‘Proactive’ shooter response training at Bear Creek Community Charter

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
‘Active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, a senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, enters a classroom at Bear Creek Community Charter School during an ALICE active shooter training exercise on Wednesday. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader ‘Active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, a senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, enters a classroom at Bear Creek Community Charter School during an ALICE active shooter training exercise on Wednesday. - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader
Participants swarm ‘active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, during an ALICE active shooter training exercise at Bear Creek Community Charter School on Wednesday. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader Participants swarm ‘active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, during an ALICE active shooter training exercise at Bear Creek Community Charter School on Wednesday. - Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

BEAR CREEK TWP. — Anthony Dicton was deep into his hair care lesson — he gets a trim punctually every two weeks because his military father drilled the routine into him at an early age — when an alarm sounded and Henry Giammarco burst in shooting a rapid fire weapon.

Dicton charged the shooter, and almost certainly took a body hit, but he was the lone victim. Others in the room tossed objects and swarmed Giammarco, quickly disorienting him into lowering his weapon as he felt blindsided from those attacking on his left. In a matter of seconds he was on the floor and disarmed.

No one, of course, was hurt in this incident. Giammarco fired a Nerf Rival gun rapidly expelling a bucketful of foam orbs, while the “class” responded by tossing squishy balls as they swarmed. “In a real attack we would use books, staplers, anything,” Dicton said after the brief demonstration.

Wednesday was the second of a two-day ALICE active shooter training program hosted by the Bear Creek Community Charter School. Bear Creek CEO Jim Smith said 50 people from 20 agencies had signed up for the sessions, designed to “train the trainers,” so those who complete the course can go back to their organizations and train others in the techniques learned.

An acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, ALICE training intends to evoke a response that is “fluid and dynamic,” trainer Francis Brooke explained. “If you can evacuate, evacuate, if you need to lockdown, lockdown and barricade.”

And if you face the attacker and have no other choice, attack.

“Some people may evacuate while others may swarm,” he added. “You do the best for the situation you’re in and the skills you believe you have.”

In this case, the training clearly paid off. The “students” in the classroom moved so quickly toward Giammarco — a senior supervisory special agent with the state Attorney General’s office — that he admitted he quickly got disoriented and couldn’t target anyone.

Statistically, Brooke noted after the swarming simulation, being passive and not responding once a shooter enters a room can lead to more than 80 percent of those in the room getting shot. While it was a little hard to be sure who took a Nerf nugget in the heat of the training moment, only Dicton said he felt anything. “That’s one out of 15,” Brooke said. The odds are at least eight or nine would have been shot without the aggressive response.

Dicton, a teacher and department chair at Wyoming Valley West School District, said he has helped with other safety training in the district and found this version “very proactive.” Perhaps more importantly, he also said it is something “everyday teachers can learn and do.”

While the bullets were Nerf ammo and the shooter scenario staged, one part of it was all true. Dicton said he really does still get his hair cut every two weeks because of the habit ingrained by his father. And with a family of his own, he added, it is being instilled in a third generation.

‘Active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, a senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, enters a classroom at Bear Creek Community Charter School during an ALICE active shooter training exercise on Wednesday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/web1_TTL080819alice-mg_1.jpg‘Active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, a senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, enters a classroom at Bear Creek Community Charter School during an ALICE active shooter training exercise on Wednesday. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader

Participants swarm ‘active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, during an ALICE active shooter training exercise at Bear Creek Community Charter School on Wednesday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/web1_TTL080819alice-mg_2.jpgParticipants swarm ‘active shooter’ Henry Giammarco, senior supervisory special agent with the state attorney general’s office, during an ALICE active shooter training exercise at Bear Creek Community Charter School on Wednesday. Bill Tarutis | For Times Leader
Active shooter response program takes on dynamic approach

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish