Parents told to 'Run, Hide, Fight' if confronted by active shooter

Seal Beach police and McGaugh PTA co-hosted event on 'Surviving Gun Violence'

Parents told to 'Run, Hide, Fight' if confronted by active shooter
Seal Beach Police Department Lt. Nick Nicholas during his 'Surviving Gun Violence' presentation held at J.H. McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach on Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

Warning: this story contains details and links to graphic video about gun violence.

At first it looked like a video of a normal school board meeting in Florida. The elected officials were sitting at a dais. A man was standing in front of them just a few feet away making a public comment.

But as the video continues, the speaker becomes agitated. A slight shift in his stance reveals he is holding a gun in one hand.

The board members do not react. One tries to reason with the man and explain his position on a tax increase. Seconds later, the man with the gun starts shooting.

The shocking video is an example of what not to do when confronted with an armed person, according to Seal Beach Police Department Lt. Nick Nicholas.

He showed the video during the “Surviving Gun Violence” presentation held at J.H. McGaugh Elementary School Auditorium on Dec. 8.

The goal of the presentation was not to frighten anyone, but was intended to give people tools and strategies to prepare for a scenario where someone is threatening people with a gun, Lt. Nicholas said.

“It’s unfortunate we have to live in a world where we have to arm ourselves with this kind of information,” newly named SBPD Chief Michael Henderson told the crowd of around 30 people. He added that his hope was attendees would “learn something hopefully you’ll never have to use.”

The presentation was co-hosted by McGaugh PTA (full disclosure: I am a member of the McGaugh PTA board). In comes in response to a recent incident when a man was arrested after he jumped a fence onto campus during a PTA-sponsored movie night and parents were left rattled, wondering how to best react.

While the presentation was held at the school and was attended by McGaugh PTA President Jennifer Katz, McGaugh Principal Wendy Wood, and Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education member Marlys Davidson, it was not specific to gun violence on a school campus.

In fact, with graphic detail the Seal Beach Police Department showed attendees why it’s important to be prepared for anything to happen at any location. Lt. Nicholas reminded attendees that the deadliest mass shooting in Orange County history happened in Seal Beach in 2011.

“I don’t want anyone to think this is ‘Mayberry by the Sea,’ it couldn’t happen here. It did happen here,” Lt. Nicholas said.

According to the FBI, the number of active shooter incidents in the U.S. has been increasing. An active shooter is defined as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” according to the FBI.

In 2021 there were 61 such incidents nationwide, a 52.5% increase from 2020, according to the FBI. They have taken place at businesses, offices and schools.

“Run, Hide, Fight” is the recommended response

Lt. Nick Nicholas delivered an informative presentation that focused on the “Run, Hide, Fight” response to an active shooter. He noted that most of these tragedies unfold in a matter of minutes. Even with a quick response time from law enforcement, in those first minutes, you will have to protect yourself and your loved ones.

As soon as you see or hear a threat, you should run away from it as fast as you can. To help, before you enter a building or environment, be aware of your surroundings. Take note of where the exits are so if you have to leave in a hurry, you would know where to go. Call or text 911 if you can.

If you cannot run away and escape from the violence, the advice is to find a secure hiding place and barricade yourself inside of it to protect yourself from the shooter. Look for ways to conceal and cover yourself, block windows and doors and stay quiet.

And if you’re unable to run or hide, the last resort is to fight the shooter with anything you can. Look for items that could be turned into a weapon, like a fire extinguisher.

“You have to fight like your life depends on it because your life depends on it,” Lt. Nicholas said.

Attendees saw the “Run, Hide, Fight” response illustrated in a graphic video created by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. While a chilling watch, it details strategies in different active shooter incidents.

A video produced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department details the 'Run, Hide, Fight' response in different active shooter scenarios. WARNING: Video is graphic and depicts gun violence.
A video produced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department details the 'Run, Hide, Fight' response in different active shooter scenarios. WARNING: Video is graphic and depicts gun violence.

Another important note was to remain calm and keep your hands visible when law enforcement does arrive at the scene of gun violence. Lt. Nicholas cautioned that officers will be on heightened alert. Their number one priority will be eliminating the threat and taking down the shooter. Rendering aid to anyone who is wounded will be secondary in those first few minutes.

Lt. Nicholas also detailed how to safely store firearms in your home by keeping them locked up, unloaded with ammunition kept separately and definitely nowhere near children.

“It is your responsibility to be responsible gun owners,” Lt. Nicholas told attendees.

He also stressed that you should listen to your gut and call the police whenever you feel something isn’t right. “No call is too small in Seal Beach,” he said.

After the event, parents reacted to what they had seen and heard.

“It was very educational and it definitely taught us how to mentally prepare for unforeseen circumstances,” McGaugh parent Christine Barhoma said after the presentation.

“I’m thankful for SBPD for always putting the safety and well-being of our school and community at the forefront of their priorities,” McGaugh PTA President Jennifer Katz wrote in a text message to Spotlight Schools.

“Their presentation was such an invaluable learning opportunity for everyone, and it really puts things into perspective if we were ever faced with making a decision in such a horrible situation. I definitely feel more prepared,” she added.

Editor's Note: The author is a member of the McGaugh PTA board and a McGaugh parent.

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