Surviving an Active Shooter Situation



Q  What is an active shooter?

A  The traditional definition of an active shooter makes reference to an individual(s) actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people usually  in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and the selection of victims has been largely random.  More recently, terrorists (such as those in the Paris incident) have employed the active shooter strategy to kill and spread  terror in the larger population of persons seen as opposed to their views or philosophy.

The recent killing spree by Syed Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, in San Bernadino California which resulted in 14 people being killed and 21 injured, is at best, an example of an active shooter scenario with terrorist undertones, and at worst, an outright act of  terrorism.

Although Canada, to this point, has been largely spared from these types of incidents, according to Mass Shooting Tracker there have been 336 incidents in 2015 so far in the United States where four or more people were injured by gunfire, many fatally.

It would be naive to think that it cannot and will not happen in Canada at some point.

Active shooter situations offer a unique challenge for police.  In a hostage taking scenario, for example, the passage of time is considered an ally but in the active shooter situation, time becomes the enemy as active shooters strike quickly.  In these types of situations, therefore, many people are killed before police are even alerted.  Quick  response and action must be the hallmark of the police response to these types of devastating incidents.

The problem is that by the time police become engaged in an active shooter incident, in most cases a large number of people have already been murdered.

Active shooter situations are usually resolved or ended only when police neutralize the threat by killing the shooter(s), or  the shooter(s)  commit suicide or in the case of  case of Islamic terrorist, martyr themselves for their cause.


The Situation in Canada

Canadian police agencies have undertaken training to deal with  active shooter scenarios but they have limited experience to fall back on.  It is inevitable that at some point an active shooter scenario, possibly terrorist based or motivated, will occur in Canada, regardless of the amount of fairy dust our current government sprinkles on the threat of terrorism in Canada.

If our government persists in not taking the terrorist threat seriously it is incumbent on citizens to be prepared to act individually in order to prepare and protect themselves.

What follows is a list of common sense approaches that can be taken by people caught in an active shooter scenario to attempt to protect themselves and increase the odds of survival.


Be vigilant and have a plan

Although it is impossible to accurately anticipate where an active shooter situation might occur, experience has taught us that they usually occur in situations or locations where people congregate: malls, theaters, restaurants, sporting events and the like.  The Paris  terrorist attacks which focused on a rock concert, restaurants, and a football stadium emphasize the point.  The Paris attacks also further demonstrate that active shooters tend to target and are most effective when they select locations where there is little if any security.  In the Paris example the the rock concert and restaurant scenarios resulted in large numbers of deaths while the football stadium which had perimeter security did not.

At a very minimum: be aware of your surroundings; know where the exits are located; be alert to what is happening around you.  Based on past experience we all have a sense of what constitutes normal behavior.  If you see something out of the ordinary go to a heightened level of alert.

In any situation where you could be at risk, know ahead of time what you will do if confronted by an active shooter.  For example, if you are in a mall or another public venue and you hear what sounds like gunshots where there should be no gunshots, do not hang around to see what is happening, wondering what you should do.  Have a plan and be ready to act.

The fight or flight response

1  Once you come to the conclusion that what is happening may be a threat to you, immediately leave the area, heading in the opposite direction from where the threat is.  Don’t rubber neck to see what is happening.  Encourage others around you to leave as well but don’t waste time getting into discussions with people as to whether you should leave.  Just leave, get as far away from the threat as possible, as quickly as possible.  As soon as it is safe to do so, contact 911 and alert the authorities to what is happening.

3  If the threat is between you and your avenue of escape, hide.  Find the most secure place possible such as a room with a door that can be locked.  If you can hide in a room use whatever there is in the room to erect a barricade in front of the door and identify anything within the room that could serve as a weapon in the event the shooter breaches the door.  Stay away from windows and turn out the lights.  Turn off your cell phone.  The last thing you want is a phone going off to attract attention to your location.

4  If no rooms are available, improvise, hide in a closet.  As a last resort if there is no physical place to hide, take cover – that is, put something between your self and the shooter that will provide some level of protection.  If no cover is available try to conceal yourself so that the shooter cannot see you.

3  Lastly, if fleeing or hiding are not options be prepared to fight  back.  Don’t take unnecessary risks but if you are caught in a situation where there is a high likelihood you will be shot if you do nothing, then act.  Any action you are able to take to injure or incapacitate the shooter increases your odds as wells as those of others.  Although taking on a shooter with a gun may be out of character for you, it may save your life.  If you take that step, then act quickly and act violently.


