Active Shooter Awareness

The phrase has become all-too-familiar to Americans in recent years. When you hear it in a newscast or read it in a headline, you know that a person or a group of people with weapons has targeted a public event or an area with a large number of people — all of whom are potential targets.

Citizens need to know what to do should they find themselves in such a dreaded situation. While no plan is foolproof, there are some common-sense guidelines that are the most likely to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Amanda Ripley’s book The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes And Why, identifies a three-phase process that everyone goes through during events like these.

  • DENIAL: There is a moment of disbelief at the beginning when every second is critical. You have to push through that quickly and move forward.
  • DELIBERATION: You have to have a plan beforehand so it can be implemented when the time comes. The less prepared you are, the fewer chances of survival.
  • DECISIVE MOMENT: This is when you put your plan of action in motion quickly. According to Ripley’s findings, those who survive go through these three steps faster and take the correct measures at decisive moments because they are better prepared.

An alert and informed person can sometimes thwart a dangerous incident before it starts. That means being aware of your surroundings and any possible dangers. If you spot something suspicious, notify the authorities right away.

There are avenues for active shooter training that can make you better equipped to handle such situations. Take advantage of those opportunities if you can. Make a plan for your family so that everyone knows what to do if a confrontation is imminent.

When faced with an active shooter scenario, the key to survival can be boiled down to RUN-HIDE-FIGHT. Remembering those three words, in that order, can keep you alive and unharmed.

RUN: The best way to get out of danger is to just flee. Leave your belongings behind and get yourself to safety. Help others escape if you can, but make it your mission to evacuate regardless of what others do. Once you are safe, warn people on the outside about the situation and call 911.

HIDE: If escape is not possible, get out of view of the shooter and stay quiet. Make sure your electronic devices are silent. If you are alone in a room in a building under siege, lock and barricade the doors. Turn off the lights and close the blinds. If there are several of you in a group, don’t huddle together; spread out or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter. If possible, communicate with law enforcement via text message or put a sign in a window.

FIGHT: This is an absolute last resort. Once you make that decision, however, commit to it as aggressively as you can. Recruit others to help you if possible. Use whatever is at your disposal — chairs, fire extinguishers, books, scissors, etc. Try to distract and then disarm the shooter.

Once law enforcement has penetrated the shooter’s location, your actions are still important. Keep your hands visible so they know you aren’t the bad guy. Follow the officers’ instructions, whether to stay on the ground or evacuate toward them. Realize that they are armed and may have to use tear gas or pepper spray to neutralize the situation. Do your best to help others, especially the wounded, also get to safety.

You can find more detailed information at ready.gov, the official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Use whatever tools are at your disposal to educate yourself when it comes to your safety and that of your loved ones.