Talking Beat - Community Active Shooter Preparedness

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An officer giving a presentation at the front of a classroom.
This episode of the Talking Beat contains sensitive information and frank discussions of potential and past violence. If this is something that may not be appropriate for you and your mental health, please check the show notes for more detailed descriptions before listening to this program.


Community Active Shooter Preparedness Website


Sgt. Kevin Allen:

I'm Sergeant Kevin Allen with the Portland Police Bureau. First, a warning. This episode of the Talking Beat contains sensitive information and frank discussions of potential and past violence. If this is something that may not be appropriate for you and your mental health, please check the show notes for more detailed descriptions before listening to this program. Active shooter incidents are often unpredictable and evolve rapidly. The Portland Police Bureau's Community Active Shooter Preparedness presentation is designed to provide community members the skills to react to an active shooter situation. In this podcast, host Terri Wallo-Strauss and Officer Leo Harris discuss how to develop a plan as well as other tactics to help keep you and others safe. We also talk about how to access additional resources to become more educated and prepared in the event of an active shooter incident. Now let's jump into the episode.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

Thanks for being here today, Leo. We're here to talk about one of the most horrific things I think that people can go through in a public setting or a workplace, and that is active shooters. You're the coordinator of the Bureau's Community Active Shooter Preparedness.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

Correct, yes. We have a presentation, we call it CASP Community Active Shooter Preparedness presentation. We stop short of calling it training because we do know that it's information. People are definitely wanting to have that information. There's more and more information available in the media about different events that have happened that cause people to be concerned about it and we totally understand that they are horrific events like you said. And people have reached out to us and tried to figure out what the best response is for them, whether they're at work or a house of worship or at a school setting, et cetera. So we try to provide them information that empowers them and gives them a sense that they are able to take care of themselves in an event like this.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So tell me a little bit more about how this began and a little bit of how it's evolved.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

Well, it began in 2014. We started getting requests from the community. We also got requests from the Portland Business Alliance and my partner and I at the time were the lead patrol tactics instructor or patrol procedures instructor. And we trained police officers how to respond to active shooter events and that was why people came to us. We did not necessarily feel qualified to give recommendations to the community. We are obviously in the business of training people who have firearms and bulletproof vests and training, and obviously that's quite a bit different than your average community member who is just at a mall or at a school or at a church. We kept getting more and more requests. At some point we realized that we needed to start providing that information for our community members. And so we did quite a bit of research and we came up with the presentation in 2014 and we've started giving it to community members here and there.

We're trying to streamline the process where people can request a presentation. We've tried to increase the amount of presenters and we have probably given 200 or so presentations so far and they're usually well received. Obviously it's a difficult topic. We treat it with a lot of respect. Our goal is not to scare people or motivate people through fear to prepare for an event like this. We want to empower people and give them a sense that they have the right answer in the moment to keep themselves safe. Some of our presenters that come and give these presentations have responded to multiple local incidents that either were an active shooter event or we responded as though it was an active shooter event like the Parkrose High School incident. And so the presenters have seen people doing the majority of the things that we're going to be asking them to do if they ever were to be in an event.

From my experience, the community members seem to get a lot out of the question and answer sessions and being able to ask a police officer who has been to one of these events and seeing community members doing the things we're going to ask them to do versus just a theoretical conversation about run, hide, fight.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So let's dive into the material because that's really one of the reasons why we wanted to do this podcast, to kind of expand the ability to provide people with some good information.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

Well, one of the first places that we like to start is with a definition. I want people to kind of have an idea in their mind when you hear active shooter, how does that relate to police response? And for us here in Portland, an active shooter is an armed person who has used deadly force on other people. They're continuing to do so and they have unrestricted access to additional victims. And for law enforcement, that changes everything about how we respond. That prompts officers to go in immediately and start taking action as opposed to trying to surround and contain an incident or a typical shooting. People commit a shooting and then they leave. And so then we are there trying to help victims and trying to figure out who the suspect was. During an active shooter event, they have used deadly force, they're continuing to do so. There's more people that we want to save and so there is no time for police officers to wait and start investigating or surrounding. They have to go take action.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So before we actually talk about the active shooter response, is there anything people can look for prior to it occurring to give any kind of indication that something like this could occur?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

