"Capable Guardian" program offers active attacker training to University community

Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 5:49pm

.

Design by Nolan Felicidario

The University of Michigan will begin offering optional active attacker training to students, faculty, staff and community members through a program called “Capable Guardian: Instruct, Evacuate, Shelter, Defend.” The training is provided through the safety and security company Threat Suppression Incorporated and will be implemented by the Division of Public Safety and Security.

Melissa Overton, deputy chief of police and public information officer, said Capable Guardian does not yet have an estimated start date. She said the program will work to address the “in-between” area that often occurs as a result of active attacker protocol.

“What we do, or what we’re going to begin doing, is that in-between — what is the role of the staff member at the University, with a classroom of staff?” Overton said. “We started with the areas of concern based on experience and educating the community that require attention.”

According to the Threat Suppression website, the “run, hide, fight” mantra employed by the Department of Homeland Security as active attacker protocol has been found to cause uncertainty that may lead to the spread of inaccurate or vague information. The University utilizes the “run, hide, fight” mantra as active attacker protocol.

After unfounded reports of an active shooter in Mason Hall surfaced on March 16, many community members expressed concern regarding the clarity of the “run, hide, fight” protocol. LSA senior Brad Ebenhoeh, who uses a wheelchair, said he was not previously informed of protocol in an active attacker situation, nor was he informed of how individuals with disabilities should approach the protocol.

“It has been three weeks since the active shooter false claim, and I still don’t know what to do,” Ebenhoeh said. “That is unacceptable in my eyes.”

However, Overton said this situation did not factor into the decision to implement the Capable Guardian program at the University. DPSS Officer Matt Butzky, who brought the program to the attention of DPSS, said he first became aware of Threat Suppression and Mike Clumpner, its president and CEO, after attending a one-day training session on joint public safety response to active shooter events in early 2016.

“Dr. Clumpner was particularly impressive in that session because so much of his information was supported by data and he was on the leading edge of the joint response concept to active shooter incidents,” Butzky said. “Later, I sought him out after we identified a couple areas in which we wanted to provide more specific information on active attacker response, building on the ‘run, hide, fight’ model already in place.”

Overton said DPSS hosted a three-day training by Clumpner March 6-8 of this year, which was planned more than a year prior.

The program will primarily focus on one’s position in an active attacker situation, Overton said. DPSS will also include a new module in the program that focuses specifically on the safety of people with disabilities in the event of an active attacker. This area does not currently exist in the Capable Guardian program.

“Our community members are in a role, either by their job title or personal conviction, where they would be unable to leave a vulnerable population or those which they are charged with leading or protecting, and also community members that have a disability or how to better prepare them within the framework of the ‘run, hide, fight’ model,” Overton said. “So these are both two areas that we’re going to be working on the community with, and it’s basically just training, educating and exercising so that they know what to do and how to respond to an active attacker.”

Threat Suppression defines capable guardians as “people within organizations to which others would immediately look to for guidance during an active shooter event.” According to the Threat Suppression website, the presentation will focus on many important components of the capable guardian concept.

“To understand how to manage people during times of duress, the participants are taught about the concepts of mass hysteria and crowd contagion,” the site reads. “The participants are also taught about research-based findings of human behavior during times of crises. The behavior is often dependent on several factors. One mitigating factor is the presence of a competent, identified, capable guardian.”

Capable Guardian participants will learn about crisis theories that help explain how crisis events follow similar and predictable paths. The program will also include active attacker training and focus on the participant’s role in a situation as a capable guardian.

Butzky said DPSS hopes to incorporate the Capable Guardian concept as a supplemental module to the “run, hide, fight” information already being shared on campus for those who may want more information on what actions they can take.

“It’s important for those that are willing to take on that additional risk to have confidence in their knowledge, ability, and authority,” Butzky said. “The presentation (by Clumpner) was also valuable to DPSS administration as it clarified the role of security personnel in active attacker incidents. Similarly, we hope to build out another module that provides more specific information for those with disabilities.”

According to Overton, students, staff, faculty and community members will be able to sign up for the program through the DPSS website. A community outreach officer will then make contact with the interested individual and set up the training. Overton said she believes offering Capable Guardian is moving the University in the right direction.

Ebenhoeh said he is in support of the implementation of the program. He said he hopes the University will properly address the safety of people with disabilities in the program, as he has still not been informed of protocol following the false reports.

“If people do it, I am for it,” Ebenhoeh said. “I would sincerely hope that the University would handle where a person with a disability is supposed to go in shelter (during an active shooter situation).”