Sergeant Russel Mengel from the Santa Maria Police Department taught local business professionals how to handle an active shooter event at this month’s business development forum. The event was put on by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Santa Maria Police Department, and was held at the Radisson hotel in Santa Maria.

active shooterMengel began his presentation discussing the profile of an active shooter, saying how they are difficult for anyone to identify in society, as these people look and often act like everyone else.

So, how can we prepare ourselves for an active shooter event?

Mengel’s main advice was to simply stay “alert and aware of your surroundings”. He also encourages businesses to have a plan in place in the event of an active shooter situation. Having a plan can help alleviate the typical “flight, fright or freeze” response that many experience in a stressful, unexpected situation, like the event of an active shooter.

The steps Mengel outlined on how to respond to an active shooter event come from an organization called the ALICE Training Institute. ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate:

  • Alert: Give out as much information as you can to others around you as the incident is unfolding.
  • Lockdown: Lock the doors and get under a desk and turn the lights out if that is a possibility at your location. Also, barricade the door after it is locked.|
  • Inform: Try to share more information and report the incident to authorities.
  • Counter: If the situation reaches a life-or-death moment, fighting can be an option. Anything can become a weapon to help.
  • Evacuate: If it is safe to do so, leave the building.

During his presentation, Mengel also stressed the need for better community discussion, preparation and awareness around the subject of active shooter preparedness.

“We all know what to do in the event of an earthquake or fire because we’ve been taught these things, we feel prepared,” Mengel said. “The same should be true in the case of an active shooter situation. Most of this information is common sense, it’s just unfortunately not always common knowledge. We need better awareness in our community of what to do in the event of an active shooter.”

The Santa Maria Community is taking steps towards increasing that awareness. Beginning next fall, the Santa Maria School district will be teaching high schoolers an active shooter preparedness curriculum that helps both students and teachers become better educated on how to handle an active shooter situation.

“Through this presentation we hope to have an impact on the local community and better prepare them should this event occur.” Mengel said. “So that they will have the assets and the mindset to respond to such an incident, and also so we as a community can recover more quickly.”

Interested in learning more? The Santa Maria Police Department has various formats for an active shooter awareness course available for groups, businesses, industrial facilities and institutions.

Interested parties should contact Community Services Unit Supervisor Sgt. Russ Mengel to schedule the class. Sgt. Mengel can be contacted at (805) 928-3781, ext. 1281.