How to survive an active shooter at your workplace, according to CMPD

Active Shooter Training at The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Leah Asmelash | The Charlotte Observer) - Officer Johnathan Frisk has been an officer for over 16 years. He's seen a lot, including the jump in active shooter incidents — up an average of 58 percent per year since 2000, the most recent being the Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland last month.

After seeing this uptick, and with 42 percent of the incidents happening in businesses, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department started training residents four years ago with a seminar called Active Survival for an Active Shooter.

Frisk, who's been teaching the seminar for about two years, gets requests for it every day. They're booked through September, and the CMPD has taught at hundreds of companies already — from law firms to hospitals.

The presentation is broken into two parts. The first focuses on analyzing four active shooter events: Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Pulse Nightclub. The officer goes over what was done in these situations that resulted in deaths, and what could have been done differently to save lives.

Sgt. Chris Kopp, who gave the presentation at the Observer on Monday, said the strategies people have used in the past to respond to active shooters don't work.

People were taught in grade school to hide underneath desks or tables. In the last two decades, these strategies to combat an active shooter haven't changed, and sometimes people will try to talk the shooter down, pray with them or play dead.

"That's what gets people killed," Frisk said. "Being passive."

Which leads to the second part of the Active Survival training, where employees are taught how to actively defend themselves if a shooter is in their building.

Kopp calls it the ABCs: avoid, barricade, counter and survive. The appropriate response depends on the situation.

If you don't have an easy way out or an exit plan, barricading the entryway to slow down or stop the shooter is more effective than hiding under a table, he said. He also gave examples on how to counter an active shooter, like by grabbing the gun or using office supplies as weapons.

"(You) just need to survive for five minutes," he said, the average time it takes for law enforcement to arrive on the scene.

Rodney Tucker is the executive director of Charlotte's Time Out Youth, a center for LGBTQ youth. He started thinking about what his staff would do in an active shooter situation after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. So he brought in Officer Frisk, and completed the seminar earlier this month.

"Part of it was really disturbing," Tucker said.

But when they got to the practical application part of the presentation, Tucker said the demonstrations on blocking doors and other skills were helpful.

"There were things that you could do to save lives, I mean that's our whole point of our organization anyway," he said. "So there was just some simple stuff that he just kind of reminded us about how to protect yourself, how to protect others, that I think truly will save lives."

That's the hope of the program. Though Kopp acknowledged that some parts of the session are difficult to hear, he maintained that they are necessary.

"The body is only going to go where the mind has already been," he said.