STOW — What can employees of a business do if their workplace is the site of a violent attack?
Patrol Officer Ryan Schulz is the Stow Police Department’s active shooter response instructor. Schulz is certified by the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training Institute and he is trained in ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) and CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events).
"I’ve been teaching our department how to respond to active shooter events for about nine years," he said. "I’ve instructed businesses and churches, and I’ve assisted schools in the implementation of ALICE, going over what is expected of them and being there during drills."
In 2016, Schulz was in charge of coordinating a full-scale active shooter drill at Stow-Munroe Falls High School that involved members of police, fire and SWAT as well as more than 100 role players. He and another officer from Cuyahoga Falls led a similar training exercise last month at Kimpton Middle School for the Munroe Falls Police Department.
On Tuesday, Schulz spoke at the monthly membership luncheon of the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce on the topic "Workplace Safety: How to Respond to an Active Shooter." Schulz said he gives these presentations on an as-needed basis — sometimes twice a month, sometimes every other month.
"Whenever a church or business calls, they are put in contact with me and then I try to meet with them at their facility," Schulz said. "Sometimes it’s just a 20- to 30-minute conversation and walk-through, other times I give an hour PowerPoint presentation to the entire staff of a business."
Schulz said his presentation is a tool that can be used by businesses and organizations to be more prepared in an active shooter event. He added there is not really any way to prevent such an event.
"My speech is not going to 100 percent prevent a workplace active threat," he said. "I’m not even going to guarantee zero injuries or zero fatalities. But if you listen and apply some of the things I talk about, I would wager a guess it’s going to save more [lives] than not."
He opened his speech to the Chamber by saying he didn’t really want to be there. He said active shooter response is not something everyone wants to talk about.
"I didn’t think when I was hired in 2006 that I would be giving presentations to civilians, businesses and churches on how you should defend yourself when a bad guy comes ... with a gun and has intentions to harm you for no reason."
Communication is key to planning and preparing for this type of event that hopefully never happens, Schulz said. Employees need to know where all the exits are and whether they are secure or semi-secure. Schulz noted he believes it’s not too much to ask customers to wait to be "buzzed into" a business.
Today, all of the schools in the area have one way in, and visitors have to be buzzed in. "If we’re doing it with our children, why can’t we do it with our employees?" Schulz asked.
Communication within a business during a situation is key. Schulz said. Employees need to know how the phones can be used effectively when there is trouble, including how to alert everyone via the public address system.
He said communication with first responders is important. Detailed information has to be given to the 911 operator so that it can be relayed to responding police and fire. Schulz said questions the dispatcher will ask the caller in an active shooter incident include:
• What is the exact location of the incident? What is the address?
• Where is the suspect currently? On what floor is the suspect?
• What is the time lapse since the incident started?
• Do you know who the suspect is?
• Give a description of the suspect, including size, race, sex, age, height, weight, eye color, hair color and style, clothing, any scars, marks, tattoos, piercings, physical disabilities.
• What type or types of weapons does the suspect have? How many weapons did you see?
• Are there any injuries? If so, how severe are they? What are the victims’ ages? Where are they now?
Schulz also said in these types of situations, dispatch is usually inundated with calls, so those who call 911 and have little information will be told to find a hiding place and then the 911 operator will hang up on them. If there are five people in a room, he said, only one should call 911, not all five.
Other tips Schulz give were to arrange furniture so it can be quickly moved in front of a door, keep a weapon such as a club or bat in a secret hiding place, and know how to break a window and drop, not jump, to the ground from the second floor.
He also said that in the event of an evacuation, rally points should be designated so that everyone can meet and be accounted for.
It all starts with being alert, Schulz said. If you see anything that looks suspicious, call the police. Maybe someone’s estranged spouse or ex-boyfriend suddenly shows up at their work asking to see them. If you know this could be trouble, don’t hesitate to call for help.
Now and then, Schulz said, when police are called to investigate a rash of car break-ins the following morning, a neighbor will walk up to the officer and say, "Oh, I saw someone running through the neighborhood at 1 a.m. I THOUGHT that looked suspicious."
"See something, say something," Schulz said. "We’re minutes away when seconds count."
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, email@example.com or @SteveWiandt_RPC.