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Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen on what to do in an active shooter or active intruder situation

Sep 22, 2022 02:43PM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Boreal Community Media files 

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - September 22, 2022

Employees of Cook County, Minnesota, participated in an Armed Intruder/Active Shooter training on September 21 and 22, 2022. The training included classroom sessions and an actual drill/simulation in the Cook County Courthouse, so employees would know what to do in an emergency situation of this nature.

Those not involved in the training may be left wondering what they should do in a similar situation.

Boreal Community Media’s Digital Content Editor Laura Durenberger-Grunow attended a presentation with Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen on what to do if you find yourself in an active shooter/armed intruder situation. 

Focus on three actions

Sheriff Eliasen recommends focusing on three actions if you find yourself in an armed shooter or intruder situation (which coincides with other recommendations from professionals across the country): 

1. Run

If you can find a safe exit, your first option should be to run as far away and as fast as you can.

2. Hide

If running is not an option, your second choice should be to hide. “Find a place that you can barricade yourself into - ideally a place with a door that opens inward - where you can put a door stop under the door”, Eliasen said. 

If you find yourself somewhere where the door opens outward, try and find a rope, belt, or something else to secure the door handle to another object in the room. 

In addition to barricading yourself inside a room, Eliasen said, "it’s important to silence your cell phone, turn off the lights, and hide.” 

“Statistics show that active shooters aren’t going to sit outside the door and wait or try to get in”, he added. 

3. Fight, or Counter

If you aren’t able to run or hide, and yourself in close proximity to an active shooter or armed intruder, your last option is to fight. 

Your best bet in this situation is to try and distract the armed intruder. “To do this, start throwing anything you can - pencils, pens, chairs, lamps, hot coffee or tea, water, etc”. 

ALICE Training

“Fight” can also be thought of as “Counter” which is part of the acronym “ALICE”, which stands for:

  • Alert (your first notification of danger)

  • Lockdown (barricade the room and be prepared to counter or evacuate)

  • Inform (if safe to do so, communicate the armed intruder’s location and direction in real-time)

  • Counter (create noise, movement, distance, and distraction, with the goal to reduce the armed intruder’s accuracy. In this case, counter is NOT fighting)

  • Evacuate (once it is safe to do so)

Many schools, organizations, and businesses around the country have completed “ALICE” training. In fact, Sheriff Eliasen shared that in some schools, students keep a can of soup in their desks as a safety precaution for the purpose of “countering” an armed intruder. At the end of the year, if the cans aren’t used, they get donated to a local food shelf. 

You can find out more about the ALICE armed intruder training here

3ECHO Training Program

Eliasen shared that Cook County police, medical, and fire personnel are trained under a program called “3ECHO Training”, in which he is certified as an instructor. 3ECHO is a program that was developed in Minnesota and has been approved by the Department of Justice. 

The purpose of 3EHCO is: “to establish secure, safe corridors for firefighters and EMS to enter so they can rapidly assess, stabilize and evacuate injured people to a safe area. It's based on the understanding that most people who are shot or injured die of blood loss and that time is of the essence” (source). 

Basically, according to Eliasen, the training tells police, medical, and fire personnel that “whoever is the first person to arrive on the scene enters the building and focuses on removing the threat. This is in contrast to the “old school” method where professionals wait for a SWAT team or others to clear the scene, as we saw with the school shooting in Uvalde, TX”. 

He went on to say that the 3ECHO method can be a hard mindset for some people to adopt. 

“It’s not easy to run into an unknown building, potentially by yourself, where there is a threat that you need to handle. It sometimes takes a lot of training to adopt that type of mindset.”

But it’s not only the police, fire, and medical personnel that have to adapt to that way of thinking. “If you’re in an area that follows the 3ECHO program, and happen to find yourself in an active shooter or intruder situation, that first person on the scene will not stop for injured people. This is difficult for people to understand. But the main job is to handle the immediate threat so fire and medical can safely enter the building, and to prevent more people from potentially getting hurt or killed” stated Eliasen. 

What to do to prepare for an armed intruder or shooter 

To help prepare yourself for a potential armed shooter or intruder situation while inside a building, Sheriff Eliasen recommends identifying the exit(s), followed by a safe place to hide soon after you enter. Additionally, identify a handful of items you could use to distract the armed intruder or shooter if needed. 

If you’re outside and find yourself in a mass shooting situation, Eliasen recommends making yourself a moving target. 

“Less than 20% of bullets actually hit the target when it’s moving”, he stated. “Keep moving until you’re somewhere safe, or there is no longer a threat”.

One other thing Eliasen recommends is to “stay observant wherever you are.” He continued: “the FBI has done major studies on active shooters, and they have found no consistencies. Stay alert."

Finally, training and drills, like the one happening at the Cook County Courthouse on Thursday, can help people know what to do to stay safe. Contact the Cook County Sheriff’s Office if you’re interested to learn more, or to schedule a training session or presentation. 

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