That is such a good question and we do talk a little bit about that pathway to violence and how do we get from somebody having some kind of grievance to committing an event. And I won't jump into that too deeply, but we do want community members to know that there are things to be on the lookout for and to report them. If it's a work setting, report them to your human resources. If it's something that's happening in the community, obviously report it directly to the police. And there are a variety of different things, one of which is extreme fixation with weapons, especially if that's a change. So if somebody who's never been involved in hunting, doesn't target shoot, all of a sudden they start stockpiling weapons. That is certainly out of the ordinary. If you have someone that's talking or joking about committing violence that is beyond the norm.

I know people make jokes sometimes about, "Oh, I'd kill you or punch you or beat you up, and people kind of laugh." This is beyond that. Several of the people who have done some active shooter events, people have reported after the fact that they were very focused on prior events like Columbine or the Aurora Colorado shooting. And they talked about it a lot. They talked about it in frame of references though it was a good thing and as though the people that did them were heroic or that they wanted to be like them. That is obviously totally different than jokes about violence that are not as concerning. There's obviously different belief systems or causes someone might be really, really connected to and they might have that somehow linked together with violence.

There's also a lot of different life stressors that might add up to this. There have been situations where people have done these events and they were going into bankruptcy or in a relationship that was ending and then you combine that with all of these other factors. It can really be something that is much more concerning. I know that there are lots of people that go through difficult life events and they never even remotely come close to using violence on other people. But if you have all this combined together, especially if there are some suicidal ideations, those are things that should be reported to your human resources or directly to the police.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So the information you provide is about preparedness. So if I'm in a workplace or religious organization or someplace that can attract large groups of people, what's something I can do to prepare?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

That's a great question. One of the things we recommend people do is look around the space that they're normally in and do a site assessment. That might be something that is done organizationally or it might be something that's done individually. But if there's a place that you regularly spend time or work or you worship, you might look around and try to figure out, "Hey, how would I get out of this place if there were to be an incident?" Know where your exits are, especially if you work on a really high floor that's not on the ground floor and you don't have an immediate exit out to street level from your workspace. Think about ways to make yourself safer. If you had to barricade in place there, how would you keep the door from opening? Are there better places in that space that you could hide?

Could you get under a desk? Could you get into a closet? Could you crawl up into the ceiling? Are there ways to get into the room next door if you know over there is potentially an exit outside or access to the stairs or something like that? Some other things that they might think of are figuring out ways to communicate with all of your employees or your coworkers or your students. If there were to be an event and they do what we're going to tell you in a minute, run, hide or fight. How do you communicate with them? On the front end, if an incident were to begin, how do you let people know that there's an incident happening? And if you have a large campus or a large building with multiple floors, you could have an event happening at the main lobby and other people that are there that don't even know.

So how do you let them know, "Hey, go keep yourself safe." So is there an intercom system or are there ways through text notifications, et cetera? That you can let people know, "Hey, there's an incident happening here and you need to put your active shooter plan into place." If there were to be an event and people do what we tell them, which is run, that's the first thing we're going to talk about. How do you account for all those people? If you have people off into the neighborhood or off into the downtown area, how do you later account for them so that you know that they're safe and that they're either on their way home and that the police don't have to look for them? Is there a way for them to check back in with bosses or supervisors? Obviously for accountability during fire drills and others, schools and businesses have had places that they wanted people to go congregate and we do recommend against that.

There have been a few active shooter incidents across the country where somebody used that to their advantage. They knew people were going to gather in a predetermined location and then use that as a place to try to injure people. So we recommend against that. Although the trade off is you do have less accountability of people and that's something worth trying to figure out how are you going to communicate with your coworkers or your students, et cetera. Another thing, and we kind of talked about it a little bit, but are there places you can identify that might be a good place to hide and stay safe? Maybe a small office room or a janitorial closet that has an inward opening door that you could easily block. Maybe you could put some food in there or some tools to help keep yourself safe in the event that you needed them.

