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What would you do if an armed intruder came to your school?

Published: Fri, March 1, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.


These panelists talked about tools to handle life-and-death situations at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center in Boardman on Thursday. From left, Sgt. Ken Goist, school-resource officer with Springfield schools; police Chief Vincent D’Egidio of New Middletown; Michael Cretella, deputy chief of YSU Police; Jessica Jaros, disaster supervisor with Red Cross; and Steve Ruggles, operations director for Master Security Inc.

By Sean Barron



If an armed intruder were to come to your school or business, what would you do?

That question has taken on added urgency for many people since the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 26 children and adults were killed.

One of the best tools to handle such a life-and-death situation is to be more proactive than reactive, local safety-force members say.

That was the main theme of Thursday’s seminar, “Unexpected Emergencies: A First Response Discussion,” at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center, 7440 South Ave.

An estimated 165 law-enforcement officials, business owners, teachers and others attended the one-hour workshop hosted by the Mahoning County Safety Council and The Regional Chamber.

Panelists were Sgt. Ken Goist, a school-resource officer with Springfield Schools; Chief Vincent D’Egidio of the New Middletown Police Department; Michael Cretella, deputy chief of the Youngstown State University Police Department; Jessica Jaros, disaster supervisor with the Central Tier, Northeast Region of the American Red Cross; and Steve Ruggles, operations director for Master Security Inc.

Dr. Rick Rogers of YSU’s criminal justice department facilitated the discussion.

If a school has no lockdown procedures, it’s imperative students and staff try to evacuate immediately to a predetermined area, Goist explained, noting that most school shootings occur in the morning.

If evacuation is impossible, other steps are to hide some place until police arrive and, as a last resort, disrupt or disarm the shooter, Goist said. Hiding places should not entrap or restrict people’s movements, he said.

In addition, the majority of these tragedies take place in rural districts, so people must get past the notion that such acts will always happen elsewhere, he continued.

“They really need to pull their heads out of the sand,” Goist, a 12-year resource officer, said, adding that his district conducts annual mandatory lockdown drills.

Goist also pointed to the rapport he’s developed with students over the years: “One thing I’ve learned is you never turn away a [troubled] kid.”

YSU faculty are encouraged to notify campus police about troubled students, then a plainclothes officer can talk privately to such students and, if necessary, get them professional help, Cretella noted. YSU police try to follow up and keep track of students with difficulties, he said.

D’Egidio told attendees his officers train regularly with neighboring departments to ensure, for example, the right responders are at an emergency. He urged anyone with information about someone’s proclivity for violence to come forward.

In addition, D’Egidio saidmany districts are removing signs stating they’re gun-free zones because that can tell a potential shooter,“We’re an easy target. Come on in.”

After a mass shooting, the Red Cross supplies mental-health experts to calm and counsel families awaiting word on their loved ones, Jaros noted.

Soon after the Newtown tragedy, many schools adopted complete lockdown policies with only one entry that security cameras monitor. Many buildings also have an emergency communications system to alert everyone of a possible situation, Ruggles explained.

“It’s like a panic button at a bank,” he said.

Nevertheless, sophisticated security is expensive, so some schools forgo the measures because of tight budgets and funding cuts, Ruggles said.

Nothing can prevent all gun-related tragedies, however, but YSU is committed to reaching out to struggling students, Cretella said.

“We want to help students. That’s why we’re here,” he added.


1Brudog99(16 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Lockdown: (only one entrance to the school) Great if monitored by an armed trained person. If unarmed, you simply have set up your first casualty. If only monitored by video cameras, you will have a nice video to give to the deceased children's families.

Evacuate: (leave the threatened area). There is a person with a firearm shooting children and we need a guy with a Phd to tell us we need to leave the area where the threat is located? Wow!

Hide: In seconds the school is going to hide entire classrooms of children. Yeah, right.

A Panic Button: By the time anyone responds to a "Panic Button" the damage is over. There is a saying, "When seconds count, the police are minutes away." This is no attack on police, but it is simply the truth. A button does not cause an armed police officer to instantly appear.

