Upper Arlington City Council members recently were coached on strategies for responding to violent attacks at public meetings.
Security briefings and training seminars aren't typically part of council's public meeting agenda, but on Aug. 19, Upper Arlington police officers provided stark reminders as to why they believe it should be on the policymakers' radars.
ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) training and responses to "active shooters" and "violent intruders" was part of the discussion that evening, with Sgt. Tracy Hahn and officer Heather Galli leading a presentation featuring stories and videos about violent assailants who have entered meetings with intent to harm or kill public officials.
"Upper Arlington is a prime target if you look at some statistics," said Galli, the police division's community relations and Safety Town officer. "Most active shooters are in small to medium communities."
If confronted by an active shooter or violent intruder, Galli and Hahn said council members, city officials and other audience members should "run, hide or fight" before safety forces arrive on the scene.
Under these tenets, they instructed the officials to seek immediate evacuation of the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center if a life-threatening situation arises.
If that can't be achieved, they said those under attack should find a hiding place, and if possible, barricade doors and remain quiet.
In the meantime, the officers said victims should look for items they can use as weapons and should throw them at the intruder if they're being shot at or otherwise attacked. They also said officials must be prepared to take on the attacker, and that teamwork is especially effective.
"When it comes to active shooters or intruders, there really are no rules," Galli said. "Our goal is to increase your survivability ... 'Counter' isn't necessarily fighting, attacking, but disarming. We don't want to just sit there with our head on our knees hoping they just walk away."
The officers also said council should consider reorganizing the layouts for meeting spaces and reviewing how to limit access points to those rooms, as well as the possible use of an official to greet and identify meeting attendees as they enter a public building or room.