It is horrifying to watch the national news and see bodies being carried from a building after an angry patron or a disgruntled employee opens fire, but when it happens in your town, in your church or place of work — what will you do?
Pekin Police Sgt. Rick VonRohr spoke to more than 70 people Monday morning at the Avanti’s Dome in Pekin about how to protect employees, clients, customers, members of organizations and churchgoers. VonRohr stressed the change in society and what it means.
“There’s always going to be these types of incidents, but what you can do is you can start to develop a mindset,” said VonRohr. “We talk to our officers when we train our officers about it all the time.
“You have to have a mindset that something could go bad and what am I going to do if something goes bad? And you do it in all parts of your life, not just your business, do it in your everyday life. ... When you think about it ahead of time, you’re going to react, you’re going to be quicker to react. The worst time to try to make a plan is when (something bad) is happening. You’re not going to have a good plan and that’s what causes people to go into black.”
VonRohr said that when the human body is going through a traumatic experience people do not react well.
“They just completely black out, they freeze and they do nothing — which is the worst thing they can do,” he said. VonRohr said even locking a door is almost impossible when a person is running from someone with a gun. One idea is to keep the knob in the locked position at all times so that the door can just be pushed shut.
Establishments have a lot of alternatives to choose from when it comes to protecting people in their facilities.
“Take a look around your business and see what you can do to make it safer,” said VonRohr. “Putting a lock on a door, putting in cameras — just small things that you can do pretty quick for not a whole lot of money, but it may go a long way towards the safety of employees.”
Some businesses around town are like “fortresses,” when it comes to security,” said VonRohr. Others have little or no security because of the type of business they are. But even small businesses can place a lock on the door, a camera and an intercom can provide security for little money.
VonRohr said employers should talk to employees about safety and what the plan is if a shooter comes into the building. He recommends that everyone watch the Homeland Security tape “Run! Hide! Fight!”
“Run,” said VonRohr. “If you can escape the bad guy, you know there’s a bad guy in the building shooting, get out and go somewhere else. If people cannot run, then lock the door, barricade the doors and hide.
And lastly, fight, if you are confronted by the gunman, “You have to fight and you have to fight with aggression. You have to fight dirty and do anything you can to survive.”
Pekin Park District Superintendent of Recreation Shawn Powers is interested in furthering the recreation departments security plan.
“Like (VonRohr) said, it’s the times we live in,” said Powers. “So I’m kind of getting a little education ahead of learning the hard way.
“All of our facilities are full of the public. They’re crowded facilities. You never know who is there or why, so it’s nice to have the information to at least start thinking about ‘what if?’”
Liberty Baptist Church Pastor Roger Lipe said he has been concerned about the safety of his parishioners for some time. Lipe came to the event because “of all the recent events, especially the church shootings.” He wanted to know how to secure the church and keep people safe. Lipe said he plans to take advantage of the police department’s offer to inspect any local buildings and offer advice on what can be done to secure the occupants. Lipe said the church is forming a safety team.
“I think that’s a big part of it — to know that we have them to support us — that we’re not on our own,” said Lipe. “I’ve gotten some information on a company that can provide us with cameras and set that up and that would be of help to us.
“(People are not safe) especially at church — I don’t think that there’s any way that we can totally protect our people, even thinking away from this active shooter sort of thing. We have dysfunctional families, we have moms and dads who fight over kids, and we have to provide safety for our kids on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday nights when they come. We know there is no way we can completely secure every person because once the doors are open after church, here we go again. Anyone can walk in those doors while people are walking out. We have to do the best we possibly can.”
The Pekin Police Department will help with security assessments and education. To schedule an appointment, call 478-5330 and ask for VonRohr.