Swat officers aiming guns
Stock photo.

The Mountain Emergency Services Committee highlighted its monthly meeting with a presentation by Michael Beltran, Imperial Irrigation District, regarding dangers posed by active shooters in public areas. The meeting was held last Wednesday at the Idyllwild Library Community Room.

Beltran is a retired policeman, with experience in special weapons and tactics (SWAT) and criminal intelligence. Jerry Hagen, MEMSCOMM county coordinator, asked Beltran to make the presentation following the San Bernardino and Orlando shootings.

Beltran began his presentation by stressing the old “shelter in place” advice is no longer valid. “It just leads to slaughter,” said Beltran. “If a shooter is coming into your space, especially if its enclosed, the advice now is to run, hide and fight” — run out of the space if possible, hide in a concealed space and if the shooter is still coming, fight as a last resort.

Beltran noted that premeditated shooters plan to attack in large, highly populated urban areas in enclosed places like the San Bernardino public building or the Orlando night club. “Seventy-percent of these incidents are at businesses or schools,” said Beltran. He said the relative risk of an active-shooter incident in Idyllwild is not statistically high. Nevertheless, Idyllwild residents travel to other areas and venues in which the possibility of an active shooter is greater.

Beltran advised that even with heavy armament, a shooter may still have to stop to reload and that is where “fight” becomes important. “The shooter is distracted then and that provides an opportunity to stop him,” he said. “An active shooter is just bent on killing as many people as possible. Pleading for one’s life does not affect the result. In one case, a man pled for his life and the shooter shot him 14 times.”

He also warned that in six out of 10 case studies, law enforcement was not in place for some time after the incident began. “The important thing today is to already have a plan in place before an incident begins,” said Beltran. “You cannot be running your options as an incident is unfolding. You must have thought about your options in an active-shooter situation beforehand and have a pre-planned action. Have an action that is a motion. Your motion requires the shooter to have to think and respond. Civilians have stopped active shooters twice as often as police intervention.”

Beltran noted that U.S. intelligence agencies used to think of active-shooter situations as “when” they might happen. “Now, it’s where it’s going to happen,” he said. “And don’t think it can’t happen here.”

In 2015, Beltran said there were more than 330 active-shooter victims. In 2016, there have been 330 to date with three-and-a-half months to go in the year.

Statistically, 41 percent of active shooters are related professionally to their victims, 5 percent to family members and 22 percent have no relation to their victims at all.

In response to questions about what to do before an event — the plan to have in mind — Beltran suggested: Know your work area. Know your closest route to evacuate and alternate evacuation routes. If you have to lock down, where will you go and what around you can be used as a weapon?

What can alert you? He suggested: gunfire; a witness; a PA announcement; a phone alert; and screaming or fleeing individuals. Said Beltran, “You must react immediately when you become aware of an active shooter. If you are unprepared, your natural instinct will be disbelief and hesitation. Most people lose their lives due to denial or distraction. It’s not being paranoid to plan for situations like this in advance. Preparation is critical.”

MEMSCOMM monthly meetings are open to the public.

For more information, visit the Department of Homeland Security site at www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf.