With school and workplace shootings making headlines in recent weeks, it is no wonder that personal safety is at the forefront of many minds. We have marveled at the stories of those brave enough to try and take down the shooter, and wept for those who those who were caught in the crossfire. No doubt those affected by these shootings never imagined they would find themselves in that type of scenario. We can’t help but find ourselves wondering what we would do if we were in a situation like some of the ones that are in the news. Have you considered what you would do if you were to encounter an active shooter? Here are some guidelines to help you consider your options if you are ever in that situation.
The first thing you should do is be aware of your surroundings at all times. Even if you have been there a hundred times, it’s smart to realize that no place is immune from a public shooting. Always be aware of security measures at public places that you frequent. Are there security guards on the property? Do they have cameras? Is this place that some could consider offensive? Just being mindful of how things are laid out at the places you go often can make you much more aware in a crisis. You will recall things simply because you have paid attention to your surroundings in the past.
So, what do you do once you are aware that there is an active shooting in progress? If you can take cover, that’s wonderful. Otherwise, you’re going to have to make some quick decisions on your feet. Is there more than one shooter? Do they appear to have random targets or a specific agenda? Where are they in relation to you? Where are they in relation to possible exits? Remembering all of the info you have collected in non-emergent situations as well as surveying what is currently going on can be a huge help.
Now that you know what’s going on, you’re going to have to figure out the best survival option. If you are alone, you’ll obviously just have to think about protecting yourself, but if you are out with your family, then protection is going to jump to the next level – you have others to think about as well.
If escaping the area is a real possibility, this is the first option you should consider. Many people have survived these type of events simply because they were able to find a way get out and get to safety. Make your way to the closest exit as quickly and quietly as you possibly can – trying to stay out of the line of sight of the shooter. As soon as you get outdoors, keep moving away from the location – quickly. If you have a cell phone, alert law enforcement by calling 911 – only after you are out. Most likely someone else will have contacted 911 already, too.
If you can’t get out of the location, you’re going to have to find a place to take cover, if you haven’t already. Find a spot where you can stay hidden and out of the line of fire. This could be a bathroom, closet, empty classroom or hallway, somewhere that is out of the way. Lock the door. Block it with something heavy if at all possible – table, chairs, a desk – something besides using your body to block the door. If you can’t lock it, hide behind or under heavy furniture. You want to keep away from the door, and any walls close to where the shooting is happening. If you can escape once you are in this room through and outside door or window – now is the chance.
You also need to bear in mind the shooter may come to where you are – what are you going to do? Will you try and take down the shooter? Stay where you are and play dead? Try to move to another location? Whatever you decide, you need to stick with that decision. If you change your mind midway through, or waffle in your decision, it could have disastrous results. Rushing the shooter is a viable option if you think you can take them down. It also helps (as we saw with Flight 93) that having others committed to this can work well.
If you are alone, playing dead may be a good choice. Especially if you weren’t able to leave the area. If you have others with you, this could prove more difficult and is a less practical option. As with any active crisis situation, remaining calm is going to help you think more clearly so do your best not to panic and that will help with your decision making.
What are some other strategies that you would suggest using in an active shooter situation?