Not all programs come with disclaimers, nor do moderators typically find it necessary to detail all the exit routes in an auditorium, yet in the interest of public safety at Neumann University Thursday, precautions were taken in order to set precedent moving forward. “These topics, while not easy to touch on, they’re necessary,” said Danielle McNichol, director of the Center for Leadership and General Counsel at Neumann University, who moderated a panel that focused on teaching administrators the methods protecting their workplace from an active shooter.
Joined by members of the District Attorney’s Office, namely District Attorney Jack Whelan and Community Preparedness Coordinator Timothy Boyce, Delaware County Chamber of Commerce President Trish McFarland and Delaware County Council Chairman Mario Civera, top officials aimed to set a tone for maintaining order in a mass casualty event.
“I see a lot of bad things … sometimes you just sit down and shake your head,” Whelan said. “But, only a small percentage of the community commits these crimes … take solace that people like you try to do the right thing.”
“We want to make sure our children are safe,” he added.
Speakers laid out a strategy for members of the business community in the room based upon the Run-Hide-Fight plan of action, the current standard of active shooter protocol. But they also stressed vigilance in identifying potential threats before an incident takes place.
“Why train?” asked Rich Cordivari, of security group AlliedBarton, who specializes in preparing for workplace violence. “You train so when bad things happen, panic isn’t the first option.”
Boyce, Lt. Christopher Flanagan of the Radnor Police Department and Officer Brian Coleman of the Haverford Police Department stressed vigilance and situational awareness — know the exits, have a contingency plan, reach out to local police and identify potentially violent behavior before it happens.
“I’ve twice been in an active shooter situation and I didn’t know either time where the shots were coming from with the echo effect,” Boyce said.
A video from the Bataclan in France, where a terroristic attack in November 2015 left 90 people dead begged the question, “What do you hear?”
The answer? “No sirens,” said Flanagan.
“This was a real life Run-Hide-Fight,” Boyce said. “This is not meant to upset you, this is meant to empower you … training isn’t about scaring people, it’s about being prepared.”
Detailing the appropriate places to take cover if unable to flee — out of sight with an escape route available, hiding in plain sight could enable a grim outcome.
Playing audio from a teacher trapped inside the library of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which Flanagan said “still gives (him) chills,” it was the calm, informative demeanor of the teacher the lawmen wanted to highlight.
If forced to fight, “fight for your life, think of your family,” they said.
The DelPASS system, which stands for the Delaware County Police Alert for School Safety, has been installed in all area schools to create an instantaneous response to potential incidents.
“We have safety in Delaware County with the DelPASS system,” Civera said. “Between the 34 police departments, we in the community are all one family that comes together and works to provide the safety the county needs.”
But, before police arrive, the precautions that must be set in place were what the safety professionals chose to emphasize. At one point, Boyce wielded a non-lethal orange-colored replica firearm and acted out a beach of a doorway, to which a well-prepared Flanagan and Coleman were waiting to disarm Boyce as he crossed the threshold.
“Could you get shot? Maybe,” conceded Boyce. “You have to understand your advantages, there are better things for you to do than wait for something bad to happen.”
Information on the Delaware County Partnership for Public Safety can be found at www.neumannpublicsafety.com, or via a Facebook search for “Neumann Public Safety.”
A Google search of “Run-Hide-Fight” will produce a top result of a City of Houston video that was used as a reference Thursday to survive an office shooting. The FBI also offers resources through the Office of Partner Engagement, also found through the “Run-Hide-Fight” Google search.
Management people were stressed upon to enact a contingency plan in preparation for a workplace incident, and were encouraged to reach out to local police departments for advice in educating employees on active shooter protocols.