What We’ve Learned About Surviving an Active Shooter Situation
Who would have ever thought we’d be writing about how to survive a situation where someone goes nuts and starts shooting people at random? The fact that this is happening so much that people actually write about it is horrifying and shows the direction our society is turning.
Who would have ever thought that writing about an active shooter would be a real thing, that writing an important article advising people how to survive such a situation would actually be needed? I am writing about it, but I still have a hard time understanding how our society got here. Nonetheless, we are here and we need to figure out how to survive in this crazy new reality of terrorist attacks and active shooter situations.
So let’s dive in:
There have been lots of unfortunate examples the last few years of what happens during an active shooter situation. We know the randomness of it, we know the high risks and potential of getting seriously injured, shot or killed during one of these kinds of attacks. So it comes down to making some sense out of the chaos and creating a plan that will hopefully get you out the other side alive.
So let’s address the randomness of it.
That’s a problem. If there’s patterns you can much more easily deal with it, but random actions get messy and produce chaotic results. So the best thing you can do in defense of the shear randomness of it is to pay attention to our surroundings and to the people around you. Notice the exits, how crowded the rooms or areas are, how difficult would it be to make it to an exit if everyone started running towards the door? What kind of people are you around, drunk, protesters (angry), concerts (happy, but energized), movies (Relaxed)?
This gives you a bit of an indication of the overall mood and feel of the people around you. Is the crowd generally relaxed or are they drunk and pumped up? I realize an active shooter is usually outside of the crowd, but paying attention to this will help you in just about every situation imaginable, including an active shooter situation. The idea is to pay attention, you might even be able to spot the guy before he starts his rampage.
You’re looking for signs of potential violence and dangers. You’re also looking for and paying attention to exits, walkways, size of crowds, etc. Because during an active shooter situation, if you’ve paid attention to hiding places, exit points and how many people might be running for the exit at the same time, you’ll be able to either run out the door first, because you’ve positioned yourself close to the door on purpose, or you’ll be able to duck and hide because you looked for a good place to take cover in the event of such a situation ahead of time. You’ve planed ahead, just by walking into the room and paying attention to what and who is around you.
Is there enough room to run for the exit or door if something happens, or are there too many people with very little or narrow walkways? Or is there a good bar, speaker cases, tables etc. to hide behind?
So the best bet is always have an escape plan in mind no matter where you go. Look for at least two exits no matter where you are. Even if you’re walking through a mall for example. You know the entrance and exit you just came through, and as you walk there will be other exits. So you can look for those great shoes you came for, but also look for the bathrooms, utility accesses and the exits and emergency exits while you shop and walk through the building or venue.
That way if something happens, you can dart down one of the emergency exit hallways and get out with your family or friends. The same goes for any type of place or event you go or attend. Even at a concert like the active shooter situation in Las Vegas. No matter where you walk there are always exit points and things to hide behind.
So no matter where you go you can plan your escape, and you should take it a step further and talk about it with your family. And always have a meeting place if you and your family get separated. And this is a good practice anyway, even in normal times. Sometimes our kids wonder off and if they know where to meet you you’ll be reunited much quicker and hopefully with no problems.
So, pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you, and always look for the two nearest exits no matter where you go and no matter where in a building or event you are. And look for places you can hide behind or take cover. And get your family in the habit of doing the same thing.
During an Active Shooter Situation:
Hide or run; your first priority is to get out of the line of fire. If there’s a large crowd and narrow walkways and only a few doors or exits, then your best option is to hide. If you run with a panicked crowd, the odds of further injuries and deaths are very high. So avoid running with the mob and duck and find cover if you can. If there is not a huge crowd and you can make it to the exit then do so with caution, because everyone, including you, are being shot at. So the idea is whatever you’re going to do, you have to do it quickly. Find cover or run. This is not only getting out of the line of fire, it’s getting out of the line of sight. If he sees you, he can aim and shoot at you. If he cannot see you, he will likely not shoot at you.
You will also have to account for random shooting. When the guy not aiming at anyone and just starts shooting everywhere at random. That’s when you could get hit by a stray bullet. So taking cover is a good idea verses running. So you get out of sight, find something solid to hide behind and keep quiet. Don’t yell and scream. If you can warn others from entering the room, do so, but quietly with hand signals. If you can, and if you have your head about you, and if you’re in close proximity of the shooter, then you’ll want to silence your phone. You’d hate to have a great hiding place and your phone rings just as he walks by you.
At this point you’re not worried about your belongs, your purse, sunglasses, car keys, etc. You’re only worry about yourself, your family and your friends. Get yourself and them to safety as quick as possible. Duck, get down and get out of the line of fire. Get behind something solid or run your butt off to the exits, and help others if you can, if it doesn’t put your own life at risk.
Now if you’re in a school or building situation, then you’ll want to close and lock doors if you can. Also, if you’re in a room on a ground or second floor, then open the windows and try to get out. If you’re higher than that you might get hurt exiting through the windows, but you can still signal for help through the windows. Again, you’ll want to find places to hide that will provide good cover, something solid that a bullet cannot penetrate.
Try your best not to hide in a group. Spread out as that gives the shooter a more difficult target. If you’re all bunched together it’s easier to shoot all of you. So spread out and find a good hiding place and stay there until you’re given the all clear by the police or authorities. You don’t know if there are more than one shooter. So stay down until the authorities come for you.
