Safety and survival

  • As the guest speaker at February’s town meeting, Lt. Thomas Shopay advises Waimea residents on the best ways to handle potential active violence. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)
    As the guest speaker at February’s town meeting, Lt. Thomas Shopay advises Waimea residents on the best ways to handle potential active violence. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — “What defines a hero? Can you be that person?”

Lt. Thomas A. Shopay III asked the audience these two questions as the opening of his safety and survival awareness presentation at Waimea Community Association’s town meeting on Feb. 2.

“We all have the potential, but do you have the knowledge?” he asked.

Based in Hilo, Shopay heads Hawaii Police Department’s Special Response Team. He was asked to speak in Waimea to spread awareness and increase survivability for attendees should they find themselves in an act of violence.

According to The United States Department of Homeland Security, an active shooter is “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

These incidents are often unpredictable and evolve quickly.

“An active shooter acts out a plan they have thought out fairly well. We’re going to be caught by surprise, but if we have a plan, can recognize this bad thing happening and act upon it, we can minimize that loss of life quite significantly,” Shopay said. “We cannot predict the origin of the next threat, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clues. Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Following a decision-making process is key.

“This process is referred to as an OODA loop – observe, orient, decide and act,” he said. “Law enforcement tends to be reactive, but historically the information lies with the community – seeing those little weird things and putting them together. We work together with the community to prevent or avoid these types of situations.”

He continued, “The mentality of an active shooter is that desire to kill or injure without concern for their safety. They realize how it’s going to end for them most likely. They will publish or put something out on Facebook, a social media or mail – a manifesto – explaining to the world how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. Those are the big clues.”

If caught in an active shooter or active violence situation, Shopay provided key tips residents can follow.

“There are three good options: run, hide or fight,” he said. “Running is the best. Get as far away as possible and call 911. Hiding is your next best option. Barricade yourself from others in places like bathrooms. Lock or block doors with whatever you have if possible. Don’t open that door. Stay safe, stay secure. In the room, close whatever you can such as blinds and windows. Turn off computers; silence cell phones and unplug landlines. An ideal way to contact 911 from the hiding space is to text police instead of speaking on the phone.”

After securing the room, people need to be out of sight.

“People should hide behind whatever object they can. Flip tables on their sides, or up, as a shield to be used in case a bullet comes through the window,” he advised.

Fighting should be a last option.

“If you can fight, throw objects to knock that shooter off their platform, making you a harder object to hit if they are off balance,” Shopay said. “Yelling and being aggressive also work.”

To be rescued by police, victims must provide their hiding location quickly.

“Maintain situational awareness by knowing exactly where you are,” he said. “It’s very hard to call for help and get help to you if you don’t know where you are. Report the location, building name and the specific office or classroom. Also, the number of people there, injuries, the number of assailants, race, gender, clothing and types of weapons.”

To prepare for such a situation, Shopay suggested planning evacuation routes in advance, and making sure exit doors are in working order. Knowing what to do can save lives.

“In the midst of the chaos, anyone can play an integral role in mitigating the impacts of such an incident,” Shopay concluded.

Hawaii police emergency contact information can be found at www.hawaiipolice.com. Community members can report suspicious situations by calling the Kuleana Hotline at 961-2219.

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