Your initial instinct when facing an active shooter will most likely be to run. However, there are many things to consider before you run. Confusion, panic and total chaos erupt when the shooting starts. Often times people will get confused and run directly towards to the shooter.
Before you run, slow down and consider the following:
- Determine Where Shots Are Coming From: The source of gunfire can be deceiving. Sound bounces off walls and turns corners. Generally speaking, when a gun is fired, two loud noises are heard. First, there is the sound of the gun being fired. Second, a loud crack will be heard when the bullet breaks the sound barrier. Do not trust your ears to determine the source of gunfire. Trust your eyes.
- Separate From The Crowd: It may not be best to instinctively run with the crowd. Have you confirmed that everyone is running in the right direction? Remember, active shooters are looking for large body counts and will direct fire towards crowds.
- Know Where To Run: Look for quick, uncrowded avenues of escape. Know your exits before trouble starts. Run to doors, windows and stairwells.
- Don’t Run Straight: If you are being shot at, do not run in a straight line. Run in a zig-zag pattern, as not to give the shooter a predictable target.
- Cover Vs. Concealment: Cover protects you from gunfire. Concealment hides you from the shooter but can still be penetrated by gunfire. Prioritize cover over concealment.
- Sprint Vs. Running: Do not spend a lot of time in the open running long distances. Sprint from cover-to-cover. Sprint short distance to cover and concealment. Always re-assess what you’re doing and determine if the dynamics of the situation dictate changes in your actions.
Hiding can be effective as well as detrimental. If an active shooter finds you hiding, you may be trapped with little options for movement. Don’t equate hiding with being defenseless. Rather, always be prepared to ambush/attack the active shooter if your hiding place is discovered.
Consider the following:
- Know Where to Hide Before Shooting Starts: Determining where to hide after the shooting starts is a good way to end up dead. Always know your hiding places and avoid dead ends, such as bathrooms.
- Barricade: Lock and block all doors with heavy objects. Stack large pieces of furniture and other objects against the door and all the way to the opposing wall to prevent the door from being opened.
- Escape: Look for an avenue of escape from your hiding place once you are barricaded. This could mean tearing through drywall or breaking a window.
- Silence Devices: Mute sound and disable vibrations on your personal devices such as cell phones and watches.
- Low or High: Get as low to the ground as possible or as high as possible. Get on top of cabinets and shelves. Hiding in the ceiling may be an option. Avoid being in front of and around doors.
If you choose to fight, you must go all in. If you wish to survive, you must be more violent than the shooter. Keep your response simple, effective and violent. Relay on gross motor skills and basic techniques that will be easy to execute while under duress. Consider the following:
- Team Up: Grab those around you and make a quick plan to rush and neutralize the shooter. Designate someone to go after and control the gun while others control the shooter’s body.
- Keep It Simple: Time is of the essence. Rush the shooter and attack mercilessly. Do not hesitate or stop until the shooter is neutralized. Rely on nothing complex, as you will simply be introducing points of failure and setting yourself up for failure.
- Use Improvised Weapons: Use what you have available. Scissors, fire extinguishers, chairs, lamps, etc. Grab hard, heavy objects and use them as impact weapons. Think outside the box and be resourceful. Weapons are plentiful. Use them.
- Prioritize Taking Down The Shooter: Do not treat the injured or let your guard down until the shooter is neutralized. Stop the shooter and prevent further loss of life.
Responding to an active shooter is a difficult task. In order to maximize your chances of survival, plan ahead. Run through scenarios of how you would respond in places you frequent. Get in the habit of assessing your environment and knowing avenues of escape and hiding places.
Keep an open mind and realize that your capabilities and the dynamics of the situation dictate whether it’s best to run, hide or fight.