Surviving an Active Shooter Incident

Most normal people do not intentionally walk into a life-threatening situation like an active shooting scene. Scenarios like this are unpredictable and creep up on you with little to no warning. Hopefully, you never have to encounter this, but if you do, it is important to be armed with the proper knowledge. It’s important to prepare yourself and your family to survive an active shooter scenario.

By taking the initiative to prepare, you are giving yourself a fighting chance if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. With a steady rise in mass shootings, this article aims to equip you with effective tips to help you survive an active shooter.

Who is an Active Shooter

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an active shooter is a person that uses firearms randomly in a populated, public, or confined place to kill or cause harm to people. An active shooter generally has no defined targeted person(s). They tend to shoot at any and everybody within reach. Based off the U.S’s history of mass shootings and interviews with surviving shooters, it has been said that these acts are propelled by the surge of piled-up emotions instigated by anger, frustration, depression, financial challenges, etc.

Shooting Scenes & Scenarios

While mass shootings can occur anywhere; most scenarios have been discovered to occur in areas/places connected to the source of the piled-up emotions. In other words, the possibility of a bullied kid shooting randomly in the school cafeteria is higher than the possibility of seeing the same kid shooting in a mall. Here are some of the most common places the U.S. has seen these tragic events take place.

School Shootings

Arguably one of the saddest places for an active shooter to target is in schools. These targets have mostly been associated to teenagers or young adults who are generally angry, sad, bullied, or into drugs. Teenagers in this situation have been known to experience sudden outbursts of emotions when they think everyone around them are happy, while they are unhappy or bullied. While not only bullied teenagers and broken young adults are the only perpetrators of these horrendous acts, but they are the primary party to target schools, from elementary to college campuses.

Workplace Shootings

Active shooting in the workplace have been linked to both disgruntled former employee and currently frustrated ones. When activities at work affect a person’s psychology so much so that they find it difficult to handle; the possibility of this scenario taking place at their work is increases highly. Learn how to properly prepare for an active shooter scenario with this DHS Guide. Angered customers are also important to mention here. A customer who feels wronged or cheated can get fixated enough to target a specific workplace to attack.

Mass Shootings (crowded public places)

Public places like malls, parks, concerts, clubs, etc., have also been common spots for active shooters. Targets such as these have large amounts of people enabling the shooter to cause more mayhem in a shorter amount of time. Often times the shooter has a personal history with these places or a strong dislike for the clientele that normally frequents the specific local.

Crime Events

An active shooter can also target local businesses like gas stations & convenience stores while committing a crime such as robbery. Criminals that are willing to commit armed robbery are desperate and unstable and these scenarios should be handled in the same fashion as any mass shooting scenario.

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How to Survive an Active Shooting

The DHS has said that most active shooting incidents conclude naturally within 10 to 15 minutes. It is also important to note that it takes police officers an average of 10 to 30 minutes to arrive at the scene. The time frame depends on the size and population of the city. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has put together several safety resources to educate and enhance understanding of active shooter emergencies.

Since the possibility of being rescued by the police is highly unlikely before the active shooter gets tired or completes their mission, it is essential for you to learn how you can defend yourself and your family to the best of your civilian ability. Luckily, former Navy Seal Courtley, has helped outlined steps for surviving an active shooter, which we have summarized below:

Pause, Assess, Plan

The very first thing to do when caught up in this dangerous scenario is to pause, just for a few seconds, to observe and assess your environment. This way, you can take in crucial details to help you come up with a quick plan of action.

Run, Scram, Evacuate

Fight, Flight or Freeze! That is the normal human response to a dangerous situation. Hopefully, this time, you’ve taken a few seconds to come up with a crucial and potentially lifesaving plan. When you have an active plan, the next thing to do is swing into action.

You must understand that you only have a few seconds head start. Your best course of action is to leave the scene as soon and as fast as you can through the nearest possible exit. Remember; an active shooter has no specific target. He/she is not after YOU, but you could get caught in the crossfire. The faster you leave the scene, the better. Once you are safe, call the cops and provide your recollection of the event.