Good information sources

United Sates Department of Homeland Security   

The Art of Manliness





The Pro and Cons of the Four Ten (4/10) Shift Schedule

Since I first wrote a post about the 4/10 shift schedule back in 2011 there has been  a steady stream of views on that particular post.

That caused me to review the post and write a  follow-up  to address a few issues left unsaid.

Although the original post clearly laid out the parameters of such a shift schedule it was somewhat light on the pros and cons of such a schedule.

Most police departments that adopt some form of compressed work week do so through the collective bargaining process or at least discussions between unions and management.  Most unions see great benefit to their members that accrue from a compressed work week. There are also some benefits for the employer.


Pros for employees:

  1. Although the total number of hours worked is the same under the 8 hour and the 4/10 shift schedules, the actual numbers of days employees are required to come to work is dramatically reduced (up to 52 less days per year) under the 4/10 schedule.
  2. Due to the fewer number of days employees are required to come to work there is an approximate 20% saving in work related traveling cost.
  3. The ability to arrange for longer periods of work absence (12-14 days  by using only 40-50 hours of accumulated holiday leave).
  4. Ability to extend periods of days off by using accumulated banked time in conjunction with regular days off.
  5. Fewer shifts worked on weekends (Saturday-Sunday).
  6. Greater ability to get additional time off (on overlap days).

Cons for employees

1.Fatigue due to length of shift, especially if the regular shift is followed by overtime.

Pro for employers

  1.  The biggest advantage the compressed work week offers for employers is the ability to overlap shifts.  This is especially pertinent to organizations such as police departments that in many instances have peak hours in terms of call for service or other needs in terms of boosting police presence during specific hours.  The overlap creates the ability to significantly increase manpower (person power to be politically correct) without incurring costly overtime which results from call-outs.
  2. Most larger organizations have ongoing training requirements such as firearm qualification, first aid training and regularly mandated in-service training to retain professional certification.  Training tends to be pushed to the back burner when thing are hectic and the overlap days generated under a compressed work week schedule can assist in ensuring training time is available again without the need to incur overtime.
  3. The availability of  a large pool of resources to conduct planned  special patrols, special operations or projects on overlap days.
  4. In the case of employees who have built up excessive hours in their accumulated bank the employers can reduce such banks by giving employees days off on overlap days in keeping with operational needs.

Cons For Employers

  1.  The greatest issue for employers centers around the division of the workforce into two distinct platoons.  It is akin to creating two separate and distinct organizations who only rarely see each other or work together.  The issue is one of communication between the two platoons especially as it relates to complex ongoing investigations.  If an investigation is being handled by ‘A’ Platoon and the entire platoon goes on 4 days off, things can easily fall between the cracks unless adequate processes are in place to ensure communication and continuity.
  2. Some police executives have also noticed the development of separate and distinct cultures within platoons.
  3. If work schedules have been negotiated and embedded in the Collective Agreement, flexibility is limited and generally changes can only be sought during the collective bargaining process.
  4. Overlap shifts require additional expenditures for  equipment (cars, radios) which will be utilized during the overlap period but sit unused for many hours each day.


Welcome to Golf In My Kingdom

I’ve been writing the Policing Politics and Public Policy blog since 2009.  This fall I decided to start-up a new blog that deals with a totally different subject mater, golf.

I will be adding a number of posts throughout the winter that cover with a variety of golf related topics that I hope will be of interest to golfers in Winnipeg and elsewhere.

If you have an interest in golf, have a look.  The new blog is titled Golf in My Kingdom


1 866-840-5837 Part II

On Monday December 22nd 2014 some 20 months after creating the Fraud and Waste Hotline the City of Winnipeg Published the following communique:



For Immediate Release

Monday, December 22, 2014


Fraud & Waste Hotline


Recognize it. Report it.


Winnipeg, MB – The City of Winnipeg’s webpage has been updated to provide information and access to the Fraud & Waste Hotline. The Hotline is available to all citizens as a convenient and confidential way to report any observed or suspected fraud, theft or misuse involving City resources. Reports should be about a specific incident and should, to the extent possible, include the – “who, what, when and where.”


The Fraud & Waste Hotline is operated by an independent third party under contract with the Audit Department and is accessible by phone or internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report an incident of suspected fraud or other inappropriate activity, please visit the Fraud & Waste Hotline online at or by telephone at 1-866-840-5837. Information in reports can only be accessed by the Audit Department.


