Given recent mass shootings in Boulder and elsewhere, people may be thinking about how to respond to active harmer situations. The Auraria Campus Police Department has offered in-person Active Harmer Preparedness Training for four years. Due to safety regulations, the training had not been available during the pandemic. After the Boulder tragedy, Auraria police collaborated with the CU Anschutz Police Department to offer the training on Zoom.
“It’s sad. We’ve had so many mass shootings,” Auraria Police Chief Michael Phibbs said. “We developed a program that focuses on how individuals can make themselves safer.” The first virtual training was provided on April 13 by Auraria Patrol Commander Jason Mollendor and Anschutz Emergency Management Program Manager Garrey Martinez.
“Like so many things in our world, COVID had a significant impact on all our trainings and outreach,” Mollendor said. “With the Active Harmer Training specifically, we have always wanted to provide the training in person, as the topics can be triggering.” To address this, Martinez checked in with participants periodically to make sure they weren’t scared or stressed. He also regularly responded to questions and comments in the chat.
Run, Hide, Fight
The model that ACPD and many local law enforcement agencies teach is called “Run, Hide, Fight.” “We talk a lot about knowing your environment—knowing exits in the building, knowing how to get to emergency equipment,” Phibbs said.
The “Run” part of the training is based on environmental awareness. “When you go into a new place, look for the exits,” Phibbs said. During the training, Mollendor and Martinez reviewed this safety tactic. When you’re on campus, you should check for emergency beacons (vertical red boxes) located throughout CU Denver. This awareness of your environment applies elsewhere. “We also stress to people that this training is applicable to locations off campus as well,” Mollendor said. “There can be active harmers at grocery stores, churches, malls, really any open venues.”
If you’re unable to reach an exit, the next safety tactic is “Hide,” which involves seeking cover as opposed to concealment. “Concealment means you’re hidden; you can’t be seen but you’re not safe,” the training explained. Cover, on the other hand, offers protection. “Find something that will block a bullet—a column, bookshelf, or filing cabinet.”
Psychological Willingness to Fight
If you can’t run or hide, “Fight” is the third option for preparedness training. While this gives many people anxiety, the training shows how fighting can play out in reality. The training includes real footage of an active shooter situation, showing some people doing nothing while one individual actively subdues the shooter. “Any combination of three reasonably healthy people could stop a shooter,” Phibbs said. “It’s the attitude and the willingness to commit.” In the training, video demonstrations and active shooter footage illustrates how everyday people can fight back.
The Active Harmer Preparedness Training is a good tool for most people, because it forces them to think about a dangerous situation and prepares them to react. “I hope preparedness classes change people’s psychology,” Phibbs said. Mollendor would like the training to improve everyone’s health and safety: “We want to make sure that our community has the tools to keep themselves and their loved ones as safe as possible.”