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In an Active Shooter Situation, Do You Know What to Do? Fort Wayne-Area Emergency Officials Share Advice

Quick thinking and being prepared can make the difference between being a survivor or victim.

(TNS) — You never think it will happen to you.

You’ve gone to school or a festival, concert venue or shopping mall for years and have never had any concerns. Then, one day, gunshots ring out, and they seem to be getting closer and closer.

Quick thinking and being prepared can make the difference between being a survivor or victim — for you, your family, friends or others, local health and emergency personnel said.

“The reality is it can happen anywhere,” Dr. Deborah McMahan, health commissioner for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, said Friday, referring to the shooting a day earlier that left five people dead in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md.

McMahan was speaking Friday at a previously scheduled information session for media about how to react in an active-shooter situation and how to help stop the bleeding of people who have been wounded.

The goal of the demonstration is to get the information to you — the public — so you can be prepared to save your life or the lives of others.

In addition to the Capital Gazette newsroom, Americans in recent months have experienced mass shootings in schools and at a Las Vegas concert.

Here in Fort Wayne, a man was shot June 15 outside Glenbrook Square mall, which sparked panic based on a false report of an active shooter in the mall.

“We are seeing it all over the world right now — people trying to make their point by hurting other people,” said Don Watson, a district EMS manager with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, who provided the training last week on how to react in a shooter situation.

Here is Watson’s advice, which is based on the recommended response in a shooter situation: Run, Hide, Fight:


•    Every business, office, venue or event space should develop a plan for what employees, customers, visitors and others should do if a gunman attacks. They also should practice the plan and make changes needed to make it work better. The plan should include how to help people with disabilities get to safety.

•    Building owners or occupants can install better locks and doors that may help prevent a shooter from getting to people inside.

•    When you enter any location, take note of doorways and possible escape routes. If escaping could require going out windows, check for objects on hand that can be used to break out window glass.

•    If you see someone or something suspicious, report it to building security or law enforcement immediately.

•    If a shooter enters the building or venue, run away if possible.

•    If you are unable to flee, look for a place to hide. While hiding, scan the room or space for items you can use to protect yourself or use as a weapon against the shooter, if necessary.

Chairs and desks, for example, can be used to barricade a door, while an indoor flag pole can be used as a weapon against the shooter. You also can throw things at the shooter to distract him or her.

•    Turn off your cellphone — an incoming call or text can cause your phone to ring or ping, giving away your hiding place. A phone set on vibrate also makes sounds that can alert the shooter to your location.

•    If confronted by the shooter, fight back using any weapon you have.

•    Once the police arrive, they likely will try to evacuate people, Watson said. Walk out of the building with your hands held up and your fingers spread apart so they can see you don’t have any weapons. Don’t put your hands in your pants pockets or behind your back.


•    In an active shooter situation, wait to call 911 until you can do so safely, training information said. In Indiana, you also can text information to 911 if it is unsafe to make a phone call.

•    When calling 911 to report an active shooter situation, give police information about where the shooting is taking place, how many shooters are there, what they look like and what types of weapons they have. If possible, you also should provide an estimate of the number of victims.


In a shooter situation and others with traumatic injury, such as a serious traffic accident, sometimes the ability to stop bleeding makes the difference between life and death, Parkview Health trauma staff said.

Here’s what to do:

•    Treat yourself first and then try to help others.

•    Stuff a wound with gauze or strips of clothing until you begin to feel resistance, which can require stuffing a substantial amount of material down into the wound, said Sarah Hoeppner, Parkview Health trauma coordinator and performance improvement specialist.

•    Place more gauze or cloth over the wound and cover it with the heel of one hand. Place your other hand on that hand over the wound and push down hard to apply direct pressure on the wound to reduce or stop the bleeding.

•    After stuffing the wound, you also can use your hands to push down and apply direct pressure simultaneously on either side of the wound to reduce bleeding.

•    You can use these stop the bleeding techniques for yourself or to help someone else, said Lisa Hollister, Parkview Health’s director of trauma and acute-care surgery.

•    If applying direct pressure doesn’t stop the bleeding or you are unable to apply direct pressure wrap a tourniquet 2 or 3 inches above the wound and tighten it until the wounded person feels pain, Hollister said. If possible, note the time you start use of the tourniquet so you can notify emergency medical personnel how long it has been in place.

•    People should pack one tourniquet for each family member or person in the group and take the tourniquets wherever they go, said Lauren Quandt, Parkview Health pediatric trauma coordinator.

•    Parkview Health recommends using the CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) brand of tourniquets because they are easier to put on yourself without help, Hollister said.

You also can use a belt, rope, shirt, tie, stocking or other cloth to make a tourniquet, Hollister said.

If you can stop the bleeding at the shooting site, the person has a better chance of staying alive until he or she can be transported to a hospital.

“The key to really stopping the bleeding is surgery,” Hollister said.


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