Run, hide, fight: What to do if you are caught in an ‘active shooter’ situation
News coverage of mass shootings shows that such unpredictable violence can happen anywhere. How can you be prepared?
Knowing what to expect and having a plan can help improve your odds of survival, says Chief Paul Waltz Jr. of the New York State University Police.
He points out that all of the various law enforcement agencies receive training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that each knows what to expect from the other. Their overall strategy at the scene of an active shooting is called “immediate action rapid deployment.” It focuses on “neutralizing the threat” and “stopping the body count.” That means when officers arrive at an active shooting scene, their priority is not to tend to the wounded but to get the shooter.
Should you find yourself in an active shooter situation, Waltz says events are likely to move quickly – and you are not likely to be able to talk your way out.
Your best course of action (in this order) is to:
If you can, run. Have an escape route in mind, and keep your hands raised, so officers don‘t see you as a threat.
If you are caught in an open area, seek cover and concealment. What‘s the difference?
Cover is something that offers protection. It may not hide you entirely, but it can save you from being hit. A tree may be protective. So may a street curb if you lie flat.
Concealment can hide you but may not be able to protect you. Bushes can conceal you but wouldn‘t be able to protect you from a spray of bullets.
If running is not an option, get yourself out of view.
Block entry to your hiding area, perhaps by moving furniture in front of a door.
Turn out lights and close doors and window blinds.
Silence your phone. Dial 911 to give your location or leave the line open if you cannot speak.
Look for alternate exits in case the shooter finds your hiding spot.
Fighting should be your last resort.
Act with aggression to incapacitate the shooter any way you can. Team up for this if you are with a group of people.
Throw things and improvise weapons. Take the shooter to the ground if you can.
When law enforcement officers arrive, stay calm and do not make any sudden movements. Listen and follow their instructions. Waltz advises keeping your hands up with fingers raised so that officers see you are not a threat. And be prepared to provide details about the shooter, his weapons and any victims.
Learn more about active shooter response and see an instructional video.
This article appears in the summer 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine