A few years ago, an active shooter burst into a crowded movie theater in Colorado and began to shoot people randomly. It prompted me to think seriously about what to do whenever there is an active shooter, and I began a conversation with the members of my family about what to do. Since that time, there have been a number of classes taught about what to do if you are involved with an active shooter. Some of the descriptions vary, but they are all basically the same.
The first thing a person should do if he or she is present when an active shooter (e.g. someone who just starts shooting with the intent to kill people) becomes involved is to run as fast as you can to get away. Yes, this assumes that there is both an egress for you to run to and someplace to go to get away. However, often a person is not in the direct line of fire for the shooter, and running is the first option for safety.
However, if running away is not an option, the second thing a person should do is find a place to hide. This may seem obvious, but too many times potential victims become so scared they just run around in front of an active shooter while he kills them. Anyone who is in the public eye should have a selected place to hide should an active shooter show up. There are many suggestions. One of the safest places I can think of in a bank is inside the vault. Or, if you are a restaurant worker, hiding under a table, in a store room, or even in the walk-in freezer are good ideas. If you are in a mall, always be thinking about where you could either run or hide if someone starts shooting. Or, as referenced earlier, if you are in a theater, getting on the floor under the seats and playing dead might be a good idea if you can’t run out the exit. Be prepared and think about your options beforehand. Instead of running, perhaps some of the victims in Las Vegas could have hidden under cars and trucks.
Thirdly, there are those situations where it is not possible to either run or hide. In those situations, a person should use whatever is handy to fight as hard as he or she can. It is an oversimplification, but in those situations, you are literally fighting for your life and no one should give in without a fight. Often, there are objects nearby that may be used as a weapon in your fight, but whatever you do, fight as hard as you can. Your life depends upon it.
Emergency response to an active shooter by law enforcement and medical personnel also has changed as people have evaluated past events. Security guards no longer wait for backup to attempt to engage an active shooter. Waiting at a school for other law enforcement personnel to arrive has caused the deaths of numerous people who might have been saved. All law enforcement personnel must immediately do what they can to protect lives, even if it means risking their own lives.
One of the most serious problems, when an active shooter shows up, involves how to get help for those who are being wounded. Normally, law enforcement personnel go in first in order to secure the area and to make sure it is safe; then, medical personnel may arrive to take care of those who have been injured. However, too often it takes too long for law enforcement personnel to secure the area and people die when they could have been saved.
Lynh Bui, a reporter for The Washington Post (Friday, October 6, 2017) noted that the law enforcement personnel and the medical personnel (which also includes firefighters) worked together during the massacre at LasVegas recently. Since they had trained together, they each knew what to do. Sixteen task forces raced into the concert venue the night gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire upon the crowd. Each task force included four to six police officers, who created a perimeter around three paramedics who treated the wounded and transported them to ambulances under the safety the officers provided. Obviously, this was a very difficult task, since the wounded and dead were in a very large area, but there were many people’s lives saved by the heroic efforts of the police and medical departments working together under fire.
Our country is still the safest in the world, but there are always those circumstances where there is an imminent danger to one’s life. It is imperative that all of us be thinking ahead about what to do whenever an active shooter shows up. Thinking defensively is not rocket science, but it does save lives.