And obviously that's just good preparedness information in case we had an earthquake or any other type of natural disaster, where having a case of water and a little bit of food and some tools would be a good idea. Last we talked about having a lockout or a lockdown procedure. Schools use lockout pretty frequently, where there maybe a police action or something happening nearby, but there's no reason to have school interrupted. But they lock all the doors and windows, don't let anybody in, don't let anybody out. Obviously, lockdown is totally different. Lockdown, you are trying to compartmentalize the entire building as much as possible. People are locking all their doors, hiding under desks or in closets, et cetera. But you need to let people know that you're in lockdown or lockout and you need to practice it a couple times so that people know what to do if that were to happen. And then you need to notify people when they're out of it so that they know it can start moving around again and that the event is over.

And then the last thing we'll tell people is don't wait to have every piece of the puzzle before you put your active shooter response plan into place. A lot of times people in the immediate vicinity and even the police responding don't have enough information to know that it's an active shooter event. The people that actually know it's an active shooter event are actively trying to save their life and they don't have the immediate ability to call 911 and give us a good idea of what's going on. So we get incomplete calls and community members might hear loud banging or see some dust or smoke or people yelling or running away. That should probably be enough for people to enact their active shooter response plan without waiting or going to check it out and be like, "Oh, what's happening?"

And getting closer, which we know people have done in the past, just partly curiosity and partly they want to maybe help respond and that might be good in a lot of different situations. But in a true active shooter situation, we do not want anybody but trained professionals with the right equipment actually going to respond. So we recommend to everyone don't wait to have every piece of the puzzle. If you start getting just a few clues that an active shooter event might be happening, put your plan into place and get yourself to safety.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So the worst has happened and you're in it. And you've just talked about run, hide, fight. So let's talk about your response if you are an active shooter incident.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

So like you said, the worst has happened. What can community members do to keep themselves safe? First and foremost, we've already said it, run and if you can't run, that's understandable. What we basically mean is get away from the incident. If you are hearing loud bangs or screaming or seeing some smoke or you're starting to get an idea that something bad has happened, remove yourself from the area. Hopefully you've already worked on some kind of site assessment. You know how to evacuate. If it's a place that you're regularly in, like work or school or a house of worship. So in conjunction with the run part, we want people to go far enough away that they're actually safe.

We have seen a couple of events where people just moved outside the building and they did not know that the shooter inside was actively running around the building looking for more victims and ran past some doors that could have led to the outside and they didn't know that there were people just outside. I imagine that they would've opened those doors and gone out there if they had known that. So we do recommend people get far enough away that you're actually safe and that might be several blocks, that might be into another business or into a home far enough away that you are actually safe.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

So is there anything else about running that we need to cover?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

Yes, we do want people to think about other ways to run or other ways to just evacuate. That might be breaking out a window. That might be kicking through a wall and into another room. So we don't want people to feel like they're stuck if they just can't go through the only door that's available. Maybe that's shut and they're hearing some type of shooting out there or other things that lead them to believe an active shooter event is happening. And if they're on the ground floor or maybe even the first floor off the ground, breaking a window and trying to get away might be an option. Or maybe the next room over has access to the outside or stairs or an elevator and the only thing between you and that room is sheetrock and you might be able to use a table or a chair or something else to get through that wall.

And we want people to be able to think outside the box a little bit like that. If it is truly a life or death situation, they need to think of all the options to get away. And it's obviously easier if you've thought about that ahead of time. If you've thought, "Oh, I know my normal office, or I work the next room over has access. Or I could get out of this window, I need to make sure I have something available to me to break this window out if I needed to in an event like that." After the run piece, if people don't have the ability to run, either they are in a place where they can't, maybe they're in a multi-level structure or maybe the event is just happening too fast and there's no way to get out, then we recommend that people hide. And preferably you're able to hide behind something that actually stops bullets.

