Yesterday, as I was working in the store’s office, both my staff on shift came barging in talking at the same time. Apparently, the mall security officer came in and told everyone — customers and staff members, to evacuate the mall. She didn’t say why. She just yelled for everyone to leave the premises immediately. As I didn’t know the particular situation we were in, I told my girls to just run outside while they can, call me when they’re safe, and I’ll stay behind to find out what was happening. As soon as they were out — I locked myself inside the office, blocked the door with a table, closed the safe, secured a phone with me and turned off the lights. I stood in the dark my eyes glued to the surveillance video as quiet as possible. After watching a security officer do a last sweep for people and closing our store’s front doors, I made for the emergency exit and joined my girls outside the parking lot.
It turned out to be a bogus bomb threat report. A K9 unit was brought in, and the gorgeous German Shepherd didn’t find anything. We were eventually let back in after the San Bruno PD’s thorough investigation. Although we are truly grateful that nothing happened beyond the two-hour-disruption of our businesses, I’d have to say, Terrorism still won that day. It still scared the sh*t out of a lot of people, myself included.I would have to commend the Shops at Tanforan and San Bruno Police for giving us some sort of Active Shooter Preparedness training before all of this happened. I’ve been working in the same mall since 2011. I have heard of active shooter terrorism that went on in different cities and states throughout the years. Every time it happened, they would send us a piece of paper that lists things to do when something like this happens. The first time I received one was after the Cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I had just watched The Dark Knight Rises the night before with friends, and when I came in for my morning shift, the mall security was already handing out Active Shooter Checklists. Then another one was sent out a month later, after a supermarket shooting in New Jersey. And I remember getting another one four months later after two people died in the Oregon mall mass shooting. Three days later, we were listening to live reports of the Sandy Hook incident while stocking store merchandise. That wasn’t the last, considering, I had only been in the country for a year in 2012. It was a bizarre collection of sensation, definitely something I’ve never felt back home. But by the second year, I have to admit, I had gone placid.
In late 2016, the mall management sent us an invitation to attend an Active Shooter Preparedness Seminar. Along with the free coffee and donuts, they gave us an Active Shooter Response booklet which you can get from this link. They let us listen to 911 calls from the Columbine incident. They summed up Homeland Security’s improvements to emergency responses since 1999. They showed us some videos on how to respond — RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
When you see it or hear it, JUST RUN! Take anyone who you can take with you, but if you can’t, that’s fine. Just run for the exit.
If you can’t get out, HIDE. Lock the doors, barricade the doors, turn off the lights. Keep calm and keep quiet. Don’t even let them hear you breathe.
If you can’t hide anymore, FIGHT. Grab anything that can you can use as a weapon. A pen, a broom, a bat, a lamp, a fire extinguisher, even your purse can be a weapon. Distract the suspect(s), get their armaments away from them, pin them down, and knock ‘em out.
As soon as the seminar was done, I was already formulating the evacuation path in the store I work for, and the best hiding places as well. Not just for an active shooter, but also for every possible emergency situation that I could think of, like earthquake and fire. I researched more online on how to identify signs and symptoms and how to respond quicker. I personally coached my staff, one on one, on how to take action in these kinds of emergency. Not trying to be cocky, but I have never felt more validated than with what happened yesterday.
I can’t say that I handled it flawlessly. I think I rolled a 17 for composure. Obviously, I could have done better. Have I had the office door open, I would have heard the alarm and knew that I didn’t have to hide. I could have closed the doors myself, and lead my staff and customers out to the parking lot. I could have taken my car keys and my coat with me (I was cold outside for two hours). But I think I did my very best. Thank goodness I did my studies, and I was ready.
Bee-tee-dubs, here are more links to make you ready — or more paranoid — about Active Shooters and Bomb Threats: