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Security Professionals Talk About Active Shooters

 Alvin Matabang CSP, PFSO, CST delivers a presentation on "Handling of Active Shooter Situation" as highlight of the latest ASIS International Philippine Chapter meeting. (Photo by John Ray Ramos)
Alvin Matabang CSP, PFSO, CST delivers a presentation on “Handling of Active Shooter Situation” as highlight of the latest ASIS International Philippine Chapter meeting. (Photo by John Ray Ramos)

The Philippine Chapter of ASIS International held their latest chapter meeting and fellowship on April 25, 2013 at Suzuki Auto Sales in Buendia, Makati City.

The topic of the night, “Handling of Active Shooter Situation,” was presented by Alvin Matabang CSP, PFSO, CST, a Corporate Security and Safety Manager.

Active Shooter Situation

Matabang defined that “an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area.”

He noted recent cases of active shooting in the country. One was the shooting in Kawit, Cavite last January 4, 2013 that left 10 people dead and another 10 injured. Another incident took place in a courthouse in Cebu where a Canadian expatriate killed two and injured one before shooting himself dead.

He said that an active shooting can happen anywhere and anytime. Security managers need to know what to do so they can train their respective personnel and give awareness to family members, staff, and employees.

 What to do in an active shooter situation?

Matabang gave a summary of what needs to be done during an active shooter situation. He calls it the A-L-V-I-N Security Concept.

Alert – Alert security or call police emergency hotlines (e.g. 117)

Lockdown – seek shelter in place or a safe haven room, a place where one can secure one’s self. Block the door.

Validate – ensure what is happening, know the environment and one’s situation. Have situational awareness.

Inform – be updated and informed of the developing situation.

Now use ECC – quick response

Evacuate – leave the building or area immediately to get away from the shooter.

Cover – find cover or protection from gunfire.

Counterattack – use only as a last resort and if physically and mentally capable. Fight back to disarm or neutralize the attacker.

When on foot, run away from the shooter and find cover. But move no more than five seconds so as not to catch the shooter’s attention. Beyond that, get on the ground and if necessary, crawl towards cover.

When in a vehicle, get everyone to get their head down and drive away from the shooter. But if the car has crashed or got stuck in a pile-up, get out of the car, move away from the shooter, and find hard cover.

Also, cooperation with emergency and security personnel is important.

Matabang noted that the best approach in keeping any facility safe from active shooters is a no-gun policy. This also goes to security personnel whose firearms are kept in gun lockers and would only be drawn in case of imminent threat.

Matabang warned that when people started shouting, it is always better to check and verify what is going on. He explained, “The more you know about what is happening, the more you can safeguard the people.”

Sharing and Discussion

After the presentation, a lively discussion about the subject of active shooter situations ensued where ASIS members raised questions and shared their knowledge.

Ace Esmeralda, editor-in-chief of SecurityMatters and Asst Regional Vice President of ASIS International Region 33-Philippines, during the discussion differentiated an active shooter from a common criminal. He said that active shooters are not there to rob money but rather to kill and they will kill until they stop or are killed themselves. Shooters are common but only highlighted after the Columbine High School shooting in the United States in 1996. It was only after a series of shootings in campuses that psychological elements came into light.

Esmeralda said that in such cases, awareness of the situation is necessary. He pointed out that most of the victims are not aware of an ongoing shooting. Instead of running away, they become stuck and become victim of the shooters. He said, “If you are not aware of the situation, then most likely, you cannot respond to an active shooting incident.”

Esmeralda warned that responses to active shooting situations, despite having been established in the US, should be carefully implemented in the Philippines. Many of the established means to respond to active shooter incidents is based on the environment of the US and would be difficult to implement in the country’s environment, culture, and other factors.

Joel Supan of Stonewall Security Concepts explained that reacting under fire is the same for all kinds of shooters. Essentially, it is getting on the ground or “on your belly and on your back” as to not present one’s self to the shooter as a visible and attractive target and to better observe the situation.

At the end of the discussion, it was recommended to read the book Active Shooter: A Handbook on Prevention by Joshua Sinai. The book is available to ASIS members.

Attendees of the ASIS International Philippine Chapter meeting (Photo by John Ray Ramos)
Attendees of the ASIS International Philippine Chapter meeting (Photo by John Ray Ramos)