We call that cover. But concealment, just something that shields you from view is definitely better than nothing. We've seen incidents where active shooters did not know somebody was there and those people were much safer and the active shooter ran past them not knowing they were there. As far as hiding, you're kind of limited to the area that you're in. Is this normally the office that you're in or are you in a classroom or are you in a church or are you at the mall? And so immediately, we would ask people to look around and figure out the quickest, safest place they could hide just to get out of view. And then we would want people to continue to make their hiding spot better. And what I mean by that is if you're not hearing any loud noises, you're not hearing screams, things like that, maybe you could barricade the door and then go back and hide more.

Maybe you could lock the door. Maybe you could, instead of just hiding under a desk, you have a little extra time and you could get into a closet. Or you could look for a spot in the roof to crawl into or whatever may be an additional better hiding spot. We don't want people when they are hiding to just stop at that point. We want them to continually think about, are there better options? If you're hearing loud noises and you think there's an active shooter happening near you and then that fades away, maybe that would be the time to then break out a window and run. Or maybe that would be a time to try to get into a different room. Or maybe you have access to the outside or maybe you don't really have any options and staying put is your best likelihood of success to keep yourself safe and that's fine too.

We just want people to continue to think about trying to make their spot better. When people are hiding, we also want them to put their cell phones on vibrate. Obviously a cell phone is something that pretty much everybody has these days. They usually have them with them and we do want you to be able to communicate and we want you to be able to stay up to date on information. I know that the active shooter events that I've responded to, the people that we were coming across that were hiding actually had some of the best information because they were communicating. They knew where the suspect was and what the status was of them, almost faster than law enforcement knew. One question that always comes up for us during our presentations is whether or not people should barricade a room, like a classroom. And we generally recommend barricading putting tables and chairs in front of the door.

There might be a situation where the door has a window in it and people bring up the fact that if you pile tables and chairs in front of the door, that could give the suspect information that there's people in that classroom and that is definitely one of the trade offs. What we have not seen is people who've committed an active shooter event, going to extra links to try to get into a classroom or breakthrough barricades. We have not seen them very often bring tools and do things that would defeat the barricading. So we feel like your best chance of success is to, if you have time, barricade a door or window which might keep somebody out. There is a chance it could let them know there's somebody inside. But we also talk through what does that look like if they're able to get inside and you have to get to the last piece, which is fight. Would you rather fight with them if they're able to come through the door and there's nothing?

Or would you rather fight with them if they're having to climb over a pile of tables and chairs? And so we have to get to the last piece, which is the fight piece. Obviously you couldn't get away by running and hiding wasn't an option. It either happened too quickly in front of you or they have found you in your hiding spot. So we do recommend that people fight. It's not a guarantee that you're going to be safe. It's not even a guarantee that you won't get killed, but it does raise your likelihood of success way higher. Obviously it's better if you can do it with someone else. If you can have a coordinated fight between you and someone else or several coworkers, students, whatever it may be, versus the active shooter. Your likelihood of success goes way up because it's really hard for anybody to focus on multiple people if they're grabbing you, trying to take you to the floor or either disarm you or incapacitate you.

So we do recommend people if you have no other options to fight. And we talk through with them trying to use improvised weapons, hot coffee, a chair, a fire extinguisher, a golf club, whatever you have around you. And as weird as this might sound, just coming after somebody with bare hands might not be as successful as having a ballpoint pen in your hand and doing what you can to try to incapacitate them and you are not going to get in trouble. If this is truly an active shooter and they have used deadly force and they are continuing to try to use deadly force on people and you injure or kill this person while keeping yourself and other people safe, you are not going to get in trouble. Obviously recommending to people that they fight with an active shooter is not something that we do cavalierly. We know this can be probably one of the most terrifying things you could ask somebody to do, but in that case, that is your best option.

And it has been used successfully in many different events. One of the ones that comes to mind is the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona; was a large public event and person in the crowd started shooting other people. There were people that put all the different run, hide, fight pieces into place. There were people that on the outer edges were running away. There were people who were right in view that ducked down and were starting to hide, but there was a large group of people in the middle right near the shooter and those options weren't really available to them. If they had done anything other than try to fight the person, it's very likely they would've been shot also. They were able to recognize that as a group and they attacked the shooter and they were able to disarm him. Unfortunately, some of the people did get injured.

