We live in an increasingly hostile world. With television and social media, we are becoming ever more aware of the possibility of being caught up in an active shooter situation. Unfortunately, as economic and political hardships increase, acts of violence and crime will increase as well. Here are some things to know if you find yourself in an active shooter scenario.
The first thing we have to do is to be extremely aware of our surroundings. I personally make it a habit to recognize options in regard to exit points or covering opportunities. Regardless of whether or not you find yourself in a retail store, a convenience store, a school or even walking down the street; paying attention to detail might just save your life. However, there are a few things above and beyond the layout that you should probably be looking out for.
Over 200 active shooter incidents since 1966 have been profiled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). These incidents and indicators may help provide some insight into who your enemy may be. So let’s look into who might be pulling the trigger before we get into what we can do about it.
The overwhelming majority of the shooters involved in these tragic situations are male. They range from 15 years of age to 44, and nearly all incidents were carried out by a single shooter. What is important to understand here is that an individual who is committed to getting a body count may not only rely on firearms. With that in mind, it is important to note that if a body count is a desire, the shooter may have more than one weapon. In fact, nearly 4 out of 10 attacks involved more than one weapon, which typically resulted in 0-2 deaths and/or casualties. More often than not, the shooters knew at least one person in regard to the target; be it a school mate, a fellow employee, etc.
No matter what your situation may be and regardless of the circumstance you find yourself in, there are really only a few options to choose from when gunfire erupts. But before you can react responsibly, you need to stay calm and access your situation and surroundings. This is much easier said than done, I know, but if you can do this, and once you have taken in the reality of the situation, only then can you react in a way that can save your life or the lives of others.
Your three options in regard to reaction are to leave the area, hide where you are or somewhere nearby, or to take action against the shooter. Your best option will vary depending on the first assessment. You may or may not be in a position to hide. You may or may not be in a position to run. And you may or may not be in a position to take action.
If you have the want and opportunity to run and feel safe enough to do so, then, by all means, get out of there. That shooter will be taken care of eventually and if you are not in a position to do something about it, there is no need to die if you have the chance to leave. There is also no shame in it. This is especially true when you have information that needs to be shared with law enforcement or other first responders.
If you cannot run, and you are not in a position to take action, the next best thing to do is to hide. This could be under a desk or even in a closet. If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door as best you can. If you are already in a room, secure the door the best you can. The point is that you need to find somewhere to shelter in place and wait it out, or at least wait for a better opportunity to make a move or flee. Also, turn your phone to silent with no vibration or turn it off altogether. An unexpected phone call or text could ruin your day. Finally, keep your breathing as calm as possible. The idea of shelter in place is that you are not found.
If you absolutely must move for any reason, stick to the walls and use desks, corners, fixtures, bushes, trees, rocks, stumps, cars, a ditch or ravine, or anything else as obstacles to hide behind or conceal yourself. Any of these may provide extra cover or concealment when moving. But remember, if you are going to move, these are temporary aids for a temporary position. You need to keep moving once you have decided to move at all because you are exposed. Understand that if you are moving, the shooter may be moving too.
This final option should be considered a last resort for most people because you may or may not know the full scale of what you are up against. However, you can attempt to take the active shooter down. If you do not have a firearm or some other kind of weapon, and if the shooter is at close range, and if you cannot flee, the truth is that your chance of survival is STILL much greater if you try to incapacitate the shooter. The important part of this option, however, is the element of surprise. You need to secure the element of surprise if at all possible. If you have a weapon, you can deploy it as you have been trained and potentially reduce innocent death and casualty substantially. But I would like to stress again that concealment, cover, and surprise should be a part of your plan no matter how you navigate this option.
Lastly, and regardless of the method or steps you choose to take, remember that once you have either left the scene, the threat has been reduced or eliminated, and only when you are safe to do so, you need to call 911 and get help. Be prepared to provide a description and location of the shooter(s), types of weapons being used, and information regarding potential victims.
Let me reiterate one last time that while most active shooter scenarios are carried out by a single person, every situation may be different. You should not let your guard down just because threat #1 has been dealt with. Stay vigilant.
Learn More! Check out my article titled “A Look Inside the Mind of an Active Shooter.”
New York City Police Department, “Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis for Risk Mitigation”