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Orvel Ronk, Quantico's antiterrorism program manager, instructs Quantico employees on how to react to an active shooter situation on Oct. 10, during one of several such trainings at Little Hall.

Photo by Mike DiCicco

Base employees learn to respond to active shooter, chemical release

18 Oct 2013 | Mike DiCicco

The active-shooter training being offered by Quantico’s Mission Assurance Branch seems timely after last month’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, but it was the 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, that prompted the base to start a program to prepare for a mass shooting. Since then, Marine Corps Base Quantico has staged two active-shooter drills, and Naval Health Clinic Quantico held a drill in December 2012.

Now, MAB is offering a series of training sessions open to everyone who works at Quantico, including contractors, as well as adult family members, to teach them what to do in the event of a mass shooting and what they might do to prevent one.

In the Oct. 10 session, Antiterrorism Program Manager Orvel Ronk, the training instructor, emphasized that the time to act in such an event is short, as mass shootings are generally over in 10 minutes or less.

The most important advice to remember is to stay calm, as panic is contagious, Ronk said. When possible, evacuation is advisable if there is nearby cover outside, he said, warning against bringing personal items or trying to talk others into evacuating. “If you decide evacuation is what you’re going to do, do it.”

Otherwise, he recommended choosing a room with no windows and a door that locks. “Close the door, lock it, block it,” Ronk said, advising that furniture should be used to block the door even if it’s locked. The room should be kept dark and silent, and cell phones should be set to vibrate.

Once barricaded, people should call 911 and relate only the information they are certain of, he said.
If both evacuation and barricading oneself in a room aren’t options, he recommended hiding in a closet, under a desk or in a bathroom.

Only as a last resort in the face of imminent danger should anyone try to take on the attacker, Ronk said. Any action against a shooter must be aggressive, planned and unhesitating, using speed, momentum and the element of surprise, he said. “This is it. This is the last resort. It’s you or them.” He recommended using any weapons at hand, from high heels or a belt to office supplies or furniture. “Go for the eyes, nose, groin, anything you can to get the advantage.” He emphasized that there is no room for hesitation.

“Once you decide you’re doing this and you have to do it, you have to carry through.”

To prevent a workplace shooting in the first place, he said employees should watch for telltale signs in coworkers. These include increased use of alcohol or drugs, an unexplained increase in absenteeism, decreased attention to physical appearance, depression, withdrawal, resistance and overreaction to change, repeated policy violations, and increased mood swings.

Ronk said the three most common triggers that will create an escalation to a violent act are divorce, the death of a loved one and the loss of a job. He suggested asking anyone who has suffered one of these events how they’re feeling. Unstable, emotional responses or vaguely suicidal talk, for example of “putting things in order,” should arouse suspicion.

Awareness is the best protection, he said. “Don’t be afraid to report something you think is suspicious or doesn’t belong there — or somebody.”
Further active shooter training sessions are scheduled for Friday and Monday, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., in Little Hall.
Ronk can be contacted at 703-432-0763 or

And in case of a chemical release …

Attendees who chose to stay after the active shooter training got another lesson, as Jason Terry, the base chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection officer, is taking the training as an opportunity to educate base employees on sheltering in place during a chemical release. It’s a relevant lesson at an installation with a railroad and an interstate highway running through it, he said.

The most important rule, Terry said, is to stay indoors. He said people often violate this guidance because they incorrectly assume that any exposure to a dangerous chemical is harmful or fatal. In reality, he said, during a typical, 10-minute event, the concentration of chemicals indoors is one-tenth the level outside, and those who shelter in place usually survive the event unscathed, while those in cars fare worse, and those outside are at the greatest risk.

“You want to be familiar with your building’s HVAC system,” Terry said, noting that the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system should be turned off. All doors, windows, vents and even electrical outlets — any opening that allows the exchange of air — should be sealed with plastic and duct tape.

These should be kept in a room designated for sheltering in place, along with scissors, a radio, batteries, water and a large plastic bag for contaminated clothes, he said. The chosen room should have as few windows and vents as possible. Rooms with mechanical equipment are inadvisable because they are difficult to seal, Terry said.

He noted that large stocks of food and water are probably superfluous. “Remember, we’re not trying to shelter in place for two weeks.”

Jason Terry can be reached at 703-784-6693 or

Marine Corps Base Quantico