I believe one of the people even got killed, but they probably saved countless lives. And so to recap, if you start to think that an event is happening, we talk about run, hide, fight. We want you to immediately try to leave, get away from the area and run. If that's not possible and it's happening too fast or too close to you and you have the ability, try to hide. The whole time you're hiding, try to continue making your hiding spot better or look for an alternative escape routes. And then last but not least, if you have no choice and the active shooter is right in front of you, be prepared to fight. Be prepared to use improvised weapons, be prepared to commit to the fight and not quit until they're incapacitated or in custody and unable to hurt anybody else. The next thing we talk about with folks is rendering aid to anybody that's injured.

And so we want you to think through what do your first aid kits look like? What kind of training have you had? And if there were to be an event like this, know that before the police even arrive, if it's safe to do so, start providing aid to anybody that's injured, including yourself. If you're in a closet by yourself, hopefully you've had some training on how to stop any major bleeding and hopefully you're able to put that into action right away. And then obviously, the police focus is going to be on stopping the shooter first and foremost. And then secondly, we're going to be working to get medical aid to anybody that's injured. And that might mean a situation where the police come running in and they're bypassing people that are injured and that has been historically really challenging for officers. When they see injured people, they want to go help them.

And I can only imagine it's even worse for a community member that's injured. They feel like, "Okay, the police are here, I'm going to be okay." And then the police just leave and they're going to look for the shooter. So we need people to know that our immediate priority has to be stopping the shooter so that there aren't more and more injured people and then we are immediately going to transition and get them medical aid as quickly as possible. We do train with Portland Fire AMR and there has been a major transition over the last few years for police departments and ambulance departments, where they will come and work in a warm zone. Normally they have to have the entire zone totally safe and no risk. That's the general criteria when they would come and work in an area where the police might be also.

Now nationally, the new trend is for them to come and work in a warm zone where we think the active shooter has been contained or we think the active shooter has been incapacitated and they will come in and work in a warm zone that we're not a hundred percent sure is safe, but the priority is getting a to anybody that is injured as quickly as possible. And so we do train with Portland Fire AMR and you need to know that we are going to be trying to transition this from a tactical incident to a medical incident as quickly as we can. During the part of an active shooter event where the suspect has not been accounted for, they're not in custody and they're not incapacitated. The police are going to be coming into rooms very quickly looking for the shooter. Once that's done and then we are searching rooms and we're looking to help all the injured people if there are any, or find people that are hiding and get them to safety, we will slow things down.

We'll be knocking on doors. We'll be saying, "Hey, it's the police. We're coming in and we are expecting that you might be in there hiding with some kind of improvised weapon waiting to keep yourself safe." So we'll try to knock on the door and give you a heads up for coming. We should have our own access to the room, whether it's master keys or a key card or some other way of opening the door. And then we'll be moving into the room telling you, "Hey, it's the police. It's safe to come out and trying to get you to safety." We don't recommend that you open the door, at least not in the first 15, 20, 30 minutes, as there have been events across the country. They're rare, but there have been events where an active shooter knocked on doors and said, "Hey, it's the police. It's safe to come out."

So monitor social media, monitor the police website. And if you're sure that the shooter is down and it's been more than that 15 or 20 minutes and you can hear and you know that the police have responded. At that point, if you hear people knocking on the door, then it's pretty likely that it's the police. But early on in an event, if somebody knocks on the door and says it's the police and they don't come in, we don't recommend that you leave your hiding spot. Don't open that door. Let the police be the one that come and open the door and tell you, "Hey, we're here and you're safe."

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

We talked about improvised weapons. What about actual weapons, Leo?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

That's a very good question and that is something that we usually do cover. We usually have people come and ask us, "Hey, I have a concealed permit, should I carry, should I not?" And we really try to stay out of any political discussions about weapons. I know that this is a very charged political topic, related active shooter versus gun control, Second Amendment type stuff. And we don't get into any of that. Obviously carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility. And so we do talk with community members and our police officers who might be off duty and carrying a firearm. We talk about ways they can make the situation better and we talk about that on a sliding scale. So maybe the thing that comes to mind for a lot of people is someone with a firearm, using it to take down the active shooter and incapacitate them or kill them.

