Active Shooter: What Should You Do?

Recent events in the United States and abroad leave many people wondering how to stay safe in public.

Tragic attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Colorado Springs can make adults and children fearful in public spaces. Because my company develops and coordinates protection services for high-profile targets, I frequently offer advice on personal and organizational safety.

Safety begins with awareness. It makes good sense to be aware of risk, without being terrorized by it. Consider these tips if you find yourself wondering how to protect yourself, and your family, when you are out:

  • Awareness: When you make plans to go out, try to decide where you are going, and the best way to get there beforehand. Know your route to minimize the chances of getting lost in unfamiliar territory. When you arrive at a restaurant, store, or other establishment, consider your surroundings. Is it a small place among many, or a mall or other wide-open space? Be aware of where you are, and where you are going, relative to exit and entry areas.
  • Escape: For years, flight attendants have counseled passengers to be aware of the location of the exit nearest to their seat—and it could be behind you. Use this advice to look around you when you go out—what are two ways you could exit your location? Are there bulky walls, or tables, that could offer cover? In a theater, where could you go, or hide, if there was danger? While uncomfortable, a few minutes spent considering your surroundings could improve your ability to respond effectively in a real emergency.
  • Emergency: In your workplace, or in public, your awareness of escape routes will help. If you hear gunshots, immediately evacuate. Move quickly, and do not freeze, panic, or stop to gather belongings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) urges you to take others with you, if they will go.
  • Protect others: If you escape, alert others who could be entering the scene of a shooting. Call 9-1-1 when it is safe to do so.
  • Shelter in place: If your escape routes are blocked, hide. Try to block access to your hiding place through barricade or lock, and try to shield yourself behind objects less penetrable by bullets. Remain quiet and turn out the lights.
  • Act: Despite such efforts, you could be found, or you may be in the open when a shooting incident occurs. In this place of last resort, you may choose to act vigorously and violently in an effort to save your life, and the lives of those around you. If you have time, arm yourself with whatever is available, and aim for incapacitation of the shooter. Your disruption of the scene, and the shooter, could change the outcome for you—and others around you.
  • Remain calm: Remain in hiding until you are sure help has arrived. Exit with your arms up, and hands open, to indicate you are not holding a weapon. Move quickly as directed. Because first responders are in pursuit of the shooter, medical and other help will arrive next.

There is no profile, or means to identify, who will target individuals with a gun. Unpredictability is a key feature of active shooting incidents. Active shooting incidents frequently end shortly after arrival of law enforcement. The faster police are on scene, the more lives can be spared.

In the workplace, incident response plans are important. Employees should know two ways to escape their station. Incident response drills on the job are essential, whether you work at a pizzeria or you are the CEO of a global enterprise.

When you need help and experienced advice planning for the unpredictable, speak with a skilled security consulting firm.