Captain, TVA Police & Emergency Management I Knoxville, Tenn.
Michael Blaker is an educator whose curriculum — Run. Fight. Hide. Help. — provides survival instructions for active shooting incidences, which continue to dominate the news. Columbine, Las Vegas, Orlando, El Paso, Sandy Hook, Parkland, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Odessa are on a long list of cities that have experienced mass shooting casualties, reinforcing the need for preparedness at TVA.
Blaker is a captain for TVA Police & Emergency Management, and serves as manager of Training & Professional Standards for TVA’s commissioned law enforcement officers. His first experience with emergency response came as a rescue volunteer and then as a part-time police officer at his hometown of Oneida, Tennessee.
However, it took six years of commercial construction work, laying tile in Bojangles’ and KFC restaurants, to realize that law enforcement was his calling.
When an opportunity presented itself to return to his hometown as a full-time law enforcement officer, Blaker put himself through the police academy and achieved the rank of sergeant at the Oneida Police Department. He was the department’s primary training instructor who taught Active Threat and many other law enforcement curriculum at the agency.
Blaker’s call to serve was reinforced by an active-shooter event. A man was killed, and another injured when a disgruntled civilian opened fire at a neighborhood Halloween party in Oneida.
“It can hit home. We were a town of petty theft and drug charges. Shootings were a rarity,” Blaker said. “That was the turning point for me. It made me realize that there is no community that is immune to this kind of tragedy, and how none of us can avoid this as a potential.”
Blaker said the event prompted him to take action. He got involved with the local school system and began conducting physical security assessments of all Oneida Schools. Blaker’s actions, coupled with state grant money, allowed the city to employ part-time resource officers to protect the community’s students.
When Blaker joined TVA in 2017, he was immediately tasked with the Active Threat Awareness Program. The program hinges on the research done in the aftermath of many national events. The lessons learned from these experiences are used to equip TVA officers with effective strategies to protect all TVA employees.
“Before Columbine, first responders were taught to surround and contain the area, then wait for SWAT. Columbine taught us that we must respond to the threat immediately,” Blaker said. “Seconds matter. The 2019 shooting in Dayton, Ohio, lasted approximately 30 seconds and killed nine people before an officer ended the threat.”
According to Blaker, the majority of the nation’s active-shooter events have occurred at soft targets where safety is low. Learning from these patterns, TVA has put extensive physical security measures into place to ward against external threats.
“For the outsider threat, having a physical presence is huge,” Blaker said. “I’ve got to badge into four different doors before I get to my desk. These are just some of the basic security measures that make our employees safe.”
To protect against the insider threat, Blaker provides the Active Threat Awareness Program presentation to employees across the Valley.
“Unfortunately, the active-shooter climate is a reality that we must have on our minds in order to be prepared. Our program is popular, and is giving employees the tools to survive an active-shooter event,” Blaker said. “The work we’re doing is something I can look back on and be proud of, but I don’t want to ever find out how good TVA’s product is because that means we’ve been tested.”
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