And obviously the situation's over right there, nobody else would get injured or killed. And that does seem like the quickest and most efficient way to stop an active shooter. But there are other ways that you can make the situation better. I know at various events around the country there have been people with a firearm. They weren't sure if it was a real event or if it was a training scenario. And so they took a group of people into a room and said, "Hey, I have a firearm and I'll keep you safe." And so that is another way of making the situation better even if you're not going to go out and hunt down the active shooter. Obviously the opposite of making the situation better is making the situation worse. Again, we talk about that on a sliding scale. I think worst case scenario is you try to go take action against an active shooter and you're unsuccessful and you injure or kill some innocent community member while trying to do something that would be helpful to everybody.

But maybe either your skills and abilities or your weapons, limitations are so that you're not successful. And obviously that's kind of worst case scenario, but you could be also misidentified as a threat or as the shooter. There have been incidents across the country where a good person with a weapon trying to take action and keep people safe is mistaken as the shooter by police or other members who are trying to stop the shooter. And that can have tragic consequences, still worse but not as bad even just getting misidentified. I know there have been events where somebody pulled a weapon, they were trying to decide if they were going to go take action or not, and they decided not to and they holstered. But in that time where they had their weapon out, community members saw them and then reported them as an additional shooter, which made the situation more complicated.

The police thought there were two threats and a totally new firearm and description of a suspect that they were trying to chase down. So there's a variety of ways that you can make the situation worse, not just be a mistaken for the shooter or shooting the wrong person. So our recommendation for community members and for our police officers are to stay within your skills and your weapons capabilities. The other thing we recommend for people that might be armed is try to call us and let us know what your plan is. Call 911 and say, "Hey, I'm armed. Here's my description and here's my plan." If you're going to go actively try to go after the shooter, that would be really helpful for the police to know that there's a shooter with whatever description and then that there is a community member or an off-duty police officer trying to take action and that they're armed. So that when we're rushing into this building, we know there might be a couple different people you encounter with a weapon.

Same with if you're just going to take people into a room and keep them safe, we would be very happy to know that there's somebody in a room with a weapon ready to keep people safe. So that when we do get to that room, we know that there's somebody in there with a firearm. And the other thing we're going to do is we're going to prioritize every other room first because there's already somebody in there. Keeping that group of people safe may or may not be easy to get us that information, but if you are going to carry concealed, which is a huge responsibility, we recommend staying within your capabilities and your training. And then if you happen to be in an event like this, try to call 911 and let us know what your plan and your description.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

You mentioned earlier that not everybody should call 911. When should people call 911?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

That's a great question and we totally understand that everybody would want to call 911. I know that at these events historically, thousands of people call 911 and they have all different kinds of questions. They ask the dispatchers if their loved ones are okay. They try to ask if the suspect is in custody, things like that. And as hard as it is, we recommend people not call 911 unless they have specific information that will help us with our number one priority, which is stopping the shooter. We need to limit the amount of people that call 911. Our dispatchers, easily in these situations, get overwhelmed, more calls pour in than they can answer. And so they don't know if it's the fifth call in line waiting or the 20th call that has the information that we need to be able to go and find and stop the shooter.

So we tell people, if you have information on where the shooter is, we definitely want you to call 911. That is absolutely the priority. That is where the police are going to be going to as quickly as they can. If you have information on what the suspect's description would be like or the weapons that they have, we would want you to call 911 and let us know what you saw. Obviously, if you know that there are a bunch of victims in a certain area, we would want you to call and let us know that too, because we will prioritize getting to that area as soon as we have the suspect incapacitated or in custody. Texting 911, at least here in Multnomah County, is now an option. In the normal spot on your phone where you would put in somebody's name, if you just put 911 and then in the text bar, text information to the dispatcher you can. You cannot send emojis or videos or photos.