Cover, Hide, Barricade

In a situation where the chances of leaving the scene are slim, take cover. Find a safe hiding place and remain until the tension is over. When you find a hideout, make sure you maximize protection by using heavy objects or a doorstop to barricade the door from within.

If your hideout is not in an enclosed room, hide behind a large object that can prevent you from getting hurt if bullets are fired in your direction. Once in a safe enough location, turn off any devices that would create noise and draw attention to you like a phone, music device, watch, etc.

Defend, Disrupt, Fight

Sometimes you are left with no choice but to defend yourself. When you are out of options, fight back with everything in you. Throw objects at the shooter, use any weapons you have on you or can find near you and be as aggressive as possible. Scream to draw attention or create a danger alarm for other survivors. Someone could hear your screams for help and call the police, or you noise can point the cops in the right direction.

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How to Ensure Safety When Law Enforcement Arrives

The arrival of law enforcement officers is not a guarantee that the danger has passed. While your safety is their priority, terrible mistakes can happen if care is not taken. Mistakes that can prove fatal. Here are some things to keep in mind to stay safe when Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) arrive:

Know What Your Local LEO’s Wear

Knowing what your local LEO’s wear will help you not to fall prey to the wrong person(s). Their uniforms are their identities, so brush up on the legal uniform for each law enforcement group like security, sherrifs, beat cops, and detectives in your area so you can spot a fake when you see one.

Know How Officers Will React in High Danger Situations

The reaction of officers differs depending on the magnitude of the tension. In a high-stress environment, like a this, be sure to identify yourself as a victim with your hands high and empty.

How to show you are not a threat:
  • Put your hands in the air
  • Ensure your hands are empty by dropping what you may be carrying, keys, phone, etc.
  • Follow the instructions of the officers, word for word
  • Stay calm and try not to panic
  • Wait until the officers are ready to hear you speak so you don't seem argumentative

Provide Useful Details to the LEO’s

Whenever you have access to a mobile phone, call 911. Provide useful details that can help them salvage the situation. Necessary details can include:

  • Exact location
  • Description of things on the scene
  • Estimated/ exact number of victims/ hostages
  • Physical description of the active shooter
  • How many weapons the shooter has
  • And Any other information you may have
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Stay Prepared – You Never Know What is Coming

Active shooters do not give hints or reminders: they pounce. You must stay alert and always prepared. Follow the tips below to help you are ready and armed to tackle any emergency.

Know your Surroundings

Wherever you go, always observe your surroundings. Learn your environment by taking note of exit options and hideouts in case of sudden danger. Take note of people’s facial expressions and body language. You just might find a clue to possible danger hidden in the quite kid or the civilian dressed in fatigues. If you have any suspicion, do not hesitate to call 911.

Have an Exit Plan

When you have observed your surroundings and taken note of the details, create a general exit plan in your head. If danger arises, stick to your plan, and swing right into action. The habit of always looking out for an exit plan is one of the best habits you can form. Noting the fire exits and backdoors are great options. Not everyone takes note of these, so when people scramble for the main exit, you can use the alternatives.

Become Invisible

Becoming invisible simply means being quiet and out of sight. If the shooter cannot see you, you cannot be a target. The easiest way to become immediately invisible is by turning off the lights. Once the lights are out, activate your exit plan. If you have no means of evacuating the scene, seek a hideout. While you make your way to your exit or hideout, make sure you are staying low.

Teach your Family and Kids

You don’t want to be safe and then leave a loved one in danger. Habits taught at an early age often last a lifetime. Teaching kids to be alert and smart in the face of danger often results in security-conscious adults. Help keep your kids safe, even into adulthood by educating them in a fun, memorable, yet effective way.

Keep Helpful Items Available

Some items like door stoppers, pepper spray, concealed weapon and other tools can come in handy in this scary scene. They help with blockading, self-defense, and distractions. If you have a family to protect, remember that even your home needs to be safe. So, be mindful about where you keep the more dangerous items. Additionally, keeping a trauma kit for gunshot wounds in your EDC bag, while a scary thought, could come in handy. And for schools and other establishments, keeping gunshot wound trauma kits in multiple places could save lives if those locations are targeted.