BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A Walmart spokesman said the company will not change or enhance current security practices or active shooter training following a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that claimed the lives of 22 people and injured more than two dozen more.
“There’s been no national directive on any changes in the company policy around security. We have our active shooter program in place. We know it works,” said Randy Hargrove, Walmart spokesperson. “Anytime you have a situation you’ll look at everything from different angles to see if there is anything that you can do better, and that’s part of what we do throughout our business. Certainly when you look at what has happened. there has been no changes at this time. Our focus right now has been on supporting our associates, our customers and the entire El Paso community because we remain devastated by what has happened and the loss of lives.”
The mass shooting occurred Saturday, leaving the El Paso community and the nation as a whole devastated. Another mass shooting occurred early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio. Nine people died in that shooting.
Hargrove said Walmart provides all store associates training on what to do in an active shooter situation. The company can also deploy additional resources, such as parking lot patrol or a uniformed off-duty police officer, if necessary. He said there are also surveillance cameras throughout stores and in store parking lots.
“You can never predict violence and unfortunately no business or retailer is immune from it. That’s why we take training and preparations so seriously,” Hargrove said. “We have [already] increased training for our asset protection associates at the store level and through training (sessions) we have at stores across the company.”
Walmart associates are taught “avoid, deny, defend.”
“Avoid starts with understanding your surroundings, having an exit plan, creating distance between yourself and the threat,” Hargrove said. “Deny would get into keeping your distance between you and the threat, creating barriers to prevent or slow down that threat and then, as you can, remaining out of sight [by potentially] hiding in a quiet space behind a large object, silencing cell phones; that’s done if you have difficulty getting away or it’s impossible to get away. With defend, if you can’t avoid or deny the situation, you certainly have the right to defend yourself.”
Ryan Kennedy, a supervisory special agent and public affairs specialist for the FBI office in Little Rock, said the FBI advises community members either follow “run, hide, fight” or “avoid, deny, defend” during active shooter situations. He said the principle behind “run, hide, fight” is the same as “avoid, deny, defend.”
“We teach everybody the same three things, which is ‘run, hide, fight,'” Kennedy said. “When we talk to schools about this, we talk to them about helping the kids get out, helping the kids hide and then the teachers being the ones to fight. So we provide the same training for everybody.”
Kennedy said an agent in his office specializes in teaching “run, hide, fight.”
“That individual travels around the state on request to provide training to members of the public on what to do during active shooters,” Kennedy said. “So if we receive a request for such a training we would honor that request and try to get something scheduled so that we could go out to a business, a local community group, a school to provide this training.”
Walmart provides associates “avoid, deny, defend” training during their orientation and every quarter of the year, Hargrove said.
“Historically, [the training] has been offered through a computer-based training module. Last month we added an option of using virtual reality for that training. We’ve partnered with [state] law enforcement to design that program,” he said.
Hargrove said the current active shooter training associates are given is thorough and will not be changed to include live mock active shooter training involving associates.