Unlike most of the active shooter training videos circulated by the government, this one includes armed self-defense. It offers some good tips — although I’m not sure why you’d worry about people being behind you. When fighting an active shooter, escaping or disabling the killer or killers as quickly as possible is job one. Protecting those around you from return fire, not so much. Anyway, I take issue with one bit of advice and would like to offer two uncommon tips for staying alive during an active shooter or terrorist attack . . .
1. Take action sooner rather than later
Situational awareness – knowing what’s happening around you and having an escape route in mind – is the key to preventing, escaping or defeating an active shooter/terrorist attack. The earlier you see an attack, preferably before it starts, the greater your chances of getting away or fighting back. This much you know. What the self-defense gurus don’t tell you: you need to act as soon as possible, no matter how “low-grade” the threat.
Does Joe from Accounting look a little odd today? He never dresses like that and he’s not looking anyone in the eye or answering simple questions. You may not want to report Joe; maybe he’s just hungover. At the same time, you want to keep an eye on him, confront him (with sympathy) or simply keep your distance. Same goes for a dodgy looking stranger milling around the entrance to your building.
How “paranoid” you are regarding potential attackers (a.k.a., situationally aware) depends on your psychology and your environment. Obviously, you don’t want to run for an exit at the merest whiff of potential trouble. But you do want to marry situational awareness with action. It’s not just “see something, say something.” It’s “see something, do something.” Threat noted and logged isn’t enough.
The best thing you can do is move. There’s Joe again. He seems even more agitated. You know what? I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee. That guy at the entrance is giving me the creeps. I think I’ll step out back for some fresh air. As Sir Isaac Newtown pointed out, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. There’s a big perhaps even life-saving difference between sitting at your desk and standing at your desk – never mind being near an exit.
When it comes to an attack, being caught unawares is bad. Being caught flat-footed is worse.
2. Don’t hide, don’t cower
Videos like the one above tell people to hide from an active shooter. I don’t hold with that. Someone who hides from an active shooter or shooters is betting that the killing will end before the murderers find them and shoot them. Maybe so. But I reckon your odds of survival are greater if you do everything you can to escape or attack as quickly and violently as possible. And continue doing it. No matter what.
The attackers may shoot you. They may also miss. Staying in one place hoping the bad guys won’t assassinate you is a strategic dead-end. Some will disagree, (correctly) pointing out that motion draws attention. But hiding may very well mean you’ll meet the worst possible end: as a hopeless, helpless, stationary target. Think of it this way: what are the chances of the shooter missing you in that situation? Nil.
Worse, if everyone is passive during an attack, the chances of everyone being slaughtered are high – far higher than if a group of someones run or attack the killers. There is strength in numbers, even in the face of overwhelming odds. In that sense, it’s good to share your determination to run or fight with a colleague or colleagues, preferably before, but if needs be during, an attack. You need allies.
3. Look out for a secondary attack
Terrorists often use a primary attack to drive victims into a killing zone for a secondary attack. While this technique hasn’t appeared on our shores – yet – it’s a common strategy used by our enemies abroad.
If you’re escaping an active shooter or shooter, don’t go from the frying pan into the fire. Check the area you’re escaping into before exiting the carnage. Pause and scan the new environment for threats. By the same token, if you have a choice of exits, consider the less popular or obvious option. I know this sounds terrible, but you might want to let other people go first.
Once you’re outside the initial danger zone, maintain situational awareness. Look for cover and concealment – and use it. Don’t gather in a group. Calling 911 is not your first priority. Getting to safety is.
[h/t KW and JF]