Over the last several years, we have seen active shooter alerts flash across our television and computer screens more times than we can count. In fact, it has happened so often that many of us have begun to think it is only a matter of time before we are in one of those situations. Whether that is an overreaction to the 24-hour news cycle and the neverending stream of information on social media or not doesn’t matter. What matters is how we prepare ourselves just in case.
While it is true that you cannot be 100 percent for every situation, you can try to prepare yourself. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know what to do to stay safe should you ever face the terrifying reality of an active shooter.
The Devastation of Active Shooter Incidents
On February 14, 2018, an active shooter walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen teachers and students died, and another seventeen had injuries.
November 5, 2017, was a beautiful fall day. Families were sitting down for a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas when suddenly an active shooter burst through the doors. Twenty-five people and an unborn child died; twenty more churchgoers had injuries from the shooting.
The Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada was supposed to be a great time. That all changed on October 1, 2017, when an active shooter holed himself up in a hotel room and fired down on concertgoers. Fifty-eight people lost their lives in the shooting and 851 had injuries.
On June 12, 2016, Eddie Sotomayor, Jr., a man adored by my best friend, was getting ready to leave Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Before Eddie could walk out of the club, an active shooter entered the building killing him and 48 others. The shooting also left fifty more injured.
Sandy Hook Elementary school was full of happy kids excited for Christmas on December 14, 2012. Unfortunately, by the day’s end, twenty of those happy kids and six of their teachers lost their lives.
These are just a few of the mass shootings that have taken place in the last decade. There have also been shootings at airports, political rallies, movie theaters, college campuses, military bases and health clinics. These shootings have left an unconscionable amount of devastation in their wakes. They have also left people wondering how they can protect themselves.
What is Active Shooter Training?
First of all, we don’t want you to get the idea that mass shootings are really common. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Mass shootings are only a tiny fraction of the gun violence incidents in the United States. So, in all likelihood, this is not a disaster that you will ever have to face. However, like natural disasters, preparation is a key part of survival. And one way to be ready for an active shooter situation is by receiving active shooter training.
Police departments, as well as private companies, all over the country, are providing this training to people. Essentially, it is a class where someone pretends to be a shooter and the everyone learns how to respond. Schools do drills that mimic this now. Children learn how to barricade a door and where to hide in their darkened classroom. Employers teach their employees to do the same thing, but they are also teaching them to fight back if need be. If you can’t find a class, there are some simple steps you can take.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you do the following if confronted by a shooter: Run, hide, or fight.
Obviously, the first thing you should do is get out or run if you see an active shooter. If that is not possible, find a place to hide and silence all of your electronics. Finally, if you have no other choice, fight. Remember though, if you have to fight you are fighting to incapacitate your shooter. Use whatever you have at your disposable, chairs, fire extinguishers, anything, to take them down.
Watch the video below to learn more:
Police communications are key
Another key aspect of surviving a mass shooting situations is communication with police officers. Once you are safe, it is extremely important that you give the police all the information you have. If you saw the shooter, you want to tell them what the shooter was wearing or any identifying features. Also, it is important to let the police know what kind of gun the active shooter has. Tell the cops where you last saw the shooter, if you saw any injured victims and help the officers with the layout of the building you were in.
Even if you did not see the shooter, you must still speak to the police. You might have information that you don’t even realize you have. If you are stuck in the building with the shooter, but you are hidden, call 911. If you cannot speak, keep the line open so that the operator can hear what is going on. Also, use the location tag on social media so the police know where you are.
Local emergency alerts help protect communities
At many schools and businesses, there is an emergency response system set up to alert people of an active shooter situation. This could come in the form of a text message or social media post. Stay vigilant and turn on notifications on your phone so that you know what is going on.
What to do after a mass shooting
Not only is it important to know what to do during a shooting, but it’s also vital you know what to do after. If there are injured victims around you, help them. This could mean that you have to apply first aid, such as CPR or putting pressure on wounds. If you notice that someone is unconscious, turn them on their side, keep them warm and make sure they are breathing.
When law enforcement enters the area, follow their instructions. Keep your hands visible so that they know you do not have a weapon. Evacuate when they tell you it is time.
Finally, when you are home and the situation is over, seek professional help. Post-traumatic stress disorder is deadly. Your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. A doctor or mental health professional can teach you coping skills.
Where to find more information
As I mentioned, there are places all across the country that offer active shooter training. You can call your local police department and see if they offer classes. Also, gun ranges often teach people how to respond. The FBI also offers a variety of resources to keep you and your family safe.
Featured image: Public domain, by Staff Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels, via Wikimedia