Pelham PD proactive in training

Chunky’s Cinema hosts active shooter event for community

PELHAM – While customers in surrounding theaters at Chunky’s Cinema and Pub were enjoying new releases of “Black Panther” or “Peter Rabbit,” on Monday night, the crowd in Theater 1 was sitting down to a much harsher but necessary reality: active shooter training.

The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events, presented by Pelham Police officers Brian Kelly and Matt Keenliside, is usually given to employees as a job requirement, but was presented to the public for the first time Monday at the Pelham movie theater.

“We think about this stuff on a daily basis because it’s our job, but we want you to think about it too,” Keenliside said. “We aren’t here to talk about our thoughts on gun control, we just want to make sure you’re prepared.”

The turnout was surprising to Kelly with only a week of notice given to community members.

“For whatever reason, Florida has really resonated with people,” he said in reference to the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “It wasn’t the first, just like Columbine, but it had a big effect.

“We wanted to do this while it was still on people’s minds. Given more time I think would could probably fill this theater.”

Even with little time to advertise, dozens of people came out and stayed for the entire two-hour presentation.

They started out with the 911 call from Patti Nielson, librarian at Columbine High School, whose panicked pleas for officers to reach the scene of one of the worst school shootings in American history, set the mood for the rest of the evening.

“The average response time for police is 3 minutes,” Keenliside said. “What happens in those 3 minutes? That’s an eternity on the worst day of your life.”

Over half of the attacks end before the police can get there, he said.

Despite the subject matter – and the heavy silence following the airing of Nielson’s 911 call or the video of Kristina Anderson, who survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 after being shot three times – Keenliside and Kelly were able to keep it light, cracking jokes with the audience while still getting their point across.

The presentation focuses primarily on the Avoid Deny Defend protocol, which instructs those in danger to first avoid the situation, to get out if possible; then to deny the intruder access, whether by barricading, locking the door etc.; and then to defend yourself if you can.

There are three stages of disaster response: denial, deliberation and decisive movement.

It is important, the officers stressed, to not go into denial.

“You need to be in the mindset that you can and will get shot,” Keenliside said. “If you think someone might be shooting, don’t wait around to find out. If you can get out, get out. Don’t just hide and hope.”

He shared a breathing technique that he said has helped him during some high tension moments as an officer: breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, pause for four, then begin again. It is important to remain calm.

As part of the first stage of the ADD protocol, it is also important, according to the officers, to know where all the exits in the room are, to have that situational awareness. Consider secondary exits like windows, if need be. Better to have a broken ankle than to be killed, they said. Leave the room as soon as possible and call 911. Do not assume that someone else will.

Although school shootings receive a lot of media attention, mass shootings happen most at places of commerce, then schools, then other venues.

“If you work at a place, you are at risk,” Kelly said, bluntly.

This being said, only 55 percent of shooters have a connection to the location they choose to attack. There is no “profile.” The only uniting factor is that the gunmen are almost exclusively male. As a conscious decision, Kelly and Keenliside chose not to name any of the shooters in any of the massacres they talked about, whether Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook or Parkland.

Since they started doing the training in early 2016, they have had to update the numbers, or the “records of fatalities.” They currently stand at 128 deaths internationally as a result of the Paris nightclub shooting in November 2015, and 68 deaths at the October 2017 concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you are unable to leave, lock the door, turn off the lights and get out of sight. Shooters rarely shoot through a locked door. Barricade it with whatever heavy objects you can.

If the shooter gains access to the room, you can “do whatever it takes” to defend yourself, the officers said. “You 100 percent have the right to defend yourself and others. Don’t fight fair.”

They also cautioned that just because you get shot, unless it is in the heart or the brain, you are likely still not out of the fight.

“It’s not going to be a pretty scenario,” Kelly said. Distract the attacker, throw something at them if need be. “Once someone starts to fight back, others will follow.”

Once the police arrive, they said, listen to them.

“Police responders are responding to the worst call of their lives” with information that is quite probably inaccurate.

The officers’ first priority is to stop the killing. Then, they will try to stop the dying, and finally, they will evacuate the area.

“Follow commands, hands in the air, show your palms, don’t move until told to do so,” the presentation said.

Take a first aid CPR class, Keenliside and Kelly suggested, learn how to tie a tourniquet.

“It’s going to be chaos,” they said, but the number one takeaway is to get out if you can.

Brenda Eaves, a community health officer in Pelham, attending the training because she thought it was important information to have, especially if other people in the community were also learning about it.

She is already a safety conscious person, she said. During the number of events that she helps coordinated, she is always thinking about what exits she would use in case of an emergency. However, there was still information in the presentation that was new to her.

“I learned it’s OK to defend myself,” she said. “You’re always told to run, and I thought you were supposed to hide.”

Eaves said she would “absolutely” recommend that more people take the training, and that it would be good for students to learn as well.

Kelly, who is also the Pelham School Resource Officer, said the training has been given to all teachers and staff in the district, but that he would also like to find some way for the students to have it too.

It is best practice, he said, to go over it with you kids and be as upfront with them as you think they can handle.

While the chances of an active shooter event happening are statistically slim, everyone thinks “it’s not going to happen here,” but Kelly himself said he has a cousin who lives in the sleepy little town of Newtown, Connecticut.

Most trainings are geared toward being useful, but as Kelly and Keenliside said at the end, “We hope we just wasted two hours of your time.”

The Pelham Police Department has not yet scheduled another Active Shooter Training.

The Nashua Police Department will host one from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 21 for free. There will be a Civilian Response to Active Shooter portion, followed by an Emergency Casualty Care portion, in which attendees will receive classroom and hands-on instruction in bleeding control techniques.

To register, email Capt. Joseph Fay at CRAS@nashuapd.com with the session date, your name, address, phone number and email address.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.