How to deal with an Active Shooter situation and be a survivor.

How to deal with an Active Shooter situation and be a survivor


Active Shooter is a term used by law enforcement to describe a situation in which a shooting is in progress and an aspect of the crime may affect the protocols used in responding to and reacting at the scene of the crime.  We have all become all too aware of the constant rise in the frequency of this type of criminal event.


Active Shooter casualties 2000-2013

Active Shooter casualties 2000-2013

Active shooter incidents can happen anywhere and have the potential to affect anyone.  They happen where we shop, exercise  free speech, learn and work just to name a few locations.


Active Shooter by type of location chart

Being prepared to act appropriately in the face of active shooter incidents is becoming as important as knowing how to react during a fire drill.  Here are a few ideas of you how you can begin to get into the mindset of preparing for the possibility of being involved in an active shooter incident.


Active shooter incidents are unpredictable.  They evolve quickly and commonly continue until stopped by suicide, law enforcement or intervention.  They have been motivated by anger, revenge, ideology or untreated mental illness.  Whatever the motivation, the shooter will likely catch the unsuspecting victims off guard and struggling to make sense of the carnage.  Under these intense circumstances there are three suggested courses of action.  Evacuate, hide out or take action.


If the situation dictates that the best course of action is to evacuate, have an escape route plan in mind. Just like a fire drill, have an idea of how you will escape.  Leave your belongings behind.  Take your mobile phone if you can and silence it but otherwise, focus on getting out.  If you can, help others escape as well but if you can’t, evacuate regardless of others.  Do not attempt to move wounded people.  Keep your hands visible so police will see that you are not a treat.  Follow the instructions of police if they are present and if they are not, be sure to warn others and prevent them from entering and call or make contact with police to pass along as much information as you can to assist in the location and neutralization of the shooter.


If you are not able to escape and the best course of action is to hide out, make sure you hiding spot is out of the view of the attacker.  Make sure you pick cover and concealment that will provide protection if shots are fired.  Try not to restrict your options for movement.  Lock the door. Silence your phone and remain quiet.


If there is no other option and you are confronted with facing the attacker and possibly becoming a victim, your only chance for survival may be to confront the attacker with violent action.  Obviously, if you are armed and have training, this would be the time to use your weapon to protect yourself and others if the situation still presents a shooter that has the ability, the opportunity and displays behavior that puts you or others in jeopardy of death or serious physical injury.  If you are not armed or trained, find anything you can use as a weapon.  Any instrument, article or substance that can be used as a weapon to subdue or immobilize the shooter for as long as possible may allow you and others to escape.  Kitchen knives, scissors, heavy and blunt or pointed tools may work.  A brief case, a chair may be adequate.  Shoes, a belt, a heavy purse or your keys might do the trick.  You could even use very hot water or coffee, chemicals or caustic cleaners if nothing else is available.  Whatever you use, make sure you commit completely to your actions.  Speed, surprise and committed violent action will be your only hope.


If police arrive while the shooter is still active, do exactly as they instruct you to do. They will be searching for the shooter by the last known shots fired or information given to them by others on site.  Their mission will be to stop the shooter and eliminate the threat.  Remain calm.  Put down any items and raise your hands and spread your fingers.  Avoid quick movements.  Avoid pointing, screaming or yelling.  Proceed in the direction that the police are entering from.  They will be armed and perhaps using pepper spray.  They may shout commands and push people to the floor for their protection.  Proceed to a safe location controlled by police when possible until all witnesses are identified and questioned.


Being involved in an active shooter incident is extremely traumatic and stressful.  Being prepared will help you deal with the incident and the aftermath more effectively.  This article is only an introduction to the idea of preparing yourself mentally for such a possibility.  You should seek an in depth course or training that will more adequately prepare you.  Ask if your workplace has a training program and learn it.  There are also private companies who have access to all kinds of threat preparedness courses.  Put the odds in you favor and seek one out.  You’ll be glad you did.


Keith Shores is the Lead Investigator for Olytac.  He also has developed and teaches our Active Shooter Preparedness courses.  Each is specifically designed to address the concerns and culture of the client.  State Offices, Municipal Buildings, Police Stations, Schools, concert and sports venues all have specific needs and atmospheres that need to be considered when designing an Active Shooter plan.

Contact Keith at for a consultation.

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