‘Not if, but when’
What may be the most pressing topic in the country right now was discussed Saturday as the Lee County Sheriff’s Office presented “A Response to Active Shooter and Mass Casualty Events.”
Registration for the event held at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall at FSW hit 1,600 as residents signed up to learn about what you should do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation.
Undersheriff Carmine Marceno gave opening remarks stating that the public needs to be prepared “not if, but when something happens.”
He said the seminar was designed to train the public to start to think outside the box.
“We can’t be everywhere, we need the eyes and ears of the citizens,” he said.
“If it looks suspicious, make the call.”
Lee County is the 33rd largest school system in the country with more than 90,000 students.
This means there are more 90,000 backpacks that everyone hopes contain just books.
Marceno touched on the bolstering of officers in classrooms in Southwest Florida, saying, “There is no greater gift than to protect a child.”
Staff Officer Scott Griffith has been in law enforcement for more than three decades including command positions in units such as SWAT, criminal investigations, training and internal affairs.
He is currently working as an educator to business leaders, government officials and sworn personnel on how to respond to an active shooter scenario.
Full of energy, Griffith broke down how, in some mass casualty events, the public could have been more aware that something bad was about to happen.
“We need to start thinking,” he stated. “Try to practice more ‘what-if’ situations.”
Griffith continued with looking for characteristics of reportable behavior such as physical violence, direct or indirect threats of violence and suicide indication.
“Who will be the first responders? You,” he told the audience.
Griffith broke down the best ways to keep safe if you find yourself fighting for your life.
Alerting the proper authorities, working as a team with those around you and knowing your evacuation route are some of the ways one can increase their chance of survival.
The most important question of the day was: if you find yourself in an active shooter situation do you run, hide or fight?
If you run, you need to think if that’s the safest option. Do you know your escape plan? Do you know your building? Where would you go?
If you decide it is the best option for you, you need to leave all belongings behind, put your hands in the air to indicate to any law enforcement that you are not a threat and avoid escalators and elevators.
If you choose to hide, you need to lock and barricade the doors with heavy furniture. Close and lock all the windows. Close the blinds, cover the windows and turn off the lights. It is important to remember to silence all electronic devices and to remain silent.
It may be smart to identity any objects around you that could be used as a weapon.
That brings us to the option of fighting,
“This is your last available option, and you have to be committed to the action,” Griffith advised.
If others around you are willing to join you, this may increase your chances, but know your plan of action and don’t hesitate.
“The goal of this seminar is to tell others, until the 750,000 residents of Lee County practices these tactics, ‘Let’s make Lee County the safest county in Florida,'” Griffith ended.
EMS Lt. Steven Winters has served as an EMT, paramedic, flight paramedic and field training officer and now serves as district supervisor for the Lee County Department of Public Safety.
Winters discussed how to “Stop the Bleed” for bystanders attending to injured persons while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.
“A person can bleed to death in as little as three to five minutes and 30 to 40 percent of people die due to external bleeding following an injury,” said Winters.
Step one is to apply firm, steady pressure with both hands to the bleeding site.
Step two is to apply dressing and continue pressure with the bandages or clothing.
If necessary, step three is to apply a tourniquet.
When the bleeding doesn’t stop, place a tourniquet two to three inches closer to the torso from the bleeding and may be applied and secured over clothing.
Make sure it is tight enough and secure it in place, do not remove it, a medical professional will do so.
“No one should die of external hemorrhaging,” he added.
Identifying certain types of bleeds was touched on as well such as how to know if a bleed is life-threatening.
If the blood is pooling, spurting, not stopping and the person is sliding into an altered mental state, you most likely need to apply a tourniquet and get immediate medical attention.
Winters says to follow the ABC’s.
A – Alert – call 911 or tell someone else to.
B – Bleeding – identify if it’s a life- threatening bleed.
C – Compression – apply pressure with a dressing or tourniquet.
He says the misnomers about tourniquets are that you will lose a limb if applied. This is simply not the case anymore, that old mindset is out the window.
“The only thing more tragic than a death, is a death that could’ve been prevented,” Winters concluded.
The seminar wrapped up with a question-and-answer session with a panel including Griffith and Winters, along with Dr. Jose Diaz, Lee Health Trauma surgeon, Youth Services Captain Mike Miller and Lieutenant Gus Vallejo.
The group fielded various questions including what you should do if you don’t know where the gunshots are coming from, if Lee Health is prepared for mass casuality events and more.
Those in attendance were able to practice life-saving techniques on dummies after the presentation.
It seemed the panel were all in agreement on one thing when it comes to these deadly situations.
“A strong will to survive can make a huge difference.”