Clearly, response to an active shooter is one of the most dynamic situations that anyone will ever face. Prior to the arrival of police personnel, how you respond to an active shooter will be dictated by the specific circumstances of the encounter, keeping in mind there could be more than one shooter involved in the same situation. If you find yourself in an active shooter situation, try to remain as calm as possible and use these suggested actions to help you plan a strategy for survival. Keep in mind, the entire area is still a crime scene.
1. Figure It Out
1. Figure It Out
A. Get Out
B. Call Out
C. Hide Out
D. Spread Out
E. Keep Out
Supportive Links: Shots Fired: When Lightning Strikes (Workplace Violence Video)
Figure it Out
What should you do in those precious first seconds of an active shooting? You’ll need to figure out what’s going on and make immediate decisions. How are you going to survive this situation? Will you get out? Is there a path of escape? Will you hide out? Is there a chance to get to where the shooter might not find you? Or will you find yourself in a situation where the only option is to try to take out the shooter in whatever way you can?
These are serious decisions. That’s why the survival mindset is so important to develop. Research shows that there’s a real difference between the reactions of people who’ve been trained to face stressful, life-threatening situations and those who have not. The first response is the same in both groups: startle and fear.
But, after that, the reactions between the two begin to differ immediately. People who have gone through training, feel anxious; where the untrained and unprepared begin to feel panic. Trained people begin to recall what they’ve learned; the untrained fall into disbelief. At this point, the divide between the two starts to widen. While the untrained people are lost in denial: “This can’t be happening to me,” the trained people are preparing to act just as they’ve rehearsed. Finally, as the untrained descend into helplessness; the trained individual commits to action based on a survival mindset. A survival mindset enables you to act quickly and effectively.
When you get on a plane and the crew asks you to note the nearest exit, they’re not trying to create fear; they’re not trying to make you afraid to fly; they’re trying to make you aware, providing information so you can develop a survival mindset for that situation. They know if there is an emergency, getting you in a pre-determined mindset will help you take decisive, life-saving actions. They are trying to make you mindful, not fearful. If you’re mindful, you’ll be better able to make that first critical decision.
First, you must figure out the situation—what’s going on? Where is it happening? Who is doing it? This is the beginning of your personal assessment process—the continuous evaluation of the situation. This continuous evaluation will allow you to take the appropriate survival action.
Use all of your senses in your assessment—and do it quickly. Trust your intuition--your “gut” feeling. It’s a built-in survival mechanism. Some people say it’s “knowing without knowing why,” and it’s an invaluable tool. Once you figure out what is going on, you’ll be better prepared to select one or more of the following actions
If you determine that you can get out to a safe area, than do so. Get out fast. Don’t wait for others to validate your decision. Leave your belongings behind. The best way to survive an active shooter situation is not to be where the shooter is—and not to go where he can see you.
When you get out, immediately call out to let authorities know what’s going on. Do not assume that someone else has called. Dial the 911 emergency number and calmly and quickly tell them where you are and what’s occurring. Include the name of the shooter(s), if known; number of shooter(s); description of the shooter(s); location of the shooter(s); and number and types of weapons carried by the shooter(s). Be persistent when calling since the phone lines may be jammed with other calls.
In some cases, you may not be able to get out. The shooter may be between you and the only exit, or perhaps you would have to enter the area or the hallway where the shooter is positioned. It might be safer for you to remain in place because you’re well hidden and well protected. In any case, if you can’t get out, then you must find a place to hide out. Find a place that will keep you hidden from the shooter’s view and provide some measure of protection should the shooter fire in your direction. If possible, avoid places that might trap you or restrict your options of movement
Once you’ve found your spot to hide out, you’ll want to keep out the shooter. Hiding in a room that can be locked and that has plenty of things to hide behind is best. Blockade the door with heavy furniture (even if the door can be locked). If the shooter is nearby, just lock the door and become totally silent. Turn out the lights. Turn off any radios or other noise-producing sources that might alert the shooter to your presence. Don’t forget to silence your cell phone or pager, if you have one. As soon as you have the opportunity, and without attracting the shooter’s attention, call the 911 emergency number with the information described earlier in this lesson.
If there are two or more of you in the same place, do not huddle together for mutual protection or moral support. Spread out! It’s much easier for a shooter to fire on a group of people who are huddled in one place than it is to fire on those who are scattered throughout the room. Even if you’re in a small room, spreading out will give you options and make it harder for the shooter if he does get into your hiding place. While spreading out in a room, quietly talk about what you’ll do if the shooter enters. Whatever action you’re taking, whether it’s get out or hide out and keep out, you should help out where you can. Help others escape as you go. Help prevent others from entering the danger zone. If someone near you has a life-threatening injury, and if it’s possible for you to provide first-aid to keep them alive, then do so. Let others around you know what is happening and try to remain calm. Demonstrating calmness can have a contagious effect on others; it will help them to remain focused on survival.
You may find yourself in the same room as the shooter—maybe even come face-to-face. You have to assume that his intentions are lethal to you and that his very presence is a real threat to your life. If a shooter has decided to shoot everyone he comes in contact with, he will probably succeed, unless you stop him. Therefore, you must prepare your mindset now.Convince yourself that you have what it takes to survive when your life is on the line. This is a life and death decision only you can make. It’s so important to understand that, in this kind of situation, any action you take, or don’t take, will involve risk.If you determine there is no other option than to take out the shooter, then you must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to neutralize the threat. To do this, you’ll need to become more aggressive than you ever thought possible. This means you either disrupt his actions or incapacitate him. Throwing things, yelling, using improvised weapons can all be effective in this situation, but total commitment and absolute resolve are critical. If there are two or more of you, spread out and make a plan. Act as a team to overcome the shooter. Once again, you and the group will have to make a total commitment to your chosen action and do absolutely whatever it takes, without hesitation. Law enforcement suggests that if there are several of you in a room, and you have nowhere to go, develop an action plan. If a shooter begins beating on the door and enters, get ready to act. Once he comes into the room, your best option may be to rush him and do the best you can.
Revised January 2015