When faced with a situation of shocking and extreme violence, 10 percent of people become determined survivors. Another 10 percent lose the ability to function, and the remaining 80 percent want to do something but don’t know how to respond.
That’s according to Hawaii County Police Lt. Thomas Shopay, commander of the department’s Special Response Team. Shopay was speaking to about two dozen people who gathered Thursday night to arm themselves with knowledge about what to do in an “active shooter” situation where someone with a gun is on a rampage.
The presentation was designed to give tools for good decision making, Shopay said.
“Ideally, the more people who know how to react, the quicker you get the situation under control, and there’s less loss of life,” he said.
The three main options for someone caught in an active shooter situation is to run, hide, or fight, in that order of preference. Shopay gave tips on staying calm and focused.
“You are going to have that adrenaline dump, but you might be able to stay calmer if you know what is going to evolve in the next few minutes or hours,” he said.
Shopay showed video footage from inside the classrooms at Columbine, with students hiding under tables and the shooters moving around and firing methodically. Shopay said it’s important to realize that someone who is close enough to the edge to do something that horrific is probably not going to stop until they are taken down by police, run out of bullets or take their own lives.
“They’re in that video game mentality,” Shopay said.
“It’s rarely a sudden, impulsive thing,” he said. “It’s a long, growing process, someone who has a very big vendetta. They consider that they have been wronged by an individual, an organization or a set of values.”
The best response is to put distance between yourself and the incident and call 911, Shopay said. If you can’t run, barricade yourself wherever you can, and stay as quiet as possible. Make signs with the number of injured and the number of people with you, and place them in a window facing the outside where the police but not the shooter can see.
“Make yourself impossible to get to,” he said.
If running and hiding are not an option, arm yourself with any improvised weapon you can — a computer, a fire extinguisher — and fight your hardest, he said.
Responding officers will be focused on dealing with the threat and won’t be able to render medical aid at first, Shopay said.
Audience member Franz Weber, who listened intently to the presentation, said the information was helpful because it emphasized a general awareness of one’s surroundings — observational skills that can be applied to all type of situations, including response to natural disasters.
“Awareness, safety, observation,” said Weber, a member of the Kailua-Kona Community Emergency Response Team. “Make sure you have the right tools, wait for the police to come, get out of the way and don’t make it hard for them.”
Schools, hospitals, businesses and churches have shown interest in the presentations, said Police Chief Harry Kubojiri.
“Everyone is taking an active interest in this because they’ve realized it could happen in our backyard,” Kubojiri said.
The presentations have been popular around the island, he said. It would have been nice to have a better turnout at Thursday’s event, Kubojiri acknowledged, but noted that the presentation coincided with dinnertime.
Shopay urged the audience to take a leadership role in a time of calamity.
“If you have an idea what to do to keep yourself and your family safe, do it,” he said. “Others will follow you.”
Email Bret Yager at firstname.lastname@example.org.