Last week’s mass shooting in Orlando might leave you wondering what you’d do if you were in that situation. One Northwest company has created an “active shooter” training to help you be better prepared. It also shows you how your own brain chemistry might make it harder for you to immediately react.
Barrett Pryce remembers where he was when he heard about the first-ever school shooting in Moses Lake in 1996. And other school shootings like Columbine, Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The list goes on.
And as the list grew longer, Pryce grew more convinced that ordinary people needed to know how to respond during active shooter situations.
“We’re all at risk in our work environments, or [if] we have kids at school,” Pryce said.
So Pryce began working with his company, Vivid Learning Systems, to develop free, online active shooter training. The group had two important goals for the program: First, it should not be based on fear.
“A lot of the training out there has a boogeyman, a guy in black. There’s guns. There’s blood,” he said. “It can obscure the learning objectives. It’s also only appropriate for a certain audience of age.”
Secondly, it needs to factor in what’s actually going on inside your brain and body the minute you hear gunshots or see a shooter enter a room.
“Before you can make a decision to run, hide, or fight, your body’s first response is to freeze,” Pryce said.
That’s something we’ve all experienced — to a lesser degree, said Jill James, who helped write the training.
“Any of us who have ever had a small fire on our stovetop knows that our brain is having response: Do I freeze, or do I quickly reassess the to know if this is something I put water on or put the cover over kettle?” James said.
It’s an evolutionary reaction based on predator-prey situations. Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, said freezing isn’t a choice — it’s hardwired into our brains.
“Now evolution hasn’t necessarily caught up with modern life, with guns and other kinds of modern weaponry,” LeDoux said.
He said that’s why it’s important to know what’s going on in your brain. In stressful situations your brain sends signals to your body to freeze, and hormones surge to keep your attention focused.
“So if you can be trained that that’s probably going to happen, and you’re ready to recognize it when it’s happening, and then can — through willful decisions — move out of it a little faster once it’s happened,” LeDoux said.
That’s what the program is hoping to accomplish.
The training tells the story of a student, Chris Collier, and his gym teacher, Jon Lane, who both survived the Moses Lake shooting.
“The first thing I did was I dove to the floor and hid behind a big desk,” Lane said in the video. “I laid on the floor and saw terror in the eyes of the kids.”
His heart was racing; his palms were sweating. James said research shows that’s part of his body telling him to freeze.
“His amygdala is having its normal response,” James said.
After a few moments, Lane stood up and began talking to the shooter and taking care of the students in the classroom.
The training has quizzes and buttons to press to keep people engaged.
Like learning how gunfire really sounds. During the Moses Lake shooting, Collier said at first the students didn’t recognize the sound of gunshots. From the floor above, they thought the shots were barking dogs.
So the training has buttons you can press to hear what real gunfire sounds like, versus what you might think of as gunfire from movies or TV shows.
Payne says there has been a higher demand for the training since the shootings in Orlando. The hardware store across the street from Pulse nightclub even asked about the course.
For Payne, he just hopes people can take away at least one piece of advice from the program, one piece of advice that might empower them.
“And help them get to a level of action at a better speed that could potentially help save life,” Payne said.
Vivid Learning Systems plans to keep its active shooter training online and free for everyone to use. All you need is an internet connection.
Copyright 2016 NWPR