By Tara Woods
“There’s glass all over, there’s glass in front of me. I look over, it’s all over the entire room, and he starts shooting my classmates,” recalls Eden Hebron, a 14-year-old survivor of the Parkland, Florida shooting. Hebron was in the classroom when the gunman fatally shot her classmates and friends.
In today’s world, it is an unfortunate reality that we have to be prepared for an active shooter situation. It might seem like a distant issue here in Grand Rapids, but with the growing number of school shootings across America we have to take action to help ourselves and our community to not only prepare for a tragedy, but also try to prevent one.
Here at Grand Rapids Community College, our current protocol for an active shooter situation is Run, Hide, Fight.
“If you are able to get out of the building, definitely do so,” said GRCC Police Chief Rebecca Whitman.
The protocol suggests that wherever you go, always take notice of your emergency exits. Look at the best way to reach them, and anticipate what your options are. If you are able to run, leave your belongings behind. Keep your hands up so that any law enforcement that sees you will not think you are the aggressor. If you see people who are harmed, do not stop to try to take care of them. I know it sounds horrible, but you can try to help once you get to safety. If you see other’s going into the building without knowing about the danger, try to stop them, but don’t put yourself at risk.
If you are unable to run, hide. The protocol instructs to hide out of view of the aggressor. If possible, barricade the door and turn the lights off. Silence your cell phone. At this time, if you’re able to call the police, do so. Tell them where you are located and where the aggressor is. Describe how many shots you’ve heard, and report any victims, if there are multiple aggressors, if they are holding different weapons, and anything you know, relay to the police.
If at any point the aggressor comes into the room, and you are in immediate danger, you must fight back. There is a new program called ALICE Training, and it suggests that before the aggressor enters the room, make a plan with those around you about how to attack. Grab any heavy or large objects to use as a weapon against the aggressor, and when the time comes, attack all at once. First try to disarm the aggressor. Never carry the gun.
There are ALICE Training sessions all over the country, including Michigan. At these training sessions you will learn how to defend yourself in the worst possible scenario. There are multiple videos for both Run, Hide, Fight protocol and ALICE Training to help.
Another major way you can help prepare yourself for the worst situation is to take a tourniquet class through Spectrum Health. The hospital is offering free classes for people to learn how to use a portable tourniquet. This is specifically helpful to those who may be bleeding from a gunshot wound, but isn’t just for active shooter situations.
Laura Maclam is the injury prevention and outreach coordinator for trauma services at Spectrum Health and is leading the charge of the national Stop The Bleed campaign.
“The overall goal is for everyone to learn how to apply a tourniquet and stop active bleeding,” Maclam said. “We strongly encourage a commercial grade tourniquet, the concern or the fear of using a belt or an extension cord is that you’re not going to actually be able to get it tight enough to stop the bleeding.”
The Stop the Bleed Campaign began in 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting where 20 children and six adults were massacred by an active shooter. After that, the Obama administration heavily promoted the campaign after a research project, called the Hartford Consensus, found that many of the victims could have been saved if the bleeding had been controlled at the scene.
You can get your own tourniquet kit based on your specific needs on Amazon for anywhere from $15 to $300. A tourniquet is usually fairly cheap, but there are options for kits that have items like gauze, trauma blankets, trauma shears, gloves, etc. Maclam emphasized that when buying a tourniquet, make sure to get one with a windlass. The windlass is the a bar or handle that a person twists to make sure the pressure being applied is adequate.
Children as young as 11 can take the tourniquet class. The class is free but you will need to provide your own tourniquet. To sign up for a class you can visit www.bleedingcontrol.org.
Another way to get involved is on the side of the law. After the most recent shooting in Parkland, many students from the high school got to work. They wrote OP Eds, delivered viral speeches, created rallies and even organized the national student walkout that thousands of students and faculty participated in.
If you feel strongly about what is happening not only to children, but everyone affected by gun violence you can take a stand. On Facebook students in Grand Rapids have organized a local protest as part of the national March for Our Lives that took place March 24 and attracted an estimated 4,000 participants.
Another way to get involved on the legislative side is to contact your local representatives. The main legislative points that the students are promoting currently are:
— An overarching ban on assault weapons
— A universal background check for those trying to purchase guns
— Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who show signs of violent behavior towards themselves or others.
You can write a letter or make a phone call to your local representative detailing how you feel on the topic, or if you have an additional idea to add into the mix.
You can find your representatives at whoismyrepresentative.com. For Grand Rapids, the current senators are Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Our current elected officials in the House of Representatives are Bill Huizenga and Justin Amash. On the website above they list their phone and fax numbers along with mailing addresses to get in contact with them. If you have never written a letter to a representative, you can find a template at www.altaread.org/letter-representative.asp.
The GRCC campus has also taken major steps toward campus safety by approving the budget to install a $1.9 million security system. The system will be able to secure 500 doors at once, locking an active threat in place until police can locate them.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a time when we have to think about our emergency exits and regular people should have to know how to stop active bleeding, but being equipped with information is the best way to have peace of mind and continue living boldly.