Many people consider the thought of a mass shooting happening in their community to be unimaginable. However, they are a possibility. According to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive, more than 520 people have died in mass shootings in 2019, and at least 2,000 have been injured. Mass shootings are defined by the organization as incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed, excluding the shooter(s).
El Paso, Texas, is currently grappling with the aftermath of its own mass shooting incident, after a man opened fire in a Walmart, killing 22 and injuring 25 others.
During the incident, Gold’s Gym El Paso shut down its two gyms in the area and put its active shooter protocols into practice. Just five weeks prior, the gyms had held a compulsory active shooter training for all staff.
“We have undergone several active shooter courses,” said Andrea Gonzales, the general manager of Gold’s Gym El Paso. “Our last course was June 29, 2019. The active shooter in El Paso, Texas, was August 3, 2019. The course was very fresh to all employees.”
According to Gonzales, during the trainings employees were taught the “Run, Hide, or Fight” protocol. “We ensure all employees are aware of all exits and train them to leave their belongings behind,” she explained. “If they cannot run, they must hide. They must hide out of view and block any entry to their hiding place. As the last resort, you fight. You find anything that can be used to incapacitate the shooter.”
On August 3, these protocols were put into place. Gonzales explained they first moved the children in the Kids Club into a storage area and notified the parents. They then evacuated members and staff. All members and employees were unharmed.
Gonzales feels it’s important for clubs across the U.S. to have emergency protocols in place, including for active shooter scenarios. In addition, she advised club operators educated themselves on their state gun laws.
“Employees must be taught how to act in an emergency as well as when law enforcement arrives at the scene,” said Gonzales. “The advice I would give to other club operators is to hold training courses frequently. You must practice these types of scenarios. You want to ensure all new employees undergo this training. You must be ready to evacuate employees, members, and children from Kids Club.”
Anton Conlon, the COO of Gold’s Gym El Paso, echoed these sentiments in a recent LinkedIn post.
“Whilst the pain of what happened in our community in El Paso is still very raw, the reality remains that there is a high chance this can happen again, but maybe in your area,” wrote Conlon. “As business owners/operators, we need to protect our biggest asset — our staff, who are there to look after our customers.”