Recent shootings like the massacre at the workplace holiday party in San Bernardino late last year have prompted at least one San Mateo County city to prepare its residents in the event of a similar incident.
The Burlingame Neighborhood Network will host the April 23 event, which will cover what to do if a gunman goes on a shooting spree in a workplace, house of worship, school or neighborhood.
At the event, the Burlingame Police Department will offer tips for surviving active shooter incidents. The neighborhood network’s founder Terry Nagel said the group is a disaster preparedness organization, aiming to connect residents so they can respond effectively to emergencies in the community.
“Studies show if you’re connected with your neighbors, you’re more likely to survive a disaster and rebuild your community faster,” Nagel said.
Nagel previously attended an active shooter talk given by Stanford University’s Police Department, and claimed the need for such information is a sign of the times.
“The Burlingame Neighborhood Network decided to focus on the active shooter issue because it just keeps happening,” Nagel said.
According to Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson, there were 160 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013— roughly one per month.
The San Bernardino shooting is among the most recent of such incidents. Fourteen people were killed and 21 others were injured at a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, by the gun-wielding husband-and-wife team Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29.
Federal authorities say the pair had become self-radicalized in the years before Farook and Malik opened fire on his co-workers. The couple was killed during a subsequent shootout with police.
The term “active shooter” describes what is commonly thought of as a mass shooting. It refers to incidents with three or more fatalities, and is considered ongoing until the shooter is captured, killed by police or dies by his own hand.
Except for a few notable exceptions, the shooters are typically 18- to 30-year-old men, Nagel said, adding that for the mass shootings in the 2000-2013 data, 34 percent were related to an intimate relationship, and 14 percent were retaliation for a specific action.
According to Stanford Police Department active shooter training materials, the most likely cause of death for women in the workplace is domestic violence.
“Run,” “hide,” and “fight” are the three watchwords to keep in mind, Nagel said, and there are specific things police want you to remember if you’re ever forced to employ any of those strategies during a shooting incident.
“When you’re running, don’t stop to get your purse,” Nagel said, “And as you’re leaving the area, keep your hands widely visible above your head, because police could mistake you for the shooter.”
Some survival advice might be harder to follow, as your belongings aren’t the only things police recommend leaving behind.
“Don’t hang around wounded people,” Nagel said. “If there’s anyone who’s wounded, the official position is they won’t be treated until the area is locked down.”
If you’re forced to hide on the premises of a shooting, remember to silence your cell phone, Nagel said. And if possible, choose a hiding place with an escape route. If you’re hiding in a room, barricade the door and hide behind large objects.
“Locking the door is not enough,” Nagel said, “Bullets will go through doors and sheetrock.”
When it comes to fighting back against an attacker, Nagel noted anything can be used as a weapon, and a group attack is more likely to succeed.
Burlingame Police Lt. Robert Boll acknowledged there are not many circumstances where police recommend engaging in combat.
“All this is last resort,” Boll noted. “We don’t want you to lock yourself in an office and think the police are going to come rescue you, because by the time we get there, the incident might be over.”
The compressed timeline of the average active shooter incident underscores the need for quick thinking and fast decision-making. Most mass shootings are over within two to five minutes, Nagel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
IF YOU GO:
Surviving an Active Shooter Event
Saturday, April 23, 9:00 a.m.
Burlingame Public Library
480 Primrose Road, Burlingame