Active Shooters: Run, Hide, Or Fight!

One of the largest threats to the workplace and even in public is the relatively new phenomenon of the active shooter. In the wake of the tragic mass shootings this year (2018), first the Florida high school shooting that killed 17 students and teachers in February, then the YouTube headquarters shooting that wounded 4 in April; the Madden video game tournament shooting in August killing 2 and wounding 10; and the downtown Cincinnati shooting killing 3 and wounding 2 more in September, it has become sadly apparent that many Americans are still woefully unprepared for such an emergency.

While these terrible events have been around since at least the mid-1980s, their stunning frequency is new in the past few years. A report released by the FBI in 2015 showed a dramatic rise from an average of 6.4 events per year in 2000 to an average of 16.4 events by 2013. While there are several groups that disagree with the findings of this study, it has nonetheless prompted the Department of Defense and several news agencies to conclude that the United States is facing an "epidemic" of active shooters.

An active shooter event can begin suddenly, with little warning, and is a terrifying ordeal. While it's uncomfortable to discuss, having the knowledge of how the events will unfold, and how to best respond may save your life. Remain calm and remember: Run! Hide! or Fight!

Run: If possible, get out as quickly and quietly as you can. Head for an exit opposite the direction of the shooter. Leave your personal belongings behind; you can get them later. Once outside, get away from the area and call 911. If you do not know for sure whether there is only one shooter or multiple covering the exits, then hiding may be your best option.

Hide: If your only exit is blocked or exposes you to the shooter, then find a spot to hide, preferably with lockable doors and no windows. Barricade yourself as best you can and remain quiet and out of sight. If there are others with you, try to keep them calm and quiet.

Fight: If you have no other options, then you must fight. This is only as a last resort. Use any tool or other objects available to you as improvised weapons, and do what you can to ambush and overwhelm your attacker, with multiple people if possible. If you must fight, commit to your actions. You are fighting for your life!

When first responders arrive, the first in will be a law enforcement team that will secure the building/area. They are there to respond to the threat, not to rescue or provide medical aid. For your safety and theirs, stay out of their way and do not speak to them unless they ask you a question first. Rescue and medical personnel will follow once the security team gives the all-clear.

There are a few things you can do in advance to give yourself an extra edge in the event of an active shooter. Know your exits as you would for a fire or any other emergency. Hold drills or even simulations to train for a real emergency. Last, and most importantly, stay aware of your surroundings at all times and remember, run, hide, or fight.

Referenced FBI report:

Spencer Lane is a chemical engineer with minors in materials engineering, chemistry, and physics. He has worked for the Department of Defense as a fall protection engineer, industrial hygienist, confined space safety technician, and laser safety officer. He is now running his own safety consulting practice in Colorado under the name Front Range Safety and Health Consulting. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Posted on Nov 05, 2018

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