Run, Hide or Fight – Surviving The Storm Of A Mass Shooter

A few years ago I went and got my mass shooter certification. While I seldom do crisis work anymore, I thought the skill-set would be beneficial even if only on a personal level. But as the number of these shootings continue to increase, I have found myself taking more and more training’s. I’m not sure how or why it has gotten so bad, but it is a subject that we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to.

The sad fact is that we experience a mass shooting every one to two days here is the states. A mass shooting being defined as 4 or more people shot and or killed in one incident. And without turning this into the great debate on gun control laws, I want to focus on what you need to know to give yourself the best chance to survive, should you find yourself in one. After completing several training’s and speaking with numerous law enforcement agency’s, here are some things you should be aware of.

Long before a mass shooting takes place, you should be proactive and have a plan. Not just personally, but suggest it to your office manager, principle or whomever is in charge of the building. Having these systems in place increase your chances of survival exponentially. And take it a step further. If you have children, teach them as well.

As far as creating a plan, the first thing you can and should do is have a counselor, coach or mental health provider onsite. Just as schools and universities have counselors, business’s should have EAP’s. If you opt to forgo a traditional EAP, please make every attempt to have some resource available for your staff to circumnavigate everyday stressors. The next thing do is adopt a “see something say something” policy without fear of reprisal. Almost 60% of mass shooters have a connection to the location of the shooting. With that in mind, “see something say something” and EAP availability can make a huge impact on a potential incident.

When a mass shooting takes place, from the sound of the first shot fired, chaos will ensue. The average length of time a mass shooting last is between 5-15 minutes. Every second counts. So let me break down your options should you hear that first shot. The model that seems to prove most effective is Run, Hide or Fight.

The very first thing you want to do is take a deep breath to compose yourself and very quickly do a threat assessment. If you can escape, do so. This is why it is important to control your breath. Making deliberate movements could mean the difference between life and death. But know that you must act swiftly. Inaction or delayed movement gets people killed. If running is not an option, hide. Knowing that these events are generally over in minutes, take the follow steps immediately.

1. If you’re in a room, lock the door. If the door doesn’t have a lock, put whatever you can in front of the door.

2. Turn out the light. After looking at the data from passed mass shooter events, rooms with lights turned out often get passed up.

3. If the door has a window, cover it. If you cannot cover it for whatever reason, move everyone in the room out of the line of sight from the window. {This is an action item to be taken the next time you go into your office or classroom.} Simply stand outside and look in the window. Make a note of where the line of sight stops. Even better, put a few pieces of tape on the floor indicating where it is safe to stand.

4. Turn off phones. As soon as a mass shooting starts, silence your phone. You don’t want a call or text to come through from a concerned party to give your position away. If you can call the police, do so quickly. Again you do not want to give your position away. If talking is going to jeopardize you, don’t to it. Another action item is to know if you can text 911. Many areas 911 text is available, but you should know this long before a crisis situation. Get that information today.

5. If the door doesn’t lock, do not all stand together. This will only make it easier for the person with the gun. It’s called target availability. Most assault rifles will have a clip of 30-40 bullets. It would take special forces technical proficiency to hit the majority people if you’re all scattered different locations within the room.

The option of last resort is fight. If you have no where to go, then you must prepare to fight. Take whatever advantage you can. Remember this is not a fair fight. So don’t fight fair. Take advantage of angles and doorways. If you can have two people stand on each side of a door, position yourself that way. The gun is the biggest threat, so grab for the gun. Someone hit high and someone hit low. If you have a pen, use it. Whatever can be a weapon should be used.

Do not stand across the room and throw something. Again you have now given your position up, and there is a direct line of sight making you target available. The more people rushing the door, the better. Yes, some will get shot. But this tactic beats the alternative.

Keep in mind your options of Run, Hide or Fight. Run though your action items and know your plan. Ask your boss or supervisor to drill once a month on a active shooter scenario. Keep in mind “see something say something”. It is far better to be proactive than reactive. Know your environment. Whether you’re in a building that you have spent every week over the past decade, or if this is your first time there. Ask yourself the following questions.

Where are the exits?

Are there any barriers or obstruction to keep you from getting out?

Where do you meet should you get separated from a loved one?

Get into the habit of doing this. Have a plan.

There are other things you should be aware of. When putting together you mass shooter plan, you need to prepare for the worst case scenario. I ask one of the local sheriff’s the other night what is something that the public would be surprised knowing about a mass shooter incident? He said that it literally could take hours to clear the building or environment, which would mean that many mass casualties victims may potentially bleed out and die. So, while putting together your mass shooter plan, make sure you include a few individuals go though trauma related First Aid course. The sheriff spoke extensively about knowing how to use a tourniquet. He said place them high or you die. He encouraged me to encourage my clients to put together a trauma First Aid kit and to have one available on every floor.

We need to remember that the police are not there to help us. They are not going to triage the wounded. Their sole purpose is to end the threat of violence. For this reason, we must be able to help ourselves until the environment is deemed safe and EMS can start treating the victims. Be aware when the police enter a room. You should have your hands in the air or visible {just like in a traffic stop} and do not have your phone in your hand. They are making split second decisions while full of adrenaline. You do not want to get shot for a holding phone being mistaken as a weapon.

*The average police response time to an active shooter is 3-4 minutes. There is a new directive that many law enforcement agency’s state that they go in as soon as they arrive on scene. Some departments wait to gain tactical advantage. This appears to changing. I can also speak to some agency’s are training medical staff to enter the active shooter scene with the police to treat critically wounded onsite and in real time.” The biggest take away that I am learning from my conversations and training’s is the need to update and modify how to deal with an active shooter.

Depending on your company or schools budget, you can buy bullet resistant doors. Starting for just a couple of grand each, this maybe yet another option to build in your mass shooter plan. There are also door locking, jamming and wedging mechanisms that are very affordable {100.00-200.00 per device} that every business and school should have.

The last thing I want to mention is know how many people are supposed to be in your building on any given day? Be it staff or students, you should have a system of accountability. You should be able to quickly know who is accounted for and who is not. This will be helpful to the police and other interested parties such as family members and so on.

There are many programs available on threat assessment. Find one and go through a training. This article is a start. Develop a plan. No one wants to believe that they’re ever going to be in an active shooter scenario. But, with the number of shootings increasing in volume, and as the causality counts getting worse with each event, unfortunately this is need to know information for everyone. Please don’t delay.