The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines “active shooter” as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a conﬁned and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use ﬁrearm[s] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims”.
Dealing with an active shooter situation is one of those things that we never want to think about, it is like writing your own will, as both force us to confront our mortality to some degree. However, we see repeatedly in the news how real active shooter scenarios and just this past week we saw it again with another shooting at Fort Hood.
A while ago I went through an active shooter response course, which was as interesting as it was uncomfortable. The course was taught by the FBI and the “just the facts” approach to how to deal with an actual active shooter situation was a bit alarming.
The course was even more real as one of the key examples of the course was in my own backyard at the Clackamas Town Center here in Portland, Oregon, some of the agents presenting were some of the first responders on the scene. Here are some notes I took from the course, I would recommend taking a course or doing more research to develop your own plan.
Adopt A Survival Mindset
One of the important things to remember in an active shooter or hostile intruder scenario is that you are responsible for your own survival. The hardest, but most important things to do in such a situation is to adopt a survival mindset and react quickly to the situation around you.
Do you know what gun shots sound like? You would be surprised how many people don’t know what actual firearms sound like, it is not always like you see or hear in the movies and for many people they find it hard to believe that what they are hearing are gunshots, particularly while in their office environment where it is not expected.
Realize that when the police arrive, they are not there to help you, they are there to subdue the shooter, usually through deadly force. You need to get away safely from the shooter as well as ensure the police realize you are not the shooter and provide them with any information that can help them identify and subdue the shooter.
When confronted with an active shooter situation you have three choices:
- Develop a personal exit plan before an incident occurs, with multiple exit routes as a shooter may block one, or be blocked by a crowd. Some company’s and organizations may have their own response plans, but it is critical that you have your own plan as well.
- When an incident occurs call 911 even if you think someone already has, tell the operator as much information as you know
- If you run into law enforcement keep you hands high where they can see them, they don’t know if you are the shooter, DO NOT HOLD YOUR CELL PHONE IN YOUR HAND
- Tell law enforcement if you know who the shooter is and describe their physical appearance and location
- If you are not able to get evacuate, hide, if you can get to a room with a locked door or one that you can barricade that is the best option
- Realize that if someone asks to be let in you may not be able to, if there are many people with you and opening the door puts everyone at risk, keep the door locked/barricaded
- TURN OFF/SILENCE ALL CELL PHONES
- When an event occurs and phones are jammed, text messages are more likely to get through than voice and can be sent silently
- If shooter is still active be careful about giving your location via social media, or putting banners on windows requesting help. If there are news media they will put a camera on this and if the shooter has access to a TV they will know your location
- Do not open a door unless you are sure it is safe, such as when you know it is a police officer. You can request ID, as well as contact 911 to verify the identity of an officer
- Even when hidden, or if there is nowhere to hide, you may have to fight the attacker
- Everything can be a weapon
- Surprise can work in your favor
- Fight dirty, whatever it takes to survive
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