Safety Training Helped Employee Caught Near Las Vegas Shooting

Please note: some footage in this video may be disturbing.

As County employee Hank Ramirez participated in a three-hour active shooter training last September with the Purchasing & Contracting department, he never imagined that within weeks he would use the lessons.

Ramirez was in the casino of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire from the hotel’s upper floor on nearby concertgoers in October.  He, his husband and a friend were evacuated to the nearby Excalibur Hotel where everyone remained on lockdown for hours. With no official information reaching them, some people speculated wildly at times that perhaps the gunman was in the casino on lockdown with them.

“It really was very scary,” Ramirez said, until he began to remember the active shooter training. “Recalling it helped calm me down. It helped give me a solid foundation to stand on and know what to do. It was extremely valuable.”

County Human Resources offers training videos and other resources on violence prevention including the Run, Hide, Fight response to an active shooter on the County’s Learning Management System (LMS). Additionally, classroom training classes were offered last year to employees at various locations, and departments could sign up for site-specific trainings that involve hands-on scenarios.

Starting in February, monthly class presentations will again be offered at various County locations and can be accessed through LMS.

Ramirez said he participated in a classroom training on his lunch hour last year, then his department head signed his office up for a three-hour interactive training. In the department training, they practiced looking for exits, hiding and staying quiet, and devising a plan to fight if that was the only option.

While they were on lockdown in Las Vegas, Ramirez said he used those learned skills: trying to find exits in the casino in case a gunman burst in; finding scaffolding with covering around a pillar under renovation and positioning chairs around it to deflect bullets if necessary; and gathering potential weapons such as a fire extinguisher, ashtrays and empty glasses to use against the shooter if needed.

“It kept me calm because it gave me something to focus on. I remembered the things he told us in the class and I looked around and tried to implement them in that situation,” Ramirez said.

The training is offered jointly by the County’s Site Security Initiative program. Sheriff’s Lt. Damon Blankenbaker, who is one of the instructors for the courses, teaches employees how to react better in such a situation and even prepare for an incident like this that includes trying to de-escalate a volatile situation and recognizing a threat of violence before it ramps up.

Ramirez said when he returned to work, he immediately called Lt. Blankenbaker to tell him how the training had helped him. He said Blankenbaker told him he’d be right over and talked to him for more than an hour about his experience. Ramirez said he wants other employees to know how crucial this kind of training is and how it can help you protect yourself and your loved ones in a similar emergency.