By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

FBI agent offers mass shooting advice

Speaking at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum complex Friday, he told a group of school administrators and local business representatives that attitude can go a long way toward becoming self-fulfilling.

Because such attacks tend to happen very fast, with much of the violence occurring in the minutes before police arrive, it is important, he said, for each individual to have a plan in place for coping with such a situation.

Slip away, preferably without attracting the shooter’s attention, he advised.

If that isn’t possible, hide, he said. And be sure to turn your cell phone off so it doesn’t ring and give you away.

If that isn’t possible either, fight back with anything you can get your hands on, or just your bare hands, he said.

It’s a simple strategy, Fowler acknowledged, and may well have to be rapidly adjusted, according to the situation. But he said that even having a very simple plan in place increases survival prospects.

He said people who have taken the time to think through their response to such an event are far less likely to be paralyzed by panic and disbelief.

You’re still likely to be startled on hearing gunshots going off, and frightened. But he said, “If you’re not startled and afraid when you hear gunshots go off near you, there might be something wrong with you.”

Having thought through possible scenarios will still help you to remain calm and act appropriately, he said. That’s likely to save the lives of others as well as your own, he said, as many will emulate or follow.

“It’s a matter of situational awareness,” Fowler said. “That doesn’t mean you go through life paranoid. Just be aware of the world around you, and have a plan.”

Practicing, he said, can also be simple.

If, for example, you work on the second floor, and your plan is to run down the stairs, walk down them occasionally, instead of taking the elevator. And notice what’s at the bottom, such as a locked door blocking your exit.

In December of 2012, when a man attacked shoppers in the Clackamas Town Center with a semi-automatic rife, customers and employees performed “a near textbook example of a calm, orderly evacuation” of the mall, Fowler said. And he said that probably saved many lives.

In the end, only two people died and only one suffered serious wounds.

Employees, he said, had practiced the maneuver with the county sheriff’s department. When the shooter arrived, they responded immediately, despite being faced with the task of evacuating 10,000 customers.

“The gates came down and the employees herded shoppers to the back,” Fowler said.

Some people, he said, ran out with their children, others walked out, texting. “There wasn’t a lot of panicking,” he said.

People must take responsibility for their own survival, Fowler said. The police, when they arrive, will not be there to help with first aid, comfort or other assistance.

“They are there to find the shooter, and kill the shooter,” he said. “That’s their job.”

Leave everything running, Fowler said. Don’t try to log off the computer, or grab for a purse.

“Leave quickly, in good order,” he said. “Remain calm and do not attract attention.”

Don’t congregate in groups outside, as if for a fire drill, he said; that just presents a convenient target. Get away from the area.

Once that’s done, call for help. Then notify someone that you’re safe.

If phone lines are down, and they may be, try texting, he said.

If hiding, stay away from windows, and lock or barricade the door, he said. Hide behind any furniture that might provide additional protection.

Be aware that the shooter may try to lure people out, with threats, or entreaties, such as pretending to be a victim, and shouting for help.

“It’s tough,” he said. “You have to make a decision.

“If you’re not sure, don’t open that door. This is not the time for a group decision.”

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