Full house at VIA’s active shooter training luncheon

Jenny Ketchepaw, vice president and training manager at Citizens Business Bank demonstrates a backpack that turns into a bullet proof vest during the VIA active shooter training luncheon on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. For September, the monthly luncheon will feature a City Council candidate forum. Tammy Murga/The Signal
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A sea of hands went up in a room filled with scores of individuals when asked if they knew someone or had heard from someone affected by the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

“We’ve been saying the words ‘active shooter’ a whole lot more now,” Jenny Ketchepaw, vice president and training manager at Citizens Business Bank, said Tuesday to the crowd that filled the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Valencia. “It literally brings chills to see almost every person raise their hand in this room.”

The conversation, hosted by the Valley Industry Association as part of its monthly luncheon series, aimed to help businesses and employees prepare in the case of an active shooter incident.

Capt. Robert Lewis with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station also spoke during the afternoon event, answering questions guests had about best practices to deal with active shooter situations.

Capt. Robert Lewis with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Santa Clarita Valley station speaks during the VIA active shooter training luncheon on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Tammy Murga/The Signal

Information shared during the event was gathered by VIA from the U.S. Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ketchepaw said at the start of the event.

Through a series of discussions with both speakers and a training video, business representatives had the opportunity to learn three crucial options when facing the unthinkable: run, hide or fight.

“I hope you never have to use this,” Ketchepaw said. “But, I want you to be prepared… There’s a very simple premise of run, hide, fight.”

The video, funded by the Homeland Security Department, broke down the three options, reasoning that running away or evacuating the endangered area is the best practice. If escape is not an option, individuals should find a place to hide, especially behind large objects if possible, and remain very quiet. As a last resort, victims should act with physical aggression and improvise weapons.

Lewis reminded attendees that the last option should only be used if one’s life is in danger.

He added that the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station is most highly trained in active shooting across the board for the L.A. County. He said that while he can help send a large response group of up to 70 personnel in a matter of about 15 minutes to an SCV location, businesses need to provide law enforcement as much information as possible including suspect description and location.

To report suspicious activity, Ketchepaw recommended individuals report to their human resources department. And to indicate an active situation, Lewis said to dial 9-1-1. He reminded that for those who call from mobile phones, each call goes first to the California Highway Patrol. He said the SCV Sheriff’s Station can also be dialed directly at (661) 255-1121.

The active shooter training also highlighted the importance of preparation in the workplace. Businesses were encouraged to develop an emergency action plan, conduct training and recognize indicators of potential workplace violence.

“It’s really important for you all to have some kind of plan and knowing what you are going to do when faced with that situation,” said Diana Meyer, chairwoman of the board for VIA.

Meyer said anyone interested in learning about the information shared during Tuesday’s luncheon can visit the VIA website at via.org.

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