Active Assailant Training Teaches Students How To ‘Not Get Dead’

Henrie Watkins from Specialized Safety Services works with Heriberto Gonzalez, PO ’20 and Tiffany Zhou PO ’21 in a practice activity.

As school shootings become increasingly more frequent, Pomona College has decided to organize an active assailant training workshop to teach its students and faculty what to do if their lives are threatened.

In the Rose Hills Theatre Feb. 13, Henrie Watkins from Specialized Safety Services shared life-saving skills, such as when to run, hide, or fight, and how to help someone who is bleeding out.

Watkins also invited the attendees to participate in role-playing exercises and encouraged them to download the LiveSafe app to use if they’re ever in danger. Thirteen students attended.

Resident Assistant Heriberto Gonzalez PO ’20 brought his dorm residents to the event because active assailant situations can happen everywhere, he said.

“In Claremont, it’s easy to think we’re in this bubble, like ‘oh, it’s not going to happen here,’” Gonzalez said. “But it happens. The more people we can get to know about this stuff, the better.”

The most important thing Gonzalez said he learned was “don’t get dead,” meaning do whatever you need to do to survive.

“If it’s coming down to you and the shooter, you gotta know that you’re the one that’s getting out of there, and nobody else is going to come for you,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve gotta empower yourself to save your life.”

Alida Schefers PO ’21 attended the event to learn what she should do in an active assailant situation as a wheelchair user.

“Most of the instructions on what to do are aimed at able-bodied people because the majority of the population is able-bodied,” Schefers said. “But since I knew there would be an expert here, he would know exactly how to adapt directions and things like that for this.”

Schefers now knows to make note of any wheelchair friendly exits, such as ramps or elevators, whenever she enters a room. She said the role-playing was the most helpful.

“You actually felt how it is to almost interact with a shooter and what to do in the different scenarios because after all, what’s in your head and when you actually do it are completely different,” Schefers said.

This training follows a school shooting at Marshall High School in western Kentucky Jan. 23 and a terror attack with a truck near Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan Oct. 31. The day after the training saw another school shooting, this time at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Robert Robinson, assistant vice president of facilities and campus services, organized the event because active assailants have “sadly become more prevalent throughout the country.”

The fact that most attacks are over within 10 minutes is one of the most important things Robinson thinks people should know. He also wants students to understand that Hollywood portrays active assailant situations different from real life.

“If you realize someone has been shot and you have about as much time as it takes to empty a two-liter bottle of coke to save that person’s life, you’re going to react quicker,” Robinson said. “It’s not like the movies where you’re giving a soliloquy while they’re bleeding out. You don’t have that kind of time.”

As for the name of the training, Robinson said he purposefully chose “active assailant” over “active shooter” because people aren’t just using guns to terrorize schools anymore.

“You’re seeing more and more [violence] with knives,” Robinson said. “You’re seeing more and more with vehicles. It’s any type of incident where there’s an assailant trying to do bodily harm. There are more and more other types of weapons being used.”

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