What to Do in Active Shooter Situations

With mass shootings in theaters, schools, workplaces, and churches, experts who assess threats have come up with excellent tips and advice on what to do during these types of situations. It is a serious topic, but the odds that people will experience mass shootings are pretty low.

But according to experts, mass shootings have become so frequent and sometimes too deadly, especially in the United States, that people need to think in advance how they respond to this type of situation if the worst comes to shove. In general, experts believe that the best and most straightforward guideline to follow in this case is to run, hide, and fight.

Specific locations and situations matter

There’s never going to be a general rule on this, according to experts who study and supervise active shooter training. Based on department memos, active shooters are individuals with guns engaged in activities that may result in seriously injuring or killing people in a populated and confined space.

The advice you can get here is based on actual scenarios and cases. It can be pretty chilling to imagine, but the more prepared people are to these types of scenarios, the better chances of surviving these types of incidents. In this type of situation, chaos will be everywhere. The more people or the facility has protocols in place, the more likely they can minimize the damage of a mass shooting.

To properly define mass shooting and its effect, click here to find out more.

Make sure to look around and know the location of every exit door in the vicinity

When you hear gun sounds, your first response should be to look for the escape route. The question is, would people know how to execute their prepared escape plan? According to experts, being familiar with every exit route in the area is the first thing people need to consider. Use this information if the route is not on the gunman’s direction.

If people can get away from the gunman, running away is the best thing to do in this type of situation. If you are on a higher floor, take the stairs, do not take the elevator. An open window is also a good option. For example, during a shooting incident at Virginia Tech in 2007, students survived and escaped the incident by going out of the building through the second-floor window.

Another tip individual need to remember is, if they are on the shooter’s line of sight, do not run on a straight line. Make sure to run in a zigzag and run from cover to cover. Another useful tip is, do not pule the building’s fire alarm. It will create confusion about whether what is happening is a fire drill or an actual shooting incident.

It happened during the Parkland incident where the suspect pulled the fire alarm, and people took it as a fire drill. File alarms could send people out of rooms and into open spaces where they can be a perfect target. It will also draw first responders or law enforcement officers into grave danger. Instead of pulling the fire alarm, it is best to yell “gunman” or “gun.”

A lot of schools and offices use drills to help their workers or students prepare for a lockdown or make individuals in the vicinity aware of the evacuation plan. But if you are in an enclosed place like a theater, make sure you know the exit route of the building. Usually, the theater will make a public service announcement to let people know the emergency exits. But if the public does not pay attention, these service announcements will not be successful.

To know more about this topic, check out the security guide or manual, security firms, or law enforcement agencies’ hands out to offices and schools.

Where can people hide?

If escaping the scene is not an option, the next best thing people need to do is to find a good hiding place, although experts prefer to use the term “deny access” instead of “hide and hope.” Find the nearest room, closet, or room that has a door with locks.

You can also find a room that you can barricade. An ideal place is a room near the elevator because there is a big chance that the area is reinforced at the core of the building. Most walls in offices or schools use thin drywall. People can also hide under the desk if finding a safe room is not an option.

It is not a good idea, but getting out of the shooter’s line of sight is better than doing nothing. Playing dead or playing possum is not a good idea. Shooters have been known to go back and shoot wounded individuals or people that are playing dead and lying on the ground.

Make sure that you are always on the move when shot, try to get out of the scene if possible. During the Sandy Hook Shooting in 2012, a teacher stayed motionless after getting shot in the leg and escaped the scene after the shooter had moved on. A Virginia Tech student survived a shooting because they kept going despite being shot while fleeing. Try to get out of the scene and keep operating if you get shot.

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What to do after hiding?

Do not stop to grab your belongings, not even your wallet or cellphone. Leave everything behind and look for a safe place to hide. But if you have your mobile phone on you, call 911 once you are safely hidden. Make sure you identify yourself and quickly and adequately explain what is happening and the location of the incident.

You also need to silence the mobile phone or keep quiet but leave the phone on so that the 911 dispatcher can still hear what is going on. Turn off all the lights on the room and do not talk with other people in the room if you suspect that the gunman is just around the corner.

Stay low and quiet in your hiding place because there is a big chance that the shooter will open fire at the head or torso-level. If a lock or a barricade is not available, experts suggest not lying on the floor because that will prevent you from your last resort: an ambush or surprise attack on the shooter if he enters your hiding place.