Monday, October 29, 2018

Active Shooter Training – An IMPACT Way

Krista Hanley Wings
I sat in the back of a row of chairs, unsure of what I was about to see. Despite the cushy mats and audience of all ages, I held my breath as a man in a large helmet and overalls held a plastic gun to a womans head and demanded she go with him. Anxiety choked my throat and made my heart race. Then she defended herself by knees and kicks, with power and ferocity. When she rose with the gun behind her back and the attacker sprawled at her feet, I knew I needed to learn that.

That graduation was my first experience with Impact, and it came at an important time in my life. As a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting, I lived with palpable anxiety and fear through my late teens and early twenties. It felt like my body was constantly in an adrenaline rush, and I didnt know how to manage triggering experiences. Watching that instructor defend herself successfully against an attacker with a gun changed my life. It made me feel hope. Hope that I wasnt helpless and vulnerable. Hope that I could effect what happened to me. Hope that I had power and choice once again in my life.

Why Impact?

Eleven years later, not only have I learned how to defend myself against an armed attacker, but I now teach with Impact Personal Safety of Colorado. As we developed the curriculum for our chapters Defense Against the Armed Assailant (Weapons) course, I returned again and again to the idea of teaching active shooter training. In my heart, I knew that the class would not be complete without something about active shooters. But how could we teach it in an Impact way?

It might be understandable that my desire to teach active shooter scenarios is deeply personal and emotionally charged. Impact has taught me that when I feel something needs change, then I shouldnt be afraid to advocate for that change. I firmly believed that active shooter training had to be a part of our Weapons course. This is the type of training that is taught in many workplaces, on gun ranges, and in martial arts classes. But Impact is very much an appropriate venue to also take on the topic.

Here is why:
·      Impact is trauma informed – We built a safe environment that focused on the individual students and their needs. As an instructor with trauma, I knew I had to consider what would be too much and what would create response.
·      Layering Information – We threaded the active shooter information through the entire four weeks of class. On the day of the active shooter training, we started with discussion and then did simple exercises with the students like getting on the ground or running out the door.
·      Apolitical – As I researched types of active shooter trainings, I quickly found that 2nd Amendment rights and other political issues were wrapped up in the teaching. Impact recognizes the fact that everyone thinks differently about these issues and we do not judge nor advocate.
·      Not victim blaming – Impact recognizes that it is never the victims fault, and no matter how they respond, it is the right way.
·      Grounded in research – My team researched active shooter and weapons scenarios in order to be more real to life. We watched videos and read statistics in order to be fully prepared for every question and scenario.
·      Know every situation is different – We know that we cannot prepare students 100% for real life. No two fights are the same. We gave our students lots of tools and knowledge in order to be able to best stay safe.

I believe we all need to have active shooter training even though these types of events are very rare. Think about it like plane crashes, they are also extremely rare. Still, every time we get on a plane, we go through the safety spiel with the flight attendants. Impact is the flight attendant for life. We need these skills to keep ourselves safe. Just in case.

Krista Hanley, Lead Instructor
IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado

For more by Krista Hanley
"Krista Hanley, A Columbine Graduate: Arc Interrupted. March 2014. A Sandy Hook/Columbine Cooperative.
"Pistol Shooting Basics." 2018. Memoir Magazine. (Trigger warning: Krista says some people have found this essay very intense)

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