By Rebecca Aguilar
The same scenario keeps playing over and over in my head since last Sunday, when I was at Dave & Buster’s in Dallas. The music was loud, the restaurant was busy, laughter was in the background from children playing in the arcade. I’m sitting in the bar area, having lunch with my husband and father-in-law. We’re only a few feet away from the front door entrance. Suddenly, I hear continuous gunshots. Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!
My husband looked at me and said, “Gunshots!” I nod in shock as I look over his shoulder and see the front door entrance windows were shattered. We immediately thought a gunman was making his way inside to shoot all of us.
We ran towards the back and told parents and children to stay low. Employees and customers thought on their feet, moving away from the front doors. There were no screams or cries, only adults, and many children who looked terrified, worried and in shock. Somehow, they were able to make it to exit doors through the kitchen.
As the place emptied, my husband and I realized the shots had stopped. We walked towards the front door, recording what was in front of us with our phones. I witnessed good Samaritans dragging a wounded man inside. They quickly worked to stop the bleeding in his leg. Other customers, mostly men, took off on foot after the shooter who was thought to have headed to a nearby parking lot.
I watched as many families gathered outside. Some parents and children ran into each other’s arms, hugging tightly with tears streaming down their faces. In the chaos, some mothers and fathers got separated from their kids, and strangers grabbed children to move them to a safe area.
Shortly after the shooting, police arrested Aurikel Silverio at a nearby CVS parking lot. Witnesses say he fired a gun and shot the innocent bystander during a fight over a stuffed animal in the parking lot.
HAVE SAFETY PLAN
The shooting was a reminder that families need a safety plan if there is ever an active shooter in a public place they visit. At Dave & Busters, parents got separated from their children because they were in different parts of the restaurant when the shooting happened.
A few parents told me everything happened in a split second and in the shock of the moment they accidentally left their children behind when they took off for the exits. They had no plan in place in an emergency like this shooting.
The situation at Dave & Busters turned out not to be an active-shooter incident as defined by U.S. Homeland Security. It describes an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms, and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” But Sunday’s shooting was a reminder that we cannot live in paranoia but must be prepared if a shooter opens fire.
Anthony Williams is a 35-year law enforcement officer and the owner of American Institute for Management Strategies (AIMS). He and his team provide active-shooter training for churches, businesses and schools in the Dallas area. He believes today parents must have a safety plan and discuss it with their children. “We’re not teaching our children how to be afraid; we’re teaching our children how to react in public.”
Williams says shootings are happening in very public places like restaurants, malls, department stores, churches and schools. It has become a new normal, even for children. He recommends that parents not be afraid to bring up a safety plan discussion with their kids, “They are already having these conversations at the schools. You have to have the conversation at home and teach them how to be responsible. They have lockdown drills and evacuation drills at schools. Now parents need to plan the same.”
A safety plan should be simple. Williams suggests including a plan to self-evacuate or get out of the building fast. The plan should also include where to hide, but better yet a place where you can barricade yourself from the shooter. Also, how to reconnect if parents become separated from children. Do you text each other first? And decide where to meet outside in a designated location. All those topics must be part of the safety plan discussion.
ALL BUSINESSES INCLUDING RESTAURANTS NEED ACTIVE-SHOOTERS PLANS
What kind of safety plan does Dave & Busters have in place if there was ever an active shooter? How often do they practice the plan? Where was security? I don’t know because Dave & Busters management has yet to answer any of my phone calls, tweets or an email.
Williams teaches businesses to have a safety plan, but he says companies make the mistakes of not practicing the plan they have in place. “You have to practice the situation. You have to make it as real as possible and change scenarios that will make the employees think on their feet. It’s important for employees to practice, practice, practice.”
No one ever thinks they will be in a place where a shooter will walk in. I sure didn’t, but in today’s world, it’s best to be ready. Williams recommends when you go into a business like a restaurant you visualize how you can get out just in case there is a shooter.
We can’t live in fear. I don’t, and neither does my husband. But we have had a safety plan for several years. He watches the exits and I watch the entrances, and we don’t bury our heads in our phones. We’re not paranoid. We’re prepared for the unexpected.