Home AVERT prepares civilians for active shooter and other emergency situations

AVERT prepares civilians for active shooter and other emergency situations

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The words come across Facebook and the evening news: mass shooter, multiple deaths by gun violence.

In 2020, nearly 8 in 10, or 70 percent of murders in the United States were by a firearm. According to the Pew Research Center, this marked the highest percentage since 1968 when the Centers for Disease Control began online records. Fifty-three percent of suicides in the U.S. involve a firearm, a percentage that has remained stable in recent years.

While still higher than in most other nations, especially developed nations, the U.S.’s gun violence rate is still below that of several Latin American countries.

According to the Pew Research Center, determining how many Americans are killed each year in mass shootings is difficult because the definition of mass shootings varies depending on the number of victims and the circumstances. The FBI collects data on “active shooter incidents” with the definition of “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” According to the FBI definition, 38 died in active shooter incidents in 2020. This number excludes the deaths of the shooters themselves. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident when four or more are shot, whether anyone is killed or not. By this definition, 513 died in 2020.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that we’re having to talk about this today,” said Anthony Corwin, managing director of the Emergency Care Business Unit for the Health and Safety Institute (HSI). But the conversation is necessary. HSI offers Active Violence Response Training, or AVERT.

AVERT takes factual training from law enforcement and medical authorities, and provides civilians with options for defense in a situation of gun violence or other emergency.

“It takes a similar approach to the Homeland Security model,” Corwin said. Homeland Security trains with Run, Hide, Fight. AVERT trains to Escape, Evade, Attack.

First, you run, if you can, and avoid conflict or violence. Second, participants are trained on how to evade or hide from violence. They learn what to hide behind to avoid bullets, such as a concrete wall instead of a curtain or door. Third, you attack. “The last and worst case is how do you defend yourself?” Corwin said.

Participants learn confidence in defense, disarming techniques, defense techniques and how to barricade a door for safety.

“The principles apply regardless of where you are,” Corwin said. And after taking the training, Corwin said you pay more attention in public situations to entrances and exits, and naturally formulate escape plans and ways to defend yourself in the event of violence. “When something happens [in real life], you have a split second to react.” AVERT gives you knowledge on how to react in different emergency situations.

Schools, businesses and churches take the training offered by AVERT all over the U.S. Instructors, who are current law enforcement and military officials, conduct training courses.

“The course is the same, because all of the techniques you’re going to learn apply to all areas,” Corwin said.

The difference for training in schools, however, is if students are involved the training material is censored to protect them. Most training in schools is for school staff, not students, to know what to do in the event of an active shooter situation.

“It’s important because it’s something that everyone should understand what to do in an emergency situation,” Corwin said. The hope is that school staff, business owners and staff, and church members would never be in a situation to need these skills, but HSI wants them to be prepared.

For example, Corwin said he knows CPR. “It’s an important skill to have,” he said. He hopes he never has to use CPR on an individual or anyone need to use it on him, but he hopes that if it were necessary someone would have CPR knowledge to help him.

AVERT also teaches participants how to become immediate first responders and aid an injured individual until help arrives. Corwin said the leading cause of death in an emergency situation is bleeding. AVERT participants learn how to use a tourniquet and stop the flow of blood from a wound.

“We want people who are on the scene to be able to pack the wound, put on a tourniquet,” Corwin said, and other ways to buy time until first responders arrive.

The skills acquired in AVERT can also be used with car accidents and accidents that happen at home.

“We thought it made sense to incorporate with the AVERT program,” Corwin said, basic first-aid techniques. Active shooter situations often result in excessive bleeding, and deaths can be prevented if others on the scene are able to apply first aid.

The first lesson with AVERT, Corwin said, is to be aware of your surroundings, and remain cautious.

“If you see something, say something,” he said. Perhaps an individual is just having severe mood swings, but will not become violent. Taking precaution by reporting their behavior to authorities may still prevent a violent situation. “We want to make sure people are really empowered to take that next step.”

In public school, college and even apartment communities fire drills prepare students and residents about what to do in the event of an emergency. AVERT prepares for active shooter situations.

“No matter where you are, there is the potential of this to happen,” Corwin said.

AVERT is always looking for instructors. For more information on AVERT or becoming an instructor, visit get-avert.com.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.