The good news is encountering an active shooter in a public place is something that most of us will never have to experience. The bad news is, someone eventually will. Active public shooters typically make international news. One does not have to try too hard to remember the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, or the 2011 Norway attacks that killed 77 people. So if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, how do you increase your chances of survival? There are many schools of thought on the subject, so here are a few tactics that some experts believe are best.
Constantly assess the feeling and mood of your environment. Consider specific people who make you feel uncomfortable. Has your workplace laid off or fired anyone who made threats upon leaving? Consider if you are in a high threat area. Places like schools or malls are usually targets for active shooters. Workplace violence is not unheard of either. I can say this, working at Cheaper Than Dirt makes me feel safe and sound. Everyone here is packing. In addition to being aware, always know the basic information about where you are. Always know the physical address of your location. Do not just say, “It’s the movie theatre downtown.” This can cause confusion to responding law enforcement. When you walk into a location, always know your exit strategy. If you are in a public building, there are often evacuation maps posted in hallways, take a minute to look them over. Know which doors are fire rated; some of these doors are more likely to stop a small-caliber bullet. You can identify these doors with a tag located on the side with the hinge. My father used to be a Houston, TX police officer, and he often spoke of something he called JDLR, or Just Doesn’t Look Right. This is something I notice he does to this day. He will watch for things that do not add up. These can be anything, like wearing a heavy coat in warm weather, two people who obviously don’t belong together getting into the same vehicle, basically just anything quirky and out of the ordinary. He often makes a note of the description of these people and situations in case he needs to act or report on anything illegal.
Escaping the Threat
I know what you are thinking. Most of the people who read this blog are gun owners and gun carriers. If we see an active shooter, our first response is going to be to save the day. I get it, really. This portion of the article is for those who do not happen to have a way to defend themselves. After all, this article is about surviving a shooting, not becoming a hero. The goal here would be to get away from an imminent threat. Get up; train yourself to get out of your seat when a loud sound startles you. Being in a sitting position makes you an easy target. Be prepared to leave wherever you are on a seconds notice. Have your keys and cell phone on you. Use the most efficient route to get out of the building if you can. Be cautious when opening doors to the outside. They could be booby-trapped or there could be a secondary threat on the outside of the door. If you cannot exit the building, try to get to what you know to be a secure room with a lock. Bathrooms are the worst places to hide. The doors often have no locks and there is often nothing to put in front of the door. Conference rooms are a better idea because they usually have heavy furniture you can use to block/reinforce the door in addition to adding limited ballistic protection. Once you are inside the locked room, turn off all lights in the room and close the shades, block all the light that you can. Put anything heavy in front of the door.
Identify anything that may be of use to you in the room. Get into what you believe is the safest corner of the room. Attempt calling 911, understand your phone will likely be locked by emergency communications. Should the shooter try to enter the room, you have no other choice. The best thing to do is to get behind this weapon, and attack him with whatever you can find. Preferably, grab something heavy that you can swing. The key in this situation is to attack this person until they are no longer a threat to you or anyone else. Do not stop until you feel safe again.
Surviving a public shooting is not easy. Often the odds are drastically in the shooter’s favor. It would seem to me, that if everyone carried concealed guns, there would be far fewer people willing to go out in the streets and start shooting people at random, but that’s just me.