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What to Do If Active Shooter Opens Fire

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

People  fleeing from an active shooter
What can you and your kids do if an active shooter opens fire?

It's a concern that a lot of people have especially when in public places or thinking about how exposed their kids can be at school if a psychotic person starts shooting.

What should you do (or teach your kids to do) if there is an active shooter? 

Heed the Active Shooter Warning Signs

Be aware of what’s going on with people. Many of these situations seem to unfold the same general way -- a disaffected person makes threats or threatening comments. Then:

  • He shows up at school (or work) dressed in military-style or other inappropriate clothing, pulls out a firearm and starts calmly and methodically firing.

  • Be aware of the gossip surrounding people at school or work, not for the normal type of gossip, but for the gossip about strange behavior and activities, anger management issues, and other threatening items.

  • Look for people acting strangely or dressed inappropriately (like wearing military-style clothes or a long trench coat on a warm day.)

  • It's not uncommon for many people to report after the incident that the murderer had said or posted threatening comments. Yet, no one says anything at the time. It's only revealed that the threatening or odd behavior was "common knowledge" among students or co-workers.

  • Take a look at this video that showcases how parents and students saw red flags of the Columbine murderers.

Active Shooter in Public or School

Believe yourself. Your eyes see the event unfolding, your ears hear the gunfire, you feel the impacts of bullets around you, you see glass shattering, people running, screaming or falling. Yet many people report they thought the event wasn’t real. They think it’s a joke. Or firecrackers. If you have been aware of what is happening around you, your body knows something is wrong -- heed the warning! 

This can be a lot easier for people who are familiar with guns and their sounds than it is for people with no experience with firearms. Still, the point is to believe what your senses are telling you. Even if there is some ambiguity to the situation, there is no shame in reacting and taking proactive measures even if it turns out to be a joke or firecrackers.

Active Shooter Engaging

Hit the ground! Your first priority is to get out of the line of fire, get on the ground immediately!

  • Do not hesitate, move! Find cover. 

  • Get behind something that will stop bullets. Unfortunately, many bullets can penetrate a large amount of common materials. Just because something conceals you from the gunman, that doesn’t mean you are behind cover. Look for brick walls, planters, mailboxes, cars, thick trees.

  • A typical interior door or wall might not be suitable cover, but at least you are concealed from the attacker's sight. 

Get distance. Your chances for survival in a gunfight rise dramatically the further you are from the gunman.

  • Crawl away from the shooting and try to get better cover or escape out a door or even a window. 

Escape! Often there is a noticeable, dramatic silence in the shooting when the gunman has run out of ammunition and is either reloading or switching to another weapon.

  • This is your chance to make a move for an exit to escape.  Several incidents like the Thurston High School shooting in Springfield, Oregon, and the deranged man shooting at the White House with an SKS carbine were terminated when the gunman continued to try and fire an empty weapon and was subdued.

  • This is a tactical decision you will have to make on your own depending on the circumstances and threats being presented to you and your loved ones.

  • You can use the reasonable amount of force on an attacker when defending a third party (someone else) if that third party would be justified in using that amount of force to defend themselves. 

Public places. That's the totally obvious answer here. Between murderous attacks at workplaces, schools, shopping malls, and the heinous shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, active shooters are looking for mass casualties. So they go to their workplace or another public place.

And...the worst-kept secret is that overwhelmingly mass shootings are done in "gun-free" zones.

The criminal is thinking of a place where they can get their revenge on the most number of people, in an area where he is the least likely to encounter a responsible armed citizen who has the ability to end the criminal's murderous activities.

You can click on the link above to see the chart that compares shootings from 2014 to 2015 and 2016 to 2017.

You can see that the number of events didn't change significantly but it's interesting to note that in the 2014 to 2015 study there were actually three females who committed mass shootings. That seems to be rather rare since most of the shootings are committed by males.

You can also see that the majority of the shootings were stopped by police intervention. But it's also useful to note that a significant number were stopped by citizens. The other all too common aspect is that the crime is often concluded when the shooter commits suicide.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe

The good news is that you will probably never need to follow this advice. However, there are bad people in the world, some watching the news coverage and seeing opportunities for copycat type of killings. With additional fracturing of social and political norms, we are probably going to see more of these incidents. 

You are responsible for your own #personalsecurity. Keep your guard up and stay safe.

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