Surviving in today’s modern times is becoming more and more difficult and besides the natural hazards we are prepping for, we also have to pay attention to the human factor. Man-made threats seem to increase with every passing year and terrorist attacks and active shooter scenarios are present now more than ever. Surviving an active shooter scenario requires proper knowledge and people should know how to respond to such an attack.
The military are trained to rehearse what they should do if attacked, but such training is not widely available for the general public. Even more, you have to understand that even though the chances of being involved in an active shooter scenario have increased during the last years, you don’t have to become paranoid about it.
While you should be prepared for an active shooter scenario if you live in a densely populated area, at the same time you should understand that going the extra mile is not necessary. There are a few steps anyone can follow to survive an active shooter scenario. What you do before, during and after the event is what matters and it will keep you alive.
What to do before an active shooter scenario
Since you can’t predict when a terrorist attack will strike, you might as well prepare for the unexpected and be ready at all times. Surviving an active shooter scenario should start with situational awareness and you should always be aware of your surroundings and identify potential threats and dangerous situations. Most attacks are “successful” because people don’t pay attention to their surroundings and they don’t take precautions when traveling. Situational awareness is the foundation of your personal safety and it becomes a mindset rather than a skill. Being vigilant and trusting your gut or intuition will give you the time-frame or the fighting chance you need to escape to safety.
Regardless of where you work or spend most of your time, you should always have an escape route and plan in mind. Your office building may have more than one exit routes, but do you know how to find and use them? Do you know if you need a special access key to get out or if your path is blocked by other obstacles? This may not seem obvious at first, but you have to consider that you can also be trapped inside or that you won’t be able to reach your escape routes.
If escaping is not possible, then you should look for hiding places that could conceal your presence during an active shooter scenario. This requires a little prospecting and you should start by looking for places such as storage rooms, vents, cabinets and pretty much anything that could provide you with cover and keep you out of sight.
Consider an EDC if you don’t have one as it may save your life. While you may not bring a handgun at your workplace, your EDC should contain items that can be used for self-defense if it comes to that. Even a tactical pen can be successfully used for stabbing, while a pepper spray can give you a few seconds of advantage to escape the premises.
Related article: Self-defense in a gun-free zone
Keep your mobile phone on you at all time since this device can prove useful during an active shooter scenario. It will help you call for help or provide you with precious information if you managed to successfully hide in the building when all hell breaks loose.
What to do during an active shooter scenario
Identify the threat(s), pinpoint the danger zone and calmly plan your next steps. If you manage to identify one or more shooters and their area of action, that’s pretty much all the information you need. Don’t bother gathering more details about the situation as you should focus on your next steps: evacuation, routes and destination.
Evacuate if you can, regardless of what you leave behind. It may seem a no-brainer for some, but many people don’t leave their belonging behind as they fail to put themselves before anything else. Even more, some will not evacuate unless others agree to follow. It may sound smart to look for safety in numbers, but you should keep in mind that you cannot control the actions of others. Some may panic and run hysterically, some will decide to change the route since “they know better” and they will get out in the open, attracting unwanted attention. Don’t attempt to move the wounded as time is not on your side and you could become one of them.
Chose the escape routes based on the information you gathered. As said before, you should map your escape routes before an active shooter scenario occurs since this precautionary measure will help you pick the safest escape route. While evacuating the building, you should maintain your calm and keep your head down as you never know what lies ahead. Don’t run out in the open and always find proper cover (walls, desks, vending machine, etc.) while evacuating.
Suggested reading: Ask yourself these questions when a crisis arises
Pick a destination based on how the situation develops. Your main objective during an active shooter scenario is to exit the danger zone and reach the first responders. Since that is not a given, you should change the destination based on the encountered obstacles. You may decide to find a place to hide or you may decide to barricade yourself in a room and wait for help to arrive. It will be hard to predict how things will go down and you should always pick a destination that provides safety, even if it’s inside the building or danger zone.
What to do after an active shooter scenario
If you follow your plan and if you manage to reach safety, the nightmare will be over for you, but that doesn’t mean the threat(s) have been eliminated. Once you are able to escape the danger area you should keep your hands visible so that responders can recognize you are not a threat. The first responders are enforced to stop the suspect and not provide aid to the victims, therefore you should not look like a threat when evacuating.
Even more, as you get further away from the danger zone, you should help others escape if possible and you should prevent people from entering the area. You might be aware of the situation, but others won’t know what is happening.
Call 911 when you are safe as it will help you take your mind from the situation and help you focus on yourself. It is the proper time to check if you are wounded and if you require medical aid. The same goes for all the others that managed to escape. Some of them may be in shock and they need to be inspected by others to establish if their physical integrity was affected.
Think about the situation and try to remember every detail as accurate as possible since this could prove useful for the authorities. Based on the information provided by the victims they could prevent future attacks or identify terrorists plotting vulnerabilities.
Get help from professional as they have ways of helping victims after a critical incident. Coping with the traumatic event is not easy and victims need to be stabilized and helped to deal with the psychological effects of such a scenario.
Surviving an active shooter scenario is one of the crisis scenarios that is probably not on top of your emergency preparedness list because the odds of such an events are low. But if you think about it, you will realize that even though such scenarios were just movie scripts twenty years ago, today, an active shooter scenario is a tragic reality.
Stay Safe and God Bless!
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