GREENVILLE – It’s a tragic sign of the times that the best-attended Darke County Safety Council meeting in history was one on the subject of workplace security and active shooter situations.
According to Sharon Deschambeau, Darke County Chamber of Commerce president and secretary/treasurer and Safety Council manager, there were 94 attendees signed in at the luncheon event Thursday.
Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker, from the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, presented a slideshow outlining the history of active shooter situations, risk factors and the need for employers to develop a plan to keep their employees safe, should such a situation arise in the workplace.
Whittaker pointed out that, statistically speaking, an active shooter situation is more likely to occur in a small community in Darke County than in a city like Dayton. He also noted that homicide has become the fourth-leading cause of death in the workplace.
“It’s relevant to current events,” Whittaker said. “I wish I could say it wasn’t. I wish I could say we live in a world where bad things don’t happen.”
In the 14-year span of 1984 to 1998, there were an estimated nine mass casualty events. In 1999, the Columbine High School shooting occurred in April, in which 13 people were killed and more than 20 injured.
He told employers that one of the most common workplace violence issues was domestic violence situations, and he advised them to address issues of domestic violence or protection orders with an employee if they became aware of it.
Whittaker also noted that different kinds of businesses and organizations have different security needs. He told the gathering that the Sheriff’s Office provides consultations, demonstrations and training free of charge. Any business interested may contact him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-548-3399.
Deschambeau reminded guests during her introduction that it is the responsibility of employers to have a plan to protect their employees. Whittaker stated further that the importance in the plan development is the interaction among the staff during the development process more than the final written plan itself.
Out of deference to the residents at Brethren Retirement Community, where the Safety Council luncheons are held, a demonstration was considerably scaled back. Though the sound of gunfire was eliminated from the simulation, law enforcement personnel burst into the Brick Room, guns at the ready, ordering everyone to show their hands.
Following the luncheon, Jeff Miller, of the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities, called the program “excellent” and said that his organization has a building emergency plan that is updated annually.
Michelle Francisco, Ohio Safety County Program Manager, Bureau of Workers Compensation Division of Safety and Hygiene, said, “Safety Council is the perfect forum to bring together all the resources to address traditional and nontraditional risk factors.”
Whittaker said that law enforcement personnel are not required under law to undergo any specific training in dealing with active shooter situations, but they try to specifically address this kind of training at least once a year. The most recent, he said, involved handling a situation in which an officer had been shot and there was training for officers to treat themselves if they were in a situation where they were injured and help was not immediately available.
“Schools took a great deal of interest” in preparing for shooting events after Columbine, Whittaker said, and more recent events “have brought the danger to the forefront and more people are talking about it.”
The lessons and demonstrations the Sheriff’s Office provides to businesses, schools and organizations are mutually beneficial, Whittaker said, providing law enforcement with more information about the layout and arrangement of local buildings and businesses.
Whittaker said the Darke County Sheriff’s Office and other area agencies have trained together, so when they need to respond together in these types of situations, they have already learned how to work and function with each other.
The next focus for training, Whittaker said, will probably be for emergency medical personnel.
“We’re going to be working on tactical training for EMS agencies,” Whittaker said. “One of the things we’ve realized in our training so far is we need to get the medics to victims a lot faster.”
Whittaker said the department recently sent surveys to the area medical response teams – most of which operate on a strictly voluntary basis – and asked if the emergency medical personnel would be willing to train to be called in for medical response in situations that might be “less than secure.” He said the largely volunteer nature of the area emergency medical personnel was “a challenge, but not a challenge we can’t overcome.”
“The vast majority of these volunteers said that they would be willing to risk themselves to go in with us,” Whittaker said. “They said, ‘Yeah, you get us in the protective equipment and escort us in and we’ll go in with you.’”
Businesses interested in joining the Darke County Safety Council may contact the Darke County Chamber of Commerce at 937-548-2102.