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Sanibel Police presentation focused on How to Respond guidelines for the general public

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

City of Sanibel Police Officers Sergeant Grace Towler and Officer Lauren Heron. PHOTO PROVIDED

On Friday, July 7 Rotarians woke up to the news that a sniper had ambushed and killed five Dallas Police Officers and injured a number of others in Dallas as they were just leaving their police detail of securing a peaceful protest assembly of the Black Lives Matter movement protesting the recent deaths of young black men throughout our country by white policeman. As the sniper shots hit the police officers and into the crowd we could only image the panic everyone was experiencing not knowing what was happening and what to do in the situation.

Although no two recent mass shooting events, whether by an individual lone wolf, or terrorist groups are carried out in the same way, many of us ask ourselves what we would do if we found ourselves in this type of situation.

It so happened, that on Friday, July 7, Sanibel-Captiva Rotary had scheduled City of Sanibel Police Officer Sergeant Grace Towler to do a presentation focused on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s How to Respond, when an active shooter is in your vicinity. These response guidelines apply in all situations and were put together after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

The Sanibel Police Department has given the responsibility of informing the public regarding these guidelines to Veteran Officer Sergeant Grace Towler and new Officer Lauren Heron. First they wanted everyone to know, there is no threat on Sanibel for this type of situation; at least at this time, but the when and where of these events are unknown. When we are contemplating what we would do under threatening circumstances Officers Towler and Heron wanted to stress call 911.

911 on Sanibel calls go directly to the Sanibel Police Department part of the PSAP system. If necessary and you can’t be live on the phone after dialing 911, keep line open police responder will monitor situation and track address to send police.

911 on Captiva – calls are answered by Lee County Sheriff’s Department part of the PSAP system. If necessary and you can’t be live on the phone after dialing 911, keep line open police responder will monitor situation and track address to send police.

911 calls on the islands are mostly of the usual kind, but there are calls that are made that require officers to respond to domestic violence, or threats from disgruntled employees. These types of 911 calls are the most dangerous for police officers. However, police are aware that no matter how safe a community may seem, there could be a time when they might have to respond to an active shooter call. These events are unpredictable and evolve quickly.

To help everyone in a situation of this kind, the How to Respond guidelines for the general public has been put in place and presented by request by Officers Towler and Heron to businesses, church groups, educators, and any grous interested in this presentation.

Be prepared

Be aware of your environment and observant of your surroundings, take note of nearest exits.

Finding yourself in an Active Shooter situation – get out of harm’s way, call 911 when it is safe to do so, give location of active shooter, number of shooters, physical description of shooters, number of potential victims at the location

How to Respond:


Have an escape route and plan in mind-get out of harm’s way.

Leave your belongings behind.

Keep your hands visible.


Hide in an area out of shooter’s view turn off lights, if possible.

Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors.

Silence your cell phone and/ or pager.


As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.

Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.

Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.

When law enforcement arrive remain calm and follow instructions. At that point everyone is a threat, put down any items in your hands, raise hands and spread fingers, keep hands visible at all times, avoid quick movements toward officers, avoid pointing, screaming or yelling, do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating.

As Officers Towler and Heron said, “to help prevent these types of events if you see something, say something; don’t hesitate, let the police know.”

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7 am, Friday mornings at the Shell Museum. Guests are always invited.