The UT Police Department hosted its first open-to-all Civilian Response to Active Shooter class Monday afternoon in the Avaya Auditorium in the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Building.
The presentation gave its 13 attendees an in-depth look at how to best respond in an active shooter situation, emphasizing UTPD’s mantra of “Run, Hide, Fight.” UTPD officers, the Victims Advocate Network coordinator and representatives from the Campus Safety office spoke at the event.
Officer Dustin Farahnak said one of the most important things to take away from the class is how to react immediately when confronted with dangerous situations because the time it takes for bystanders to decide how to act greatly affects their chances of surviving the threat.
“If … something like this happens, you psychologically go through denial, and then you have to deliberate what you’re going to do, and then you might take an action to protect yourself,” Farahnak said. “That period of time before you take the action is very dangerous. We want to get you through that.”
The presentation explained how the brain responds to fear, detailing how sometimes people revert to a “lizard brain” mindset, meaning they do not think reasonably about what to do next and can regress to illogical habits, such as gathering their things before leaving a space under immediate threat.
Adriana Kelly, Plan II and public relations sophomore, said she had not thought about how she might react in a high stakes situation.
“I’ve taken psych classes before, but I never put two and two together,” Kelly said. “I’ll be that person that packs up all of her stuff and then leaves. I totally see myself doing that, so being aware that this is probably going to happen … will be helpful in the future.”
The foundation of the presentation is UTPD’s “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol. Farahnak detailed how to best execute each action in that order, including leaving immediately when possible, hiding near the sides of a door and overtaking a shooter by grabbing their gun, blinding them and striking them in vulnerable areas such as the groin.
Several students asked if it would be appropriate to use the gun against the shooter once they take it away, to which Sgt. Jeffrey Rask said in cases of self-defense, it is most important to ensure your safety.
“We can’t tell you, ‘This guy’s on the ground. He’s already killed 10 of your fellow students, so shoot him in the face,’” Rask said. “But if he’s actively fighting against you and you feel like your life’s in danger, regardless if he has a gun or not, you have every right to protect yourself.”
Physics freshman Mark Dunn, who asked about using the shooter’s gun to protect yourself, said he attended the class after hearing about it at UTPD’s freshman orientation presentation.
“I just believe in self-defense and being safe and such,” Dunn said. “I don’t want to get in legal trouble or anything. I always think about that kind of stuff.”
Students and employees can register to attend any of the remaining three sessions, scheduled for Sept. 16, Oct. 14 and Nov. 11. Two are labeled as staff/faculty, but Farahnak said everyone is welcome to attend all sessions, and the presentation will not differ.