Promoting Workplace Safety in Every Industry

How to Handle an Active Shooter

Safety is a topic on just about everyone’s minds today.Officer

These days, it’s not just schools and entertainment venues that are tackling workplace safety in an effort to figure out how to keep students, employees and patrons safe; companies, like ours, are examining safety protocols to ensure employees and customers would be protected in the event of an active killer on the jobsite.

At Miller Electric, workplace safety has always been our first concern. With another school year starting up, we wanted to re-share valuable insight from a Q&A we arranged with Sgt. Bob Wondra of the Omaha Police Department a few years ago about how to handle an active killer on a job site.

A 23-year veteran of the Omaha Police force and Marine Corps veteran who served in Desert Storm, Sgt. Bob Wondra has served in a variety of OPD units, including the SWAT team, the Clandestine Lab Team and the Gang Unit. He has been instructing law enforcement personnel in active killer response since 1991.

Q: What do we mean when we say ‘active killer?’

Sgt. Wondra: “When we use the term ‘active shooter,’ the assumption is a killer with some type of firearm engaged in a mass killing event. But we have incidents around the world with explosive devices and knives or machetes. The proper response to an active killer event is the same regardless of the weapon being used. So, we prefer the term ‘active killer’ over ‘active shooter.’”

Q: What do people need to know about handling an active shooter on a job site?

Sgt. Wondra: “The first and most important thing you need to know is how to protect yourself and others. The best way to ensure your safety is by following the ‘7 Outs.’ These can be applied to any location (businesses, job sites, schools, parks, etc.) and you can take them with you wherever you go.

  1. 1. Figure out. Determine what is actually happening. The first reaction is denial and confusion. Do some investigation; listen and make decisions to discern what is occurring.
  2. 2. Get out. You always want to get away from the killer. You may not have that luxury; but if you can, you should.
  3. 3. Call out. Call 911 and report accurate information on the incident and suspect. Say what you know, not what you think, about where you are, how many people are there and who is wounded.
  4. 4. Hide out. Look for areas you can lock yourself into. Ideally, you want a room with multiple exits. Secure the door, turn out the lights and eradicate noise.
  5. 5. Keep out. Once in a locked room, look for tables, furniture, or equipment to shut doors and keep the killer out.
  6. 6. Help out. Help handicapped individuals to safety. Help people mentally and emotionally. Understand that people have different breaking points and responses to these events. If someone cries out in fear, that could give away your position so you want to help calm them down before they get to that point. Provide triage to people who are physically hurt with bandages and other first aid measures to keep people alive until first responders arrive.
  7. 7. Take out. As a last resort, look for weapons you can use to attack the killer if he/she comes through the door into your safe room.” As a certified ALICE active shooter trainer and USMC, NRA certified pistol instructor, Miller Electric Field Superintendent Mike Anderson can add insight to this last point. “By this time, the decision to ‘fight or flight’ has passed,” says Mike, “You are no longer to be on the defense but rather the highest level of offense to preserve your life and the lives of others.”

Q: What is the most important thing for people to remember when facing an active killer?

Sgt. Wondra: “If you fail to plan, you will fail. Start coming up with a plan and build it around the 7 outs. Know ahead of time what businesses’ plans are on every job site. If they don’t have a plan, enact your own.”

Q: What are common mistakes people make about handling active killers?

Sgt. Wondra: “Failing to plan or have something in place is the worst one. Then, there are issues with phone calls. First, focus on giving 911 the best and most accurate information possible. Then, tell your family you’re safe and that you’ll communicate when it’s safe to do so. Stay off the phone and don’t stream video because it causes phone lines to crash. Commanding officers won’t be able to get first responders on-scene when the phone lines are crashing.”

Our thanks to Sgt. Wondra for sharing these timeless workplace safety tips with us.