Run, Hide, or Fight

Officer Dave Wilson teaches active shooter survival. (Courtesy Fisher Phillips)

The news alerts came in shortly after 10 a.m. An active shooter was in an office building near Central Expressway. In a scene that has become all too familiar, police surrounded the area as workers who could evacuated to the safety of a parking lot.

Officials would later confirm that 60-year-old Matthew Kempf had shot and killed his boss, 48-year-old Lana Canada, before turning the gun on himself. Canada had gotten married only weeks before. She left seven children behind.

According to Dallas Police Officer Dave Wilson, the incident was fairly typical of many workplace violence incidents.

An apparently disgruntled employee confronted his intended target. The incident itself was over quickly, but it would take hours for first-responders to completely search the building, rescue terrified employees, and give the all-clear.

Police respond to an incident near U.S. 75. (Photo: Josh Baethge)

Wilson, a 28-year police veteran, leads the department’s efforts to train residents on how to survive an active shooter situation. Over the past four years, he has developed a curriculum to guide them through any number of potentially deadly situations.

“Our world has changed a lot in the last 13 to 15 years, and we have to change our way of thinking,” Wilson said.

According to him, training for workplace violence should be a practiced routine similar to fire drills. He advises those he trains not to be paranoid but to be prepared.

Wilson recently led a seminar at Maggiano’s in NorthPark Center. Art Lambert, a partner for host law firm Fisher Phillips, said he often hears from colleagues who worry about finding themselves in an active-shooter situation.

“Workplace violence is more likely to happen than people think,” Lambert said. “It doesn’t take a lot to establish an emergency plan.”

Lambert has never been involved in an active-shooter situation himself. However, he has been in court on multiple occasions when the facility had to be locked down due to possible threats. He realized that being in the legal profession could potentially make him a target. One thing he’s taken away from previous workplace violence seminars is to handle tense situations like terminations carefully, and avoid confrontations when possible.

“It’s important to be humane and treat people as gently as you can to lower the stress level,” Lambert said.

Unfortunately, no amount of kindness can dissuade some individuals intent on doing harm. In those cases, Wilson said it is paramount for workers to understand when they should run, when they should hide, and when they should fight.

Running to an exit is always the best option. However, that may not be possible depending on the situation. If there is no safe way to reach an exit, Wilson advises people to find a place to hide. A room with a door that locks is best. If that’s not available, a shelter area with a hard cover is the next best bet.

Sometimes the only option may be to confront the assailant. If a face-to-face situation with an attacker arises, it is probably time to confront him, Wilson said.

Part of Wilson’s training emphasizes the use of simple martial arts. He teaches his classes to identify parts of their bodies that can be used as weapons. For example, fingers to the eyes, a palm strike to the nose, or a backhand to the neck are all effective in temporarily stunning a person. Legs can also be utilized as weapons, particularly to sensitive areas like the knees or groin.

Most importantly, Wilson said people need to take every potential threat seriously.

“There is no such thing as a false reaction. If you think there is something going on, go ahead and go through your active shooter plan.”

Active Shooting Survival Tips:

1. Run to exit if possible.
2. If fleeing is impossible, shelter in place, preferably behind a locked door.
3. If room is breached, develop plan to incapacitate assailant.

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