Active shooter class draws teachers, students
Madison Hayes, sat in the front row of a small classroom, listening to a former law enforcement officer explain how to fight a potential gunman by grabbing the barrel of the shotgun and hugging it close to her body while fighting off the assailant.
On May 18, Madison was in ninth grade, sitting in her classroom at Santa Fe High School while on the other end of the building, a teen-aged shooter barged into an art room, killing and injuring teachers and students.
“I think it’s just good to know in case I’m in that situation,” Madison said from her seat inside the Arms Room in Dickinson where the active shooter response class was held on Aug. 7.
Her mother, Heather Hayes, and brother Patrick, a student at Santa Fe Junior High School, sat nearby.
“We’ve been telling everybody about it,” Heather said of the class. “Because nobody knows about it.”
Parents in Santa Fe may not be aware of the class taught by two former military and law enforcement professionals, but the instructors say the word is out among public school teachers in the area.
The store offers the active shooter/first aid classes to anyone with a school district identification badge for free. Other adults pay $30, and students can take the classes for $15.
The classes began in late 2017. The instructors say that since that deadly attack at Santa Fe High, they’ve gone from offering the classes monthly to weekly. Travis James, co-owner of Arms Room, said that 70 percent to 80 percent of the class is made up of teachers. Sometimes, the classes have had as many as 40 participants.
“I hate to say it, but it seems like more of a common occurrence recently,” James said of mass shootings. “We’ve seen a huge increase in the overall attendance in the class.”
Even though the store, 3270 Gulf Freeway South, sells and trains people to use firearms, these classes don’t involve guns, instructor Jeffrey Kimball said.
“You’re best chance of survival in something like (active shooter situation) is to get out, to run,” said Kimball, who was a Friendswood police officer for over a decade and who teaches an array of other classes at the store including firearms training. “Your No. 1 goal is to get out of the situation, not to engage. If you have to fight, that’s your last resort.”
The class is split into two portions.
The first is a lecture on how to escape or hide during a mass shooting or any situation where someone is trying to harm you. The second, taught by another instructor who has combat medical training, addresses how to provide life-saving measures until victims can be transferred to ambulances or hospitals.
The Hayes family, along with another classmate, Richard Russell, all said they would be back for the Level II portion of the training, which dives into more medical response training as well as techniques to fend off attackers in other scenarios.
In the first half of the class at each level, Kimball focuses on situational awareness and tools to escape a variety of scenarios involving an attacker.
He teaches a method called, ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ that he said is recommended by U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Kimball said people stand the greatest chance of survival in an active shooter scenario if they can escape the area. He explained to the class how to help police and medical responders find the shooter or victims inside the building by paying attention to detail as they escape.
However, if you can’t escape, he said, nothing is “off the table” if you have to engage in the shooter.
“If this is your last option, you’re wanting to give them the fight of your life,” Kimball said.
The second portion of the classes covers immediate life-saving techniques and is taught by Spencer Finker.
Finker said he emphasizes “utilizing good judgment on when to help someone and not to help someone.”
“We’re trying to save people that can be saved,” he said.
Finker received his medical training in the U.S. Navy. He was a combat search and rescue crewman for seven years with deployments were in Kuwait and Iraq.
“My main job was flying in a helicopter, in the back, picking up downed pilots and service members, keeping them stable and keeping them alive till we got them to higher level medical care,” he said.
The two main injuries students in his class are trained to treat are massive bleeding and chest wounds, Finker said.
Before demonstrating the application of tourniquets to stop bleeding or how to check if someone is breathing, he explained various ways to help save a life without putting yourself in harms way.
Simply whispering to someone who is injured but still mobile to follow you out of a dangerous area instead of trying to carrying them can increase the chances of survival for both of you, he said.
“Never try to be a hero, be a lifesaver,” Finker said to the class.
During the class, Heather Hayes sat by, occasionally glancing at her children as the instructors emphasized the importance of being aware of surroundings and how to judge whether intervening medically will do more harm than good. The mother said she wanted her kids to have some knowledge outside of what’s provided at school to prepare themselves in a dangerous situation.
Said Madison, “I just want to know how to act next time if I’m ever in that situation.”