How to increase your chances of surviving an active shooter attack?
By: Captain Rich Clowser
Last weekend two events occurred that impacted the Nation if not the world. The deadly active shooter attacks in an El Paso, TX Walmart and the nightclub shooting in Dayton, OH. These two attacks combined took the lives of over 30 innocent victims. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those two cities and the families of those who have lost loved ones.
As these two attacks demonstrate, an active shooter event is highly unpredictable and can occur anywhere at any time. They evolve quickly and are typically over in 5-10 minutes. Are you and your loved ones prepared to survive if you find yourself in one of these attacks? You must have a survivor mentality.
If you are taking the time to read this article, you are taking the first step of preparing yourself for reacting to and surviving an active shooter attack. Let's continue to build that survivor mentality.
First, you must understand what an "active shooter" is. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines an active shooter as "an individual who is engaged in killing, or attempting to kill, people in a confined and populated place." The perpetrators of these attacks are focused on killing. Killing as many people as they can in a short time. For this reason, unless they have a personal vendetta against a person or organization, they typically choose places where there are a lot of people in a confined space. These places include malls, night clubs, movie theaters, and schools. Schools across the country, including Norristown Area High School, have taken steps to increase security measures at all of their schools to thwart these types of attacks. Securing public places is not as easy. These are stressful situations that occur quickly, and if not prepared, you will not know what to do. So you must be prepared if an active shooter event were to happen.
What to do? There are three easy steps to remember to help you survive an active shooter attack. RUN, HIDE, FIGHT. These are not a secret. Since the early 2000s, these or similar steps have been promoted by the Department of Homeland Security and emphasized to the public for well over a decade.
Let's look at each step a little more in-depth to help you be prepared and survive.
RUN. Yes, run as fast as you possibly can in the direction away from the gunfire or activity. Adrenaline will kick in, and you will be surprised by how quickly you can suddenly get those legs moving. Leave all personal belongings, keep your hands empty so responding law enforcement can easily identify you are not a threat and encourage others to run as well. Get out of the area that is posing a danger to your safety. Once in a safe location – call 911 – don't assume someone else already has. When calling 911 provide the call taker with as much information as you can about the shooter or shooters to include a clothing description, location, weapon types, and people injured. This information will enhance the response of law enforcement and other first responders.
HIDE. Don't be a target. If you can't run and get out, hide so you cannot be detected by the active shooter, who is intent on shooting and killing whomever is in his site. Once you find a place to hide, fortify your location to make it more difficult for anyone to get to you. Lock doors, silence cell phones, and be as quite as you possibly can. Call 911 to let them know where you are and do not come out until law enforcement arrives and escort you out.
As a last resort – FIGHT. Fight as your life depended on it because it does. The active-shooter is intent on killing; if you are in a position where an active shooter confronts you, your only chance of survival is to fight back. Throw whatever you can at the assailant to disrupt their actions and commit to defending yourself in any way possible. If in a group, you outnumber the assailant and must use this to your advantage. Your efforts will not only increase the likelihood of your survival but also that of others to include your loved ones.
Know when law enforcement arrives, they will come quickly, in large numbers, and are trained and equipped to deal with the threat of the active shooter immediately. Their efforts are to save lives by putting theirs at risk and ending the attack with whatever means possible; this is what they are trained to do and will do with the utmost honor and integrity. Additional first responders to include the fire department and medical services will immediately respond as well to provide support and aid at the attack location.
Run, Hide, Fight; or as the kids are taught in school Get out, Hideout, Take out, are three easy steps to remember and to put into practice that will increase your ability to survive an active shooter attack. DHS offers a six-minute video titled "Run. Hide. Fight: Surviving an Active Shooter Event". The video is on YouTube in English and Spanish, and with subtitles. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4IJA5Zpzz4). Additional information on active shooter preparedness to include printable posters for workspaces is available at the Department of Homeland Security website https://www.dhs.gov/cisa/active-shooter-preparedness.
Now that you have read the article, share the information with your family, loved ones, and co-workers to help everyone be better prepared to survive an active shooter attack regardless of where it occurs.
Finally, The Norristown Police Department is Genuinely Committed to the safety and wellbeing our community. Our officers are trained and refreshed annually on responding to active shooter attacks and will, without hesitation, put their lives on the line to quickly end any attack; this is just part of what is expected of them and part of why they wear the badge that they do. If you are interested in having officers visit your workplace, school, or community group to talk more about how to prepare for an active shooter attack, please contact Captain Rich Clowser at 610.270.0496 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.