Strategies to save your life

Mass-shooting incidents, while a rare occurrence, have increased in the years since the infamous Columbine High School tragedy in 1999. Studies by law enforcement also have shown a marked change in how mass shootings typically unfold, notably the movement of the shooter within and between locations, engaging in indiscriminate deadly violence to innocent bystanders. This scenario, whether a criminal or terrorist undertaking, has been labeled the active shooter phenomenon. Typically, the shooter is willing to die.


The traditional police response to mass-shooting incidents had been one of containment — establishing a perimeter, possible negotiation and possible forcible entry by highly trained Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) personnel. But this response has been proved ineffective in dealing with a “hit and run” attack on large numbers of people in multiple locations. A new law-enforcement response has been developed that focuses on confronting the active shooter(s). First responders are currently trained to go directly after the shooters, temporarily bypassing injured victims. This aggressive police response places survivors at additional risk during the assault.


The nature of these shootings requires us all to…

Be aware. First and foremost, the most effective deterrent to crime or terrorism is substantial awareness of your environment. Distracted people are the most vulnerable. Be aware of your surroundings, noting anything out of the ordinary. Pay attention to your senses.

Take action. If something seems unusual and suspicious, move to a safer area (for example, one with better lighting, more people, visible security, clearly signed exits). If you hear the sound of gunfire, try to sense its direction and specific location. If you can safely exit the area in the opposite direction, do it.

Take cover. If exiting a threatened area is impossible, look for a nearby “safe room” with a substantial door that locks. Place large items against the door for additional protection, and take cover low behind furniture and cabinets. If no safe room is accessible, take cover behind a substantial barrier, such as a concrete wall, steel elevator or escalator or a large plant container.

Call for help. Call 911 or another emergency number. Report your location, the nature of the shooting incident, the number of persons at your location and whether any are injured. Try to maintain contact with authorities so that you can be updated on any actions that law enforcement is taking.

Stay hidden. It is critical to remember that you are in a chaotic, violent environment, where any rapid or unusual movement may place you in a shooter’s line of fire or crossfire with police. Stay in a hidden, protected posture until police declare an end to the incident.

Do not open doors or leave your hiding place until you are sure it is safe to do so. You must be suspicious of any requests to open your security perimeter — these could be coming from the shooter.

Help others. In today’s environment, the injured typically will not be tended to until the shooter is captured or killed. So it is important that you try to assist any injured people within your zone of safety.