Camping & Survival

Surviving a Public Shooting

Police Responding to a Measure 114 Violation in Oregon

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.

Anders Behring Breivik
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norway Mass Murderer

Situational Awareness

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.

Police Responding
Police Responding to a Shooting

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.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. I think every room in all schools should have the Hydra-Lock ( mounted near the door. This device goes over the hydraulic arm on doors and prevents the door from being opened no matter how hard you try and pry it. They have videos of it in use and it is pretty solid. I you dont have one on you, which most of us are likely not to have, you can use your belt to tie the hydraulic arms together and will prevent the door from opening. Some good knowledge to know in case you find yourself in a room hiding from a crazy gunman.

  2. At a previous job we had a “disgruntled former employee” who made threats against people in our building and later to the building itself. Those threats were kept quiet for some time before the rest of us knew of the problem. It vital that when those types of threats occur, that all employees know of them. Workplace security is not a concern at many places until there is a problem or has been a problem. Speak up to those in charge about any problems seen or heard. The same security weaknesses for an angry ex-employee with a gun could also be a good way for thieves to get in too.

  3. Back in the early 70’s I was going to school on the G.I. Bill and went to visit my grandparents for a weekend. I hopped on my motorcycle, got on the freeway and was shot by a highwayman whose M.O. was shooting people off motorcycles and robbing them. He killed three guys that way. I was shot in the lungs and eventually lost control of my scooter. The gunman was ordering me into his car when a trucker came along and the perp took off. I would have been killed and disposed of by the guy except for this. I’ll never be in that defenseless situation again and pack heat. All citizens should. As to Obama and his crew: Μολῶν λαβέ.

  4. Joe, I completely agree. For some folks, the brain is the first thing to go in an emergency. Remembering your training isn’t too difficult though. I was the first person on scene at a fairly serious accident once. My military medical training took over and with the help of some other bystanders, we were able to do some good.

  5. CTD Rob,

    I can speak from personal experience, there were two shootings that I was an innocent bystandard and unarmed. I was 12 and growing up in Philadelphia (the actual city not a burb) and racial tenions were very high. Long story short 2 gangs decided to do the O.K. corral in the middle of a public park. You would be amazed at the human instict to get low and take cover when shots are being fired. Another incident was when I was 16, a convience store was being robbed while about a dozen people were in it and the police just happen to be there (“when seconds count, police are only minutes away”) bad guys tried to shoot police, police returned fire injusring the criminal and was charged after leaving the hospital.

    My point is; in the event you are involved somehow in a shooting, you need to use you brain first. Instict will tell you to stay low and move away from the threat as quickly as possible. You should follow that instinct especially if you are unarmed. If you are armed, get low and try to remain calm and rely on your training. If you have a gun for protection, it is your responsibility to be trained for self defense situations. There are too many SD Pistol classes nation wide to not meet this moral (and I’ll say civic) obligation. Most bad guys are not as well trained as those that take self defense seriously.

  6. @Tony…I Agree completely! I don’t understand how anyone could think hiding is going to save them. If your location was chosen as the target, the shooter probably has advanced knowledge of the surroundings, or at least the building he’s assaulting. For school especially, teachers should be able to carry…and in hand with Physical Education courses, schools should offer some type of self-defense elective.

  7. The one take-home form most of the school shootings is that students sheltering in a LOCKED room were most likely to survive. The ones who coward in the corner of an unlocked classroom became targets. Shooters are trying to inflict maximum damage and will seek out easy pray.

    The second take-home is that NO ONE uses fire crackers in a Mall, office or school. If it sounds like fireworks it’s gunfire! Tell your kids, wife and friends this is the signal to RUN OUT or HIDE OUT so they don’t have to FIGHT IT OUT. It’s OK to be paranoid because some people are really out to kill you!

  8. My children’s schools plan is to go into lock down mode with no one leaving the room they are in and basically hiding under their desks waiting for death to come. I tell them to use the legs God gave them and run like hell. I remind them how hard it is to hit a stationary target at the shooting range, which makes them realize the chances of a crazed shooter hitting a running, weaving target very slim.

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