Medina police give churches advice on how to prepare for active shooter threat
(Editor’s Note: Orleans Hub is trying to get caught up on some of the events we covered before the coronavirus became such a dominant story. This article is from a presentation on March 10.)
MEDINA – If there is one thing Lt. Todd Draper never wants to hear from a local resident it is, “It couldn’t happen here.”
Draper, a former combat medic, a 15-year member of the Medina Police Department and its K9 officer, is on a mission to educate everyone in the area what to do in the event of an active threat situation. This could come in the form of a shooter, a person with a knife, a vehicle attack or explosives.
It could happen anywhere, and it could happen here, Draper said.
“My wife is a teacher and my son goes to Medina schools,” Draper said. “The mentality that it won’t happen here doesn’t fly anymore.”
His family and his community are near and dear to his heart, which is why Draper has made of point of educating himself and his fellow officers how to prepare and what to do in an active threat situation.
On March 10 at the First Presbyterian Church in Medina, Draper gave a one-hour presentation on how to prepare and what to do in an active shooter situation. He has previously done the presentation for the staff at the Medina School District and recently approached the Medina Area Association of Churches, offering to do one for them.
Pat Crowley, former prevention educator at GCASA and member of the First Presbyterian Church, is secretary of MAAC and offered to take the lead in planning the presentation. The Rev. William Wilkinson was all in favor of it and the church agreed to host the event, even serving supper.
More than 80 people turned out to hear Draper, who stressed what people do in and active shooter situation matters – a lot.
“The actions you take in the first few minutes of such a situation may make the difference between life and death,” he said.
He said the facts are disturbing, but they are serious.
The incidences of a shooting have increased from five a week in 2009 to 15 a week in 2020.
“This is the new norm,” Draper said, quoting former President Obama. “We don’t want it to happen here, but we want to prepare if it does.”
He urged making a plan now.
“You can’t wait until it happens,” he said.
He shared results of a study of 160 active shooter situations. Ninety-nine percent were single individuals, 94 percent were male, 90 ended by suicide or leaving the scene and 21 were ended by civilians. An active shooter situation usually lasts six to eight minutes. There were 250 active shooter situations in the United States between 2000 and 2017. Active shootings have happened in educational buildings, commerce, government buildings, open spaces, a temple, an Episcopal church and a synagogue.
In the case of the shooting in a Texas church, the suspect was killed by an armed volunteer security guard.
“It shows how important your actions are before the police arrive,” Draper said.
He also said this occurred in a village of about 14,000 which would almost be the number of people in Medina and the surrounding towns.
Again stressing the importance of making a plan, Draper said the body’s ability to react in a time of stress is reduced from 86 percent to 15 percent.
“You need a pre-established plan,” Draper said. “Know the right action, and don’t follow the flock.”
He said it has been 60 years since a child died in a school fire, and that is because of frequent fire drills – planning ahead.
Steps to remember are:
• Know what to do.
• Practice it.
• Shift emotion.
Your response plan needs to be clear and everyone in your organization should know what to, but some information might be for staff only. Plans need to be consistent and simple.
Plans should include how to create a physical barrier; people in the building should know which doors are locked and when they are locked.
Information on preparing for an active shooter situation can be found at www.ready.gov/active-shooter.
Draper said he would love for churches to assign an usher to man the door and suggests keeping the door locked. He said a congregation is typically sitting with their back to the door, making it easy for someone to come in during the service unnoticed. He said if someone came late and the usher knew them, he could welcome them it, but if the person presented a threat, the locked door would prevent them from entering.
“The days of honor-based security are gone,” Draper said.
Signs to look for that someone might be considering a threatening action include social withdrawal, isolation, feelings of rejection, uncontrolled anger, drug/alcohol use and making serious, violent threats.
The most important thing is “If you see something, say something,” Draper said.
In the event one is caught in an active shooter situation, Draper said the first thing to do is call 911 and try to evade the assailant.
“Distance is your biggest friend,” he said. “Try to put space between you and the assailant.”
Then find cover that will stop a bullet. A wall will conceal you, but will not stop a bullet, Draper said. If you run, only take your cell phone to call 911 and make sure to silence it so it won’t give your location away.
He said to look for improvised weapons, such as an aerosol can, a stapler, scissors or a fire extinguisher.
If someone is shot, Draper said it’s possible to survive a gunshot wound if someone knows how to stop the bleeding. “Stop the Bleed” is another program the Medina Police Department teaches. He recommends churches have “Stop the Bleed” kits in their sanctuary.
In conclusion, Draper said, “Don’t ever say it won’t happen here.”