How to Keep Yourself Safe in a Mass Shooting
Even though you’ll hopefully never need this information, having it can help in the worst-case scenario.
Mass shootings have destroyed many families around the world and left many communities in tatters.
It can happen at a high school, a first-grade classroom, a church, a nightclub. It can happen anywhere. Mass shootings in these places have killed and injured scores of victims, spurred thoughts and prayers from politicians unwilling to take a stand, and shattered countless people’s sense of safety.
The reality is that your chances of being a mass shooting victim are extremely, reassuringly low. With that said, mentally preparing yourself for what you might do in that fateful situation couldn’t hurt—and may even increase your chances of survival in the rare case that you are involved in one.
While there are steps that the public can take to help prevent these attacks, it is still important to remain prepared should they find themselves in the midst of an attack.
Below you will find how the experts say that you can protect yourself and your community during a mass shooting.
Report Suspicious Behavior
With almost everybody now having internet access, following a mass shooting it is not hard to see into the personal life and social media posts of the shooter which raises questions about what could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
If you see anybody acting suspiciously or leaving threatening comments online, it must be reported to their local police department.
There may be times when the police are unable to do anything but at least it would be on record and if there are multiple reports, then that could be the basis for some type of intervention.
There are known examples of where such alerts have helped raise red flags about individuals and, potentially, stopped attacks.
One recent example came in Montgomery County, Maryland, where high school students told their school resource officer that a former student was posting photos of himself holding an AR-15 rifle and loaded magazines, writing: “Ha, ha, I’m going to shoot up the school,” according to the Montgomery County Police.
18 year old Luis Cabrera was arrested and charged with one count of threat of mass violence. When the police searched the apartment, they found two semiautomatic rifles and ammunition for the guns. The weapons were legally owned by another resident of the apartment, not by Cabrera.
The above story is exactly what more people need to be doing. They need to stand up and inform officials so that they can take action BEFORE something happens. It is no good bringing it to the attention of the police AFTER a shooting has already occurred.
When you observe the warning signs, you must report it to law enforcement.
There are also certain steps that you can take to protect yourselves when you are out in public. Always taking stock of your surroundings is one of the best ways you can protect yourself.
You need to look for abnormals in a normal environment
Joe Bucchignano, a police officer paramedic who is a certified emergency preparedness and response instructor, said that being in the right mindset is crucial.
It starts with kind of having some level of acceptance that any time you’re out in public, you’re at risk. We can try to ignore it, we can try to pretend that that threat is not there, but if that’s your mindset … you’re already putting yourself behind the curve in terms of survivability.
Some people will say it’s paranoia. It’s not paranoia. Its preparedness and taking your own personal safety and survivability into your own hands
It is all good knowing where all the exits from a building are but this just isn’t really enough. You also need that sense of being responsible for your own safety and not relying initially on professionals — because realistically, with these types of situations, law enforcement’s priority initially is not to treat or evacuate injured people but to locate the shooter and to stop them.
If you are in the building of an active shooter and can do so safely, you can help the police by getting information to them about the unfolding situation such as how many shooters there are.
As soon as news breaks about the shooting, your loved ones are likely to start trying to contact you without realizing that they are putting you in more danger. It is recommended that you silence your phone so there’s no chance of the noise giving away your location.
Run, Hide, Fight
The general guidance for active shooter situations is “run, hide, fight.”
What this means is that obviously if you can escape to safety, do so. If not you need to try and conceal yourself but also look for opportunities when the attacker is distracted to then stop the attacker, such as when the attacker is reloading.
The following video shows a student of Seattle Pacific University pepper spraying and the tackling a shooter while he tried to reload.
Given the fear and stress that you will be under, trying to intervene won’t be easy but you need to look for anything around you that can be used to help you either escape or fight. Objects like furniture can also be used as a weapon against an attacker.
Of course, in this situation you might feel it’s safer not to move at all. It can be hard to act with so many unknowns. What if there’s more than one shooter? How can you know which way to go?
Don’t play the what if game. Go with what you know. If you know the gunfire is coming from the left, go to the right. Get away. Even if the shooter spots you running away, you’re increasing your chances of survival. It’s extremely difficult to hit a moving target.
If you’re already in a room, focus on making it as hard as possible for the shooter to get in there with you. Lock the door if you can. If you can’t, take everything in that room and stack it against the door. If it’s an inward-opening door, you may also be able to jam something underneath it to make it harder to open. If the door swings out, you can tie something like a necktie, scarf, belt, or sleeve of a shirt around the handle, lean against the wall next to the door, and try to pull it so it stays shut.
Once the door is secured, it might make the most sense to stand next to it, alongside the wall. If the gunman fires through door, he’s much less likely to hit you. If the door has a small window and he peers through it, he’s not as likely to see you. And if he does actually make it through the door and you’re standing next to it, the element of surprise might make it easier to attack him.
Survival is not a skill set. You don’t need to have years of training under your belt. Survival is the mind-set of accepting that you’ll do what you need to in order to live, including hurting the person trying to kill you. You’ll need to use everything to your advantage, including improvised weapons.
If there are other people in the room with you, work with the other people to come up with a plan in case the shooter does come in. For example, you can stand next to the door to surprise him if he enters, then one person can be in charge of grabbing the weapon. Another can try to strike the shooter’s vulnerable areas, like the eyes, throat, groin, and knees. Someone else can toss something at his face to startle and confuse him. By attacking him, you’re shifting his focus to avoiding harm instead of immediately hurting you.
You need to take the time to get educated by the means of simulated active shooter scenarios. By doing this, you will learn how to respond in “a controlled environment.
As for medical training, the three types of potentially treatable injuries that are most common in mass shooting incidents are instances of massive external bleeding, penetrating trauma to the chest cavity, and airway obstruction or people with uncontrolled airways.
While knowing CPR is a great skill to have, it is not typically useful in the middle of a mass shooting incident. CPR will completely destroy your ability to be aware of what’s going on around you, so in that care-under-fire stage … it’s about moving yourself and the victim to an area of hard cover where it’s going to afford you some level of safety and bleeding control. Those are the two things that are important in that situation.
Once law enforcement arrives, you should put down anything that you may be holding, raise your hands and spread your fingers, keeping your hands easily visible at all times, and trying to avoid any quick movements. Do not stop for any reason when evacuating the building. The quicker you get out, the quicker law enforcement can do their jobs.