Flagstaff Community Safety, with the collaborative efforts of Flagstaff Police Department (FPD) and the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, hosted a civilian response course Tuesday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel to help civilians prepare for a potential active attack.
An active attack is an attempt of mass murder and can include the use of automatic weapons, knives or even vehicles.
FPD Officer Pat Condon, who presented at the course alongside Coconino County Sheriff Jim Coffey, has been a Flagstaff police officer for 14 years. Condon said authorities have studied what works when it comes to self-defense in an emergency situation.
“My goal is that when you get done with this, I would hope that people are going to be talking about this and thinking about this mentally… the tools we are giving you are trying to help you,” Condon said.
Throughout the civilian response course, Coffey explained the risk factors of a potential attacker. The risk factors include an attacker having exposure to violence, a history of violence, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide ideation or negative family dynamics, as well as feeling isolated and unstable.
When it comes to the location of active attacks, over 55% occur in commercial areas, such as malls and locations of work, while 20-30% occur in schools and educational institutions, according to the presentation given by Condon and Coffey.
Matthew Reed, a computer technician for ADOT, said he attended the event because of his family’s experience being around an active gunman.
“It’s something that’s close to my heart," Reed said. "My nephew was face-to-face with an active shooter in a school in New Mexico a few years ago."
The three stages of disaster response, as described by Condon and Coffey, for civilians are denial, deliberation and a decisive moment. Civilians are considered to be immediate responders because they are present before the police arrive in the event of an emergency.
Condon and Coffey said a civilian will likely deny the event. In the case of gunfire, a civilian will associate the noise with one they are more familiar with, such as fireworks. Deliberation is the process of deciding what to do next. Lastly, remaining calm during the chaos can lead to a decisive moment.
A victim of an active attack may choose to run and avoid the situation if the opportunity to do so is available. Condon and Coffey said that is the most ideal option for those who come face-to-face with this type of conflict to assure their own safety.
The presenters of the civilian response course also suggested to attendees that if a person is not able to evacuate from an active attack situation, they should hide.
The last tactic Condon and Coffey shared for assuring one's safety is for a person to defend themselves. The presenters assured the course attendees there would be no legal repercussions as a result of self-defense.
“Hopefully someone takes away from it and down the road, we hear something back… this is not the way to do anything, it is a way to do something," Coffey said. "It’s a way to think…my goal is somewhere down the road, somebody goes home to their family, gives their kid a hug and walks their daughter down the aisle."
Hosting the civilian response course was meant to educate citizens and prepare them for any scenario because, with the necessary mindset and training, a Flagstaff resident is more likely to survive an active attack.