Remove "Gun Free Zone" Signs: Seriously? Everyone knows guns are illegal in schools, especially persons who have knowledge of a particular school. What would happen if there was a sign on the doors of schools that said something like, "WARNING: ALL SCHOOL PERSONNEL ARE ARMED AND TRAINED". Now that would be the first step in pulling your head out of the sand. All of these tragedies occurred in areas where there are no defense weapons.

Control entrance to schools with armed security officers, and have trained police officers to patrol the school. If budgets can't allow this, at least allow school employees to be trained and armed. Now that is how to keep your head out of the sand.

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2NoBS(2832 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Even if you have the best police force in the world, if they're not on scene when the shooting starts, they aren't going to be able to stop the carnage. In each and every case of these mass shootings by mentally compromised individuals, they stop when someone shoots back, or is ready to do so.

The only way to stop these mental defectives is to have a deterrent force on scene before they start.

Not everything can be worked out with a nice hug and a stern talking-to.

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3DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I would blame the NRA for making it so easy for crazy people to buy guns. No background check? No problem. Have an AR-15 and have a good day.

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4redeye1(5669 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

DwightK You must suffer from Liberalism, which is a form of mental illness . Not everyone buys the guns they use, they steal them.

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5iBuck(231 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I must compliment the writer and editors on the slick wording of the question.

What would you do if an armed person entered your business?

I'd say, "How may I help you, today?"

your home?

"Hello.", or "Hello, Fred. I'll be just a second and then we can head down to the range.", or "Let me see your hands.", depending on the circumstances.

your school?

"Hello, the office is the second door on the right.", would be the most often appropriate.

What would you do if a burglar broke into your home, business, or school?

If they were firing at (i.e. initiating force against) an innocent, Bang!...
otherwise, "Halt!", and then depending on the reaction, possibly Bang!, but after that depends on circumstances, whether anyone else is present and whether they could help control and detain the burglar, whether you have cable-ties or duct-tape, whether there's a telephone and it's working, whether you have a working vehicle present, etc.

You have to sort out the possible details of various potential situations ahead of time. Only then can you rapidly act and adapt based on the other's behavior.

Usually, merely letting an attacker or potential attacker know that you're prepared to defend yourself suffices to stop them. You have to avoid being the initiator of force (or fraud), but, at the same time, you have to avoid allowing a malefactor to "get the drop on you". What is required to accomplish that last depends on your personal knowledge of your own limitations, strengths and weaknesses.

Con artists, wolves in sheep's clothing, corrupt government officials and functionaries present more difficult and complex issues. Their whole modus operandi is to get you to let down your guard and then slip through your points of weakness, and many of them have gotten extremely adept at it.

Each situation has significant differences.

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6HappyBob(360 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I suppose that the title of this piece is the question that was presented to the 165 businessmen and teachers at the seminar.
The advice about being proactive (compared with reactive) is interesting.

Preplanning what you should and should not do in the event of an armed intrusion is certainly proactive, but it doesn't prevent the intrusion. So how might a school be proactive to lessen the likelihood of an attack? How about setting up a security perimeter with electric fences, reconnaissance drones, full body scanners, roaming dogs, underground tunneling detectors, air space controlled with patriot missile battery, and active interrogation and psychological evaluations of all who enter the area, say for a mile around every school. I’d submit that measures like these might reduce the intrusion potential to near zero.

Are these measures practical for your school, for your business, or your home – probably not.

What you are left with is how to react in the face of an armed attacker or intruder. I suggest that the appropriate reaction is highly dependant on the motivations of the intruder. If an armed intruder comes into my store and wants money or drugs I’d want to minimize the potential for loss of life by giving him anything he wants. On the other hand if he comes dedicated to kill me, there is probably little I can do. By definition he already has a firearm leveled at me. Do I think that I’ll be able to out-shoot him? Really?

Schools, well that is entirely different matter, with different techniques that have been developed by professionals.

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