Regrettably, shootings do happen on the street, in the school or office, and even in the Washington Navy Yard.
Knowing a few basic tactics might save your life and/or the lives of your family and friends.
Anyone who reads my articles frequently knows my mantra: the best way not to get hurt in a bad situation is not to be there.
If you find yourself in an active shooter situation, even if you just suspect there might be a shooting, the best thing to do is run away fast.
Statistically, those who run away quickly have the best chance of survival.
Your very best odds are to dash away the moment you hear shots.
The chances of a shooter hitting you decrease the farther you get away. Someone standing still a few yards away has much greater odds of being hit than someone even ten yards away and moving.
If you can, encourage others to run as well. Not only will you help them survive, but more moving bodies make it more difficult for a shooter to pick out one. Don’t waste time if someone refuses to go. Seconds count. As with all emergencies, you have to decide what is best in your particular situation.
Running might not always be possible.
When you hear shots, you might not realize immediately what they are. There is a natural tendency for people to “normalize” their situation and decide it’s something normal like a car backfiring.
Also, hearing and seeing someone shooting creates a very strange reaction in your body. I describe it as feeling your stomach disappear, but others use different descriptions. Anyway, it’s not unusual even for those experienced in armed conflict to freeze sometimes. Push yourself to run.
The shooter might be too close to make running an option, so pay attention to your surroundings and assess quickly.
Other issues include being responsible for the safety of someone like a child or having physical challenges.
Important Tip: Drop everything. A surprising number of people clutch their things or stop to gather them up in emergency situations and lose their lives. Yes, you might lose your notes for your meeting or have to get a new credit card, but you might also save your life.
Options while running: Crouching and zigzagging a bit can help a lot, too, but the first priority is to run, run, run to get far away as quickly as possible.
If you pass a fire extinguisher, some people recommend “covering your tracks” by grabbing it and blasting it behind you. I can see some situations where that might be useful; however, I can see many more where this will slow you or alert the shooter who might not have noticed you before. Use your best judgment.
Grabbing anything that might be used to defend yourself can be useful as long as it doesn’t slow you down.
If there’s no time to run, find a hiding spot immediately. If possible, try to hide somewhere that leaves you an escape route, doesn’t trap you, and where you have a protected view of the scene so that you know if the shooter is coming at you. (This is best but not always available.)
Controlling your breathing will be difficult, but the more you can do to stay silent, the less likely it is that the shooter will notice you.
Another way to hide is to “hide in the open” and play dead in the middle of the situation. It has a chance of working and has saved people who didn’t have time to get away or find a hiding spot. However, you need to know that it’s very risky. It’s hard to breathe shallowly and not look around or move when you’re scared.
At the very least, drop to the ground so that you present less of a target. You can get up and run if you see an opening.
If you can, barricade. Duck into an office, room, home, warehouse.
When barricading a room, quickly enlist the help of anyone in there so that the work is done rapidly. If they are frozen in fear, just do it yourself because seconds count.
Lock the door, jam anything into the space under it as a doorstop, and push heavy objects or items that can brace the door closed. Do anything that quickly makes it more difficult to enter the room. The best situation is that the shooter won’t notice your room or will not be able to enter but, if not, at least you bought more time.
Turn off the lights, get away from the door, and look for concealment and cover or, at least, concealment. “Concealment” means anything that makes it hard to see you. “Cover” means something that can help protect you from bullets.
A curtain, bush, normal door, or large pillows are concealment. A heavy metal door, fire hydrant, small rise of earth, and a concrete pillar are examples of cover. The best situation is having good cover that conceals you as well.
Some people have bullet-resistant clipboards, whiteboards, or bullet-resistant desktop covers manufactured by Impact, Hardwire, Ballistic Systems Co., and others. There’s even a bullet-resistant iPad cover by Vanguard. Use them if you have them or find them in a room.
Important Tip: Typical walls and doors offer only concealment and are easy to shoot through. Don’t count on them to protect you from someone on the other side.
Silence and disable the vibrate option on mobile phones but don’t turn them off.
This is the last option. If running or hiding aren’t an option or have failed to stop the attacker, you are left with the final choice: You can choose to fight.
If right in front of the shooter, act immediately and decisively. It is possible to neutralize a gunman, but you have to do it right away.
It’s time to act forcefully. It’s not a movie. Don’t try to talk the attacker out of it or expect that he/she will discuss motives. Don’t hang back in case things get better. Go full on because you won’t get another chance.
If you have time, use anything you can to improve your odds: anything heavy, hard, sharp, and/or throwable is an option. Otherwise, your body is available instantly.
If there are others in the room, you all benefit from jumping the attacker at once.
Peace and Peace of Mind
We could discuss many more aspects of this. The take-home point of this article is that you can improve your chance of living through a shooting by remembering and using Run, Hide, and Fight.
Don’t let the fear of this rule your life. A shooting could happen to you, and it’s good to know ways to act if it does, but constant fear is bad, too. Live your life well.
Peace and peace of mind to all.
© Mark Dorr 2013, All Rights Reserved