Affirmations hosted an active shooter training on Monday, Sept. 27. The training, which aimed to teach staff and volunteers at the center how to respond to such an attack, was led by the FBI in response to an incident that happened in April.
As Pride Source reported in early May, Affirmations’ Executive Director Dave Garcia was one of the seven Michigan LGBTQ+ leaders who received a concerning flyer through the mail to his home address in April. The flyer was titled “Prophecy: The Punishment of My Gay People” and quoted several Bible verses. Garcia reported the incident to the FBI.
“The letter went to several members of the Community Center Network, the group we put together of community centers across the state,” said John Joanette, Affirmations’ director of development. “It went to several executive directors at their home addresses. We had already been talking to the FBI about the heightened risk to our community. It was just good timing that we had contacts at the FBI to take these letters and do their due diligence.”
The need for the training, said Affirmations Development and Community Relations Manager Kyle Taylor, is simply a sign of the times.
“In this day and age, we have to do active shooter training,” said Kyle Taylor, Affirmations’ development and community relations manager, who took part in the training. “The FBI reached out to us and it was helpful.”
Responding to an active shooter attack, according to materials provided by the FBI, comes down to three words: Run, Hide and Fight — the latter only when necessary. Running should always be the first option. Attendees were encouraged to be aware of their surroundings, including the location of exits, and to remove themselves from active shooter situations as quickly and safely as possible before calling 911.
Other advice included guidelines for hiding (make sure you’re out of sight and making no noise) and for securing the area by locking and barricading doors behind you.
Finally, the FBI advised, if you must fight, attempt to disorient or distract the attacker, attack with others if possible and commit to your action.
“They went through different scenarios based on past shooting instances just to prepare us for what we could expect,” Taylor said. “It’s important for us as an organization to be on the same page so we can be as prepared as possible. The training is not exactly a pleasant thing to sit through. But they just wanted us to be prepared.”
Affirmations has also strategically placed silent alarms throughout the building and the city recently installed benches and flower planters outside the center that serve a dual purpose.
“Most of the community doesn’t realize there are steel columns under the planters all the way to better protect Affirmations from someone getting a head full of steam in a truck coming down Allen Road and crashing through the front of the building,” Garcia explained.
Affirmations also invited the leaders of Metropolitan Community Church – Detroit, who hold services in the building as well as members of the Ringwald Theatre who use the center as a theatrical space for their productions. All told, there were about 30 people at the training.
“It’s important for the LGBTQ community to be prepared, especially now when we see hate crimes increasing against us,” said Garcia. “The more we can do to protect ourselves and to protect one another, the better.”