are going into the building too. He urges permit holders to listen to police if they ask you to drop your weapon, because they may think you’re the active shooter.
Want to learn more? Click here for resources from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.