So it's text only. And they also do not have the ability through texting to figure out where your phone is, like they do if you call. So if you need to be quiet, maybe you're in that hiding phase, know that you can text 911 with that information if you have it; where the suspect is, their description, weapons or potential areas where victims are. Know that you can text that information, but you'll need to say at the mall, or I'm at work, with your address, et cetera. And so everyone else who knows that this event is happening but they don't have any of that information, probably should wait 10, 15, 20 minutes to make any phone calls even to loved ones. It can really, really jam up the whole communication system if thousands of people are suddenly calling and texting all at the same time. And a lot of it is vital information, letting your loved ones know that you're okay, they're going to be trying to get ahold of you.

Obviously it is hugely traumatic for loved ones to know that you're at the mall or you're at a school and not be able to get ahold of you. But to help that incident resolve as quickly as possible, in those first few minutes we really want people, if they don't have critical information that will help law enforcement resolve it. We want them to not make phone calls to 911. The other thing that we would want people to call about or send us a text is if you or someone else is injured anywhere. If you're hiding somewhere and you're injured, we would want to know that because we're going to prioritize getting to any injured people, even if it's not a large group of injured people. If you're hiding somewhere in a closet and you can let us know where that is, that would be something else we'd want you to text or call 911 about.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

And I'm going to give a little plug for our public information officer because that will be one of the first things that our PIO and our strategic communications team would be doing is creating some kind of phone bank or someplace for some people to call to ask any kind of questions that aren't related directly to the incident.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

That would be very helpful. And it's truly terrifying not being able to get ahold of them for any amount of time. So it's good for them to have somebody that they can call, somebody that can potentially help give them information that's unrelated to the actual immediate response.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

We all can't walk around in fear all the time, but I know we're all out in public places. We're at concerts or large gatherings. Is there anything you can just sort of keep in mind since you can't do all the preparation that we talked about before as far as the site monitoring and things like that?

Ofc. Leo Harris:

We definitely want people to be aware of their surroundings and we definitely want people to pay attention. We don't want people to be afraid. We want people to feel like they are paying attention a little bit. So if there is something that starts going wrong, they can get themselves to safety as quick as possible or find a place to hide. In worst case scenario, they're ready to fight. But we hope that that allows people to move around their life and environment with some confidence, not afraid. Not feeling like, "Oh, this is something that's likely to happen." Because if you look at the statistics, it's very unlikely that this will happen to any one of us. I know we hear about it a lot through the media and social media, but the odds of being in an event like this or getting killed in an event like this are extremely low.

But there is obviously a fear factor. There's a lot of things that we do that are more dangerous, like driving cars and things like that, but they don't necessarily scare people like the thought of someone trying to intentionally hurt or kill you. That is obviously much more terrifying. But thankfully it is much more rare. So we just recommend to people, pay attention, look around your surroundings, be paying attention for something starting to happen, and then put these three things into place. Try to get out of the area. If you can't get out of the area, then hide and if not, be prepared to fight. And people might say, "Oh, that's easier said than done in an environment like a large church congregation or an outdoor music venue." And I would say that those probably are still the same. You're going to have people in that same immediate area all doing different things.

You'll have people towards the edges trying to get away. You might have people in the middle either trying to get away or hiding. And then the people that are closest to the shooter, those might be the ones where their best option is to actually fight and to join together as a group, take the shooter down, incapacitate them. So it doesn't matter whether you're at the mall or a school or a church or an outdoor venue. A lot of these three, these same plans, are going to overlap in being enacted by community members all at the same time.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

Preparation is key, as you pointed out, Leo. And that's why we wanted to do this podcast because we really wanted to give people some good information. And I know you have limited capacity for some of this information and these presentations that you're giving, but tell us a little bit more about what other information people can find on our website.

Ofc. Leo Harris:

On the website, we're going to continue to try to put more and more information on there. There should be a link there to request a Community Active Shooter Preparedness presentation, a CASP. Obviously our capacity is a little bit limited, but we're trying to increase it. So be patient with us. If you put in a request, we'll try to get back to you. We are trying to build an online presentation that people would be able to work through in chunks so it's not the full 90 minutes all at once. And there will also be one of the presentations that has been videoed that will be available online for people to watch.

Terri Wallo-Strauss:

Thanks for being here today, Leo. This has really been some good information and a reminder that our website is or you can follow us on our social media platforms with the handle @PortlandPolice.