Press-Republican

March 3, 2014

Planning could save lives in event of shooting

Readiness, attitude critical for crime victims, trooper says

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — When O’Neil O. Stephenson walked into NBT Bank in Plattsburgh on July 2, 2012, with a note saying he had a gun and wanted cash, the teller knew what to do.

Ellen Bouchard, the branch manager, had gone over procedures with the staff just a week before the crime.

Stephenson was wearing a fake beard and rubber gloves, she said, and only a few employees were aware of the robbery as it was happening.

The teller remained calm and handed over the cash in her drawer, complying with Stephenson’s demand.

Once he had left the bank, the teller told the other employees what had happened. and they called police.

‘DON’T BE A HERO’

“The whole thing happened in just a matter of minutes,” Bouchard told the Press-Republican in a recent interview.

“Don’t be a hero,” she said of the company’s policies. “Our whole thing is to keep everybody safe.”

It wasn’t until after Stephenson had left and police began their investigation that the gravity of the situation registered with the employees, Bouchard said, adding that some became emotional.

The next morning, the bank paid for a counselor to be available to the employees and also covered follow-up appointment expenses, she said.

‘EDUCATE EMPLOYEES’

Bouchard, president-elect of the Plattsburgh Rotary Club, helped arrange a presentation that featured State Police Sgt. Chad Niles, whose topic was safety in active shooter situations.

Niles is in charge of emergency management for Troop B and works to educate students and local communities on proper safety procedures.

There are an average of 15 mass shootings in the United States per year, he said during his recent presentation.

And although they are rare events, Niles recommends employers educate employees on the steps they should take in shootings and other such emergencies.

SHOOTER BEHAVIOR

As a shooter walks through the doors of a building and fires the first round, the time until his apprehension becomes increasingly limited.

“In the back of their mind, the clock is ticking,” Niles said.

So shooters won’t spend time breaking down doors to claim the victims inside, he said, and will choose more accessible targets instead.

Victims are generally chosen at random.

“If they do make it through that door, it’s a fight for your life.”

Odds of survival double for those who are in an optimistic mindset.

“You need to convince yourself that if this bad thing happens, you’re going to make it out alive.”

‘RESPONSE TIMES VARY’

The first information police officers receive may not be accurate, and officers often will be unfamiliar with the floor plan of the building.

In the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 26 people and himself, the first 911 call dispatchers received reported two shooters, Niles said.

The person thought to be the second shooter turned out to be a parent who had been running past a school window with a cellphone, thought to be a weapon by the caller.

‘HAVE A PLAN’

On average, the first officers to respond will arrive at the location in three and a half minutes, he said.

However, in certain remote areas of the North Country, the response time could be a half hour or more, depending on where officers are patrolling when the shooting is reported.

“The sad thing about these types of situations is it’s probably going to be over when we (police) get there.”

Police are specially trained for these type of crisis situations, and their priority is to follow the gunshots and eliminate the threat, the sergeant said.

So they will not attend to the injured initially, he said, and EMTs will likely arrive by the time police eliminate the threat.

It’s possible the shooter won’t have a well-formulated plan, Niles said.

But the public can, and the chances of survival increase significantly if it does, he said.

They triple.

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg

IN ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATIONS

Depending on what's happening, one or a combination of three options can be used by those in danger, says State Police Sgt. Chad Niles.

1. Run -- evacuate if possible, call 911 and keep others from entering the unsafe area.

2. Hide -- acting quickly and quietly, lock the door of the room you're in, or if you're in an open area, hide behind a large object. Be prepared to remain in your hiding place until authorities notify you that it is safe to leave the area.

3. Fight -- this is a last resort. Don't try to reason with the shooter. Use a makeshift weapon like a fire extinguisher or a chair to try to incapacitate the perpetrator long enough to make escape possible.

When police arrive, stay where you are, make sure both your hands are visible so you are not perceived as a threat and follow directions given by law enforcement officials.