On Friday, Consolidated Publishing employees took the opportunity to participate in a webinar called Security Training for Newspapers: Active Shooter Preparation & Response. It was sponsored by Online Media Campus, a partnership of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, the Iowa Newspaper Foundation and press associations throughout the United States and Canada.
The webinar described the meeting this way: “Recent tragedies across the U.S.A. have shown that active shootings are a very real and deadly threat for all businesses and communities. Regardless of the business or community activity, employees, students and everyday citizens have fallen victim to these attacks that often occur without clear warning. This program will share lessons learned from shooter situations. A review of current response concepts, emergency plans and techniques for prevention will be provided. The latest techniques used by law enforcement, businesses and community agencies in preparing for active shooter scenarios will be explained.”
The presenter was Kevin Techau, a former U.S. attorney with 30 years in public safety, including serving as the chief federal law-enforcement official for the 52 counties in the Northern District of Iowa. He offered some fairly straightforward, but interesting tidbits that put active shootings and preparing for them into perspective. Here are a few takeaways:
-The Columbine school shootings in 1999 that killed 24 students changed how law-enforcement advises people to respond to active shooters. Before, the advice was to hunker down, shelter in place. They found that method only provided the Columbine shooters with more targets. Instead, we’re now told to “run, hide, fight” -- in that order -- when an active shooter is present.
-Believing something like an active shooter could never happen at your workplace is the enemy of surviving such an event because it discourages preparation.
-All workplaces should have an active shooter response plan in place and then practice and, if necessary, upgrade that plan at least once a year.
-While most workplace shootings occur during business hours and often are committed by someone who perceives they’ve been wronged by the establishment or someone at the establishment, the reason behind and timing of active shootings are unpredictable. That’s why it’s important to be prepared.
-When police arrive, follow their orders to the letter without hesitation. They’re trying to assess the situation, locate and stop the bad guy. Your cooperation helps them.
-In response to a question from another attendee of the webinar, the presenter advised that, once you’re able to escape the building, don’t go back in for any reason -- even to help a victim -- until police detain or stop the intruder.
One question asked by our staff was whether newspapers should allow employees with conceal/carry permits to bring their weapons into the workplace.
Techau compared the idea to the approach taken by many churches that have asked licensed church members to bring their weapons to worship services and act as security for parishioners in case of an active shooter.
He said the general consensus among law enforcement is to advise against allowing employees to bring guns into the workplace, but that it’s a decision individual newspapers should make.
Techau added that if a newspaper decides to allow it, local police should be notified and given the identity of every armed employee. “The last thing we want is for someone who’s trying to do the right thing to be mistaken by police as the active shooter,” he said.
The hour-long webinar was made available to all of Consolidated Publishing’s employees, including those at The Anniston Star, The Daily Home, The Jacksonville Piedmont News/Journal, The Cleburne News and The St. Clair Times. An archived copy of the webinar will be provided to all who couldn’t attend Friday’s presentation.
Newspapers are generally open, welcoming spaces. We value our relationships and interaction with the general public, but that also makes us more vulnerable to those with ill intent.
Unfortunately, the political climate and social tension across the country make it less and less possible to have civil discourse in today’s culture. Newspapers and journalists in general have been labeled as the enemy of the people, and some -- not all -- who disagree with us will take that rhetoric and believe they’re doing a good thing by doing us harm.
That’s why days like Friday are necessary.