At around 3:01 p.m., only about a minute into a training exercise, I was shot by masked intruder.
In that second, two things happened: one, I majorly banged my knee on either the desk or the floor (I’m not really sure), and two, I’m realized I’m no good in an emergency.
Before the training, I held this cocky belief that I could handle myself. I would use my A.L.I.C.E. training to save the world.
Ugh. That was so not true.
I froze. My moment of hesitation led to my demise, and even though the exercise was totally fake – and I knew it was totally fake – it was scary.
What if this had been real? I would have never seen my children again.
Of course, the point of the exercise is to be as real as a possible, and it’s why Alisa Pacer, emergency preparedness manager for JCCC, wrote a script that seemed entirely plausible.
A gunman enters the Carlsen Center. A text message is sent to my phone to alert me, but I didn’t bother to look at it.
We hear “shots” fired outside our door. Inside our classroom, we begin questioning each other as to what we’ve heard.
A male “student” in our room gets to the door, but he debates for a moment too long as to what to do, while the rest of seem to move in slow motion, not doing much of anything while we try to get our heads around what was going on.
The door bursts open, and a person enters holding a bright orange gun with a red LED light on the top. For an eternity I stare at that light, then dive for the floor. But it’s too late. “Five – number five casualty, shot, presumed dead,” the shooter bellows, and he takes off down the hall.
No, wait, I thought. I’m number five. That’s not fair. I wasn’t ready.
The sheer idiocy of that thought hits me as the monitor in the room states, “You’re dead.”
I don’t want to be dead. I want to be the star pupil of the training. I want to have remembered everything the trainer tried to teach me, and I wanted to use it.
But there’s a big difference between knowing it and using it when the situation demands it.
I am an excellent student. (Really, I love school. For four decades I have relished being the teacher’s pet.) But I am horrible at split-second reactions and gut-wrenching decisions.
In the debriefing, held after that initial training, Pacer confirmed that six of the 30 participants had been shot dead. So 80 percent of the population had fared better than me. They probably jumped into action faster or had longer to prepare. (I still think ours was the first room the shooter entered. It had to have been, right? It seemed like only seconds…)
I had assumed that, since I tend to remain unruffled in the face of major crises, I would do fine with this kind of scenario. What I didn’t realize is that I am unruffled AFTER a crisis, not during one. During one, I kind of suck at thinking, and I want to be around other people who aren’t so hesitant.
Best case scenario: I don’t ever want be in this sort of situation. Period.
Ken Sissom, associate professor of administration of justice, was a volunteer monitor in my room. As a 20+year veteran of the Merriam Police Department, he told me, “I’ve been shot at, I’ve stared down a gun, and there’s a big difference between what you think you’ll do in that situation and what you actually do.” I think he was trying to make me feel better for being such a deer in the headlights.
Pardon me, Ken, if I didn’t quote you correctly. I was running on adrenaline, and I think my note-writing hand would have been shaking if I had indeed bothered to write that down.
But that quote was close to what he said. And I agree with him. You never know what you’ll do unless you’re put into that situation, and I urge others at JCCC to participate in the next training scenario.
As Karen Martley, associate vice president of continuing education, said, “Any time you do active-type learning, you’re more apt to retain that information, but only if you use it.”
I think I learned quite a bit about dealing with intruders, but I also learned a lot about myself. Sigh.