Additional information is available at City of Winnipeg – Audit Department.


There is no indication at this point that the City has taken any steps to internally publish the other Hotline number,  1 877-319-5186, which is intended for use by civic employees.

Although the City should be applauded for finally doing the right thing in terms of informing the public about the Fraud and Waste Hotline, they now need to address the other half of the equation which is to provide education and training to civic employees in terms of what constitutes fraud and waste.  As well, they need to  ensure that everyone understands that  as employees they are under an obligation to report matters that are contrary to the best interests of the City.

Lastly, the City needs to introduce meaningful protection for employees who in good faith bring to the attention of the City for the purposes of investigation any instances of fraud or waste.  Internal reporting of wrongdoing is a very difficult scenario and unless guarantees of protection exist employees will not come forward with such information.

If the City is serious about addressing the issue of fraud and waste it needs to enact whistle blower legislation to protect employees who come forward and report instances of fraud and waste.  The half hearted approach outlined in Administrative Directive HR 008 is grossly inadequate and sends the wrong message to employees.  

1 866-840-5837

waste abuse fraud

A very significant number that Winnipeg 311 is still not aware of

Yesterday I wrote a post about a couple of witnesses that apparently have come forward (according to media reports), to police with information about possible corruption at City Hall, the Civic Service or both.

That  post prompted one of my readers to send me an email about an incident involving the City that he felt was inappropriate  in terms of the bidding process.  In his mind it was at the very least wasteful.  This prompted him to ask the question:

“Who do I tell ???? Not like there is anyone willing to listen.”

That brought to mind a previous post I wrote about the City of Winnipeg Fraud and Waste Hotline.

Thinking that the Fraud and Waste Hotline might be a good point of contact for my reader I called Winnipeg 311 and asked for the phone number for the City of Winnipeg Fraud and Waste Hotline.  The long and the short of this inquiry was that the result I got was the same as that obtained by the Free Press when they made the same inquiry in September of this year.  311 was not aware of the existence of such a hotline and as a consequence did not have the phone number.

What should one conclude from the fact that even after the Free Press made the same inquiry some 3 months ago and exposed the fact that 311 did not have available vital information that the public is entitled to and that after the passage of three months no steps have been taken to address that issue?  I suppose there are a number of inferences that could be drawn.  The first is that 311 supervisors and managerial staff are either incompetent or don’t care.  Surely if they were competent or cared they would have taken some action after the embarrassment caused by the aforementioned Free Press article.  The second inference is that 311 staff and management do care and want to do the right thing (which is the sense I got when I called them today) but are being stifled or muzzled by the administration in terms of the information they have available to them and that they are allowed to give out to the public.  This second scenario, were it the case, would be of greater concern than the first.

No wonder the uptake by civic employees and members of the public has been so low in terms of calls to the hotline.  Most don’t know about its existence and those that do are not familiar with the contact information.

People cannot call a hotline when the very existence of such a hotline is suppressed and the contact information is not available to civic employees or the public.

I urge everyone to contact our new mayor and their respective members of council and ask them to do the right thing.  If we are serious about fraud and waste at City Hall there needs to be both an internal and external education program in terms of what constitutes fraud and waste.  As well, the process to bring such information forward must be clearly outlined and the contact information must be readily available.

So let’s start down that road.  The City of Winnipeg has entered into an agreement with a company call Clearview Connects, a third party confidential reporting service that will receive and document  information about possible fraud or waste as it relates to the City of Winnipeg.  Reports can be made both through the internet at Clearview Connects or via telephone.  The telephone numbers are:

Civic Employees                     1 877-319-5186

Members of the Public          1 866-840-5837



The Whistle Blew, Was Anyone Listening

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We know from the Quebec experience that even in a sophisticated developed country like Canada, some politicians at the municipal level engage in fraudulent activities for personal gain.

Over the years some Winnipeg contractors have bemoaned the fact that some company owners and contractors have had a too close and cosy relationship with civic politicians and senior civil servants in the area of property development.

A parcel of land may have a very low value based on how it is zoned.  If a zoning change or variance can be obtained the price of a given parcel of land can greatly increase in value overnight.

Zoning changes and variances are obtained through civic standing committees usually based on the advice of senior officials in the administration.

Then there is the whole issue of awarding city contracts which greatly broadens the field of play into areas such as  water and waste, road and building construction, snow clearing, garbage and recycling pickup and a host of other soft services such as consulting contracts which the city regularly enters into.