Should You Try to Fight The Shooter?
So, I know everyone want’s to know if they should try to disarm or fight the shooter. And the answer is not an easy one. It depends on the situation. As a last resort, if he’s approaching and about to shoot you, if he’s about to shoot a loved one, then I would say yes, attack him with everything you got. Go for and hold on to the gun. If you have ahold of his arm or head and you’re punching him he can still shoot if you don’t have control of the gun. So if you’re going to engage the shooter, always go for and try to control the gun. And never let go. No matter if he’s hitting or even stabbing you. You never let go of the gun. Help will come soon. If you let go of the gun, he’ll take a step back and shoot you. That’s it.
Now you’re in a fight for your life. Always keep that in mind. You’ve just engaged someone who is violent and who is committed to killing and more than likely dying too. So he already knows he’s going to die, he just wants to take you with him. So hold on to the gun with all your might and try to kick and disable him the best you can. If he has a rifle of any kind then you can grab the rifle and hit him in the face with if, while never letting go of it. You grab the rifle, pull a bit so he will pull it back in his direction, then using his own force you can slam him in the face with the rifle, then pull the gun towards the ground with the barrel facing towards the shooter, then pull towards you. If his finger is still on the trigger and you’ve going through this motion you could shoot the shooter with his own gun.
But even if that’s too complicated and you can’t remember it, just remember to grab the gun and don’t let go. And while you’re fighting and struggling with the shooter, scream and yell as loud as possible so the authorities and other people can come to your aid and help you subdue the shooter. Also be as aggressive and violent as you possibly can. This adds commitment on your part and could scare the shooter. You’ve committed to this action, so go all the way and be as aggressive and as violent and loud as humanly possible.
Now if you’ve decided to fight or engage the shooter, keep in mind that this is now a mortal combat type of situation. It’s your life or his. You’ve just walked into a life or death situation. So this is now the fight of your life. As civilians we’re just not used to that mindset, we’re not used to thinking like that. If a fight breaks out, the people usually just want to beat up the other guy, not kill him. So this is a new and strange concept to get our heads around, but you need to, otherwise you’ll die, period.
You have to get it in your head that if he wins, you’re not going to just get beaten up, he’s going to kill you. So you have to have it in your head that you’re going to lethally hurt him too. So you have to have it in your head that you’re going to either kill him or cause serious injury so he cannot move or get up to keep fighting and shooting.
Also remember, that you can use anything to hurt, kill or subdue the shooter. Chairs, fire extinguishers, glasses, tables, plates, dinner knifes, forks, spoons, keys, anything you have at your disposal you can use to hit, scratch, stab, gouge his eyes or clobber the guy with. Also try to get others to help you by screaming and yelling for help.
We all wish anyone in this situation the best of luck. It’s a bad deal, that’s for sure. No one want’s to be in this situation nor do we wish it upon anyone. So we’re all with you. Keep your head about you and fight for your life.
After the Active Shooter Event is Over:
What should you do right afterwords?
Stay down, make sure the authorities can see your hands so they don’t think you are the shooter. Keep your hands empty as you don’t want the police to mistake a cell phone for a gun and shoot you, thinking that you are one of the shooters.
You are going to be scared and very shaken up and you’re going to want to get out of there as soon as possible. But keep in mind that the police and authorities have a job and a priory, and that priority is to end the incident and stop the shooter. So they may pass you and other injured people while looking for the shooter. So don’t be alarmed or upset if you’re injured and the police don’t immediately stop and help you. They are trying to stop the shooter, period.
You might even experience tear gas or pepper spray as the authorities might use these methods to stop the shooter. So if this does happen, keep as calm as possible, it will hurt, but remember, it’s temporary and there’s a bigger threat and problem. You might think the authorities are being overly violent with you and other civilians, but they will not do anything to intentionally or permanently hurt you.
They are trying to save you and everyone else, but during these times they have to be very forceful, precise and even violent to stop the shooter at all cost as further loss of life will occur if they don’t. They do not have time to explain things to you, they’ll just move you and do what they need to do with you as quickly as possibly. So if the police are shouting, pushing and/or slamming you to the ground, just go with it and know that they are trying to get you out of harm’s way and get to the threat as quickly as possibly. So follow the instructions of the authorities, no matter if you understand them or not. Just do as you’re told. You’ll get the explanation later, now is not the time.
Many people who experience trauma or violence develop PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced or even witnessed a shocking, scary, or dangerous events or a life threatening situation, like combat, the active shooter situation we’ve been discussing, a hostage situation, a natural disaster, sexual assault and/or even after a serious car accident.
It’s normal and common in cases such as these. So if you do go through something like this, it’s okay to seek help or speak with a licensed mental health professional. In fact I would recommend seeking with someone as soon as possible. This is way out of our normal life, even car accidents we’re mentally ready for, as we know it’s somewhat of a normal occurrence. But an active shooter or a hostage situation is just out there. It’s way off our radar and not in the realm of anything we think could happen. So in the days following a situation like this, please seek the council of a professional councilor or mental health provider.
I hope you have found this article useful, and I also hope you never have to use the advice. Again, I am really not happy that any of us have to write or read articles like this. I would ask all of us to help our society go the other direction. If we all do our part, maybe we can turn some of these things around. So if you recognize that someone may need mental help, talk to someone about it. Reach out and help people.
Good luck to all of us.
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