Marine Corps Base Quantico -- After the sound of the first blank was fired, the sound of doors slamming and locking echoed down the hall.
The Marine Corps Base Quantico Mission Assurance Branch sponsored an active shooter exercise in Lejeune Hall on Nov. 9. Lejeune Hall houses the offices of the base commanding officer, the base chaplain, facilities, the command inspector general, the courtroom, the public affairs office, and many others.
Orvel Ronk, safety officer, said the objective of the exercise was to provide a safe, realistic opportunity for people to experience an active shooter situation — hear the gunfire, smell the gunpowder — and practice how to respond.
Employees who work in Lejeune Hall attended training on how to respond to an active shooter situation during the last week of October and first week of November.
During the training, employees learned that their best protection against an active shooter and workplace violence is awareness.
Orvel Ronk, safety officer, discussed the profile of an active shooter, who can be either male or female, tall or short, shy or outgoing, clean-shaven or with a beard, old or young, and either Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, or Middle Eastern.
“Does anyone here know someone who fits that description?” Ronk asked attendees of the training.
Ronk said that perpetrators of active violence do not typically just “snap.” They usually plan their attacks for at least a year and will demonstrate indicators of potential violence over time.
He said that office mates need to pay attention to each other and keep their eyes open for any changes in a coworker’s personality or demeanor, such as increased use of drugs or alcohol, an unexplained increase in absenteeism, a decrease in attention paid to physical appearance, increased mood swings, and resistance to changes in policies and procedures.
“If you see something strange, do not be afraid to report it,” Ronk said. “We want to stop this when it’s still a behavioral concern and before it escalates to physical injury or death.”
Ronk presented statistics about mass shootings based on an analysis of 29 incidents that occurred between April 1999 and April 2012. Of those, all but one involved a single shooter and all of the shooters but one were male. Fourteen percent took place in an office building such as Lejeune Hall.
At the training, employees were taught to quickly determine the best way to protect their lives during an active shooter situation: run, hide, or fight.
If evacuating the building is possible, that should be the first choice, but if not, hiding is the best option, either inside an office with a closed and locked door or behind or under heavy furniture. Cell phones should be silenced immediately.
As a last resort, Ronk said, employees could choose to fight back.
“Act as aggressively as possible,” Ronk said. “You have to commit 100 percent to your actions, because that’s how committed the shooter is.”
For purposes of the exercise, Lejeune Hall employees were instructed not to attack the shooter, who was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin Butler. Employees knew what day the exercise would be held but not what time. Safety officers wearing orange vests were stationed on each deck of the building in case of a real-life emergency.
Butler, accompanied by Ronk, started on the top floor of the building at 9:10 a.m. and fired blanks. Doors shut and locked as soon as he fired his first shots. He went down the halls trying every door, sometimes rattling the doorknob and calling “open up!” None of the doors opened and no one was caught in the halls. There were no fatalities. He was “taken out” in the basement level by the duty officer.
Butler, who works for the Mission Assurance branch, said he was nervous before the exercise began and thought it went well.
“As more and more of these incidents occur, it’s important to know what to do,” he said.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Butler continued. “I was trying to think from the perspective of the shooter, looking for easy targets. It was hard to see what I couldn’t get to.”
“The exercise went well,” Ronk said. “We achieved our objectives.”
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