The problem has been that business owners and contractors have been  loath to come forward and file formal complaints because many rely heavily on city business for their livelihood.  They have not been confident that a complaint would result in the required changes, and they cannot afford to be black-balled.

Based on media reports it would appear that we are now in a position where a number of people with apparent knowledge of alleged wrong doing have come forward to police.  Naturally police need to establish the credibility of the individuals coming forward and  assess the validity and reliability of the information they are providing.  If the individuals are credible and the information passes the initial test, there would appear to be a basis to initiate an investigation.

Lets hope that the appropriate approaches were used to ensure this matter was dealt with properly and that an opportunity was not lost.

Corruption at any level of government undermines both democratic principles and the workings of a  free market economy.  All available steps must be taken to investigate and prosecute corruption.

The Disgraced Mayors Serving Set

“Essential for every shameful occasion”
Disgraced Mayors

Last year Rick Mercer unveiled the Disgraced Mayors Serving Set.

It  featured former London Mayor Joe Fontana, former Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay,  former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt,  and Toronto’s disgraced but still serving mayor, Rob Ford.

At that time Mayor Sam Katz received only an honorable mention as a “soon to be disgraced mayor”.

I think we should all contact  Mr. Mercer and urge him to reconsider his rankings for the next,  Disgraced Mayor Serving Set.

We should demand that our mayor’s status be elevated from ‘soon to be disgraced’ to ‘disgraced’.

I think he has earned it.


*Update    Sam Katz did not stand for reelection in the fall of 2014

A Sinking Ship, A $10.00 House and Phil Sheegle

Councillors Leave EPC

In the last year 1 councilor abandoned his position on EPC and now another 2 have announced their intention to leave.  That brings to mind the following one liner:  I’ve never seen this number of rats jumping off a ship unless it was sinking or on fire”.

Mayor’s house purchase in Arizona

Re Mayor Katz’s purchase  of a house in Scottsdale Arizona for 10 dollars and ‘other valuation consideration’.  Until such time as the Mayor explains what that other valuable consideration was we should not conclude that it did not involve Shindico.

Phil Sheegl’s qualifications to be CAO

Back when Phil Sheegl was named CAO the Mayor made the following comment when Sheegl’s qualifications were questioned by Councillor Jenny Gerbasi.

“When it comes to ability, intelligence and integrity, Coun. Gerbasi wouldn’t even qualify to be in the same building, let alone the same room, as Phil Sheegl”.

Well, they are no longer in the same room or  even the same building.  Councillor Gerbasi is still in the same room (council chamber) in the same building (city hall) but Phil Sheegl is long gone, having decided to leave the building first.  Last laugh definitely goes to Councillor Gerbasi.    As one of my high school teachers used to say ‘he who laughs last laughs best’.

Police Headquarters Cost Overruns

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Don’t you just hate it when you are right but being right means that something went drastically wrong and it is going to cost you more money?

Back on Dec. 12, 2009 I wrote a blog post  questioning the wisdom of abandoning a 45-year-old building that had just been refurbished to  purchase a 55-year-old building and refurbishing it as the headquarters  for the Winnipeg Police Service.

The following is a quote from that post:

The current plan calls for the city to develop approximately half a million square feet of space for police use at a cost of $135 million:  $30 million to purchase the building and another $105 million to do the upgrades.  There are some important unanswered questions hanging in the air.  Anyone who has restored an old building, or watched This Old House, knows that when you revive old buildings they can become money pits. Does buying and restoring a 55 year old building to replace a 45 year old building (PSB), the interior of which has been recently and extensively upgraded, make good sense from a practical business perspective?   Were other options considered?  Can this project be brought in on budget or is there a risk that this project will become a public money pit with Winnipeg taxpayers footing the bill?

It did not take long for the money pit scenario to take form.  The original cost projections of $135 million which formed the basis for approval of the project were quickly revised.  The cost projection went from $130 million to $180 million in the blink of an eye.  Whats more, no one seemed to bat an eye.  It was as if those in the know knew this was coming.  Can you say ‘bait and switch”?

The latest cost projection  puts the cost at around $200 million  and quite possibly even that number should be taken with a grain of salt.

How is it that a retired cop with limited background in real-estate and construction was able to see a potential disaster in the making and the tall foreheads at city hall, the experts in this field, did not?

What has become crystal clear is the New PSB has become a money pit and as usual,  the citizens of Winnipeg will be left holding the  bag,  again.