Increasing in frequency, active shooter events are now a reality of daily life in America. In the first three quarters of 2017, there were 273 shootings in the U.S. in which four or more people were injured or killed in the same general location and time. That’s 7.5 a week.1
Active shooter events, defined as incidents where “one or more individuals actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” are totally unpredictable. Victims are generally chosen at random. The event evolves quickly, and is generally over within minutes.
While random acts of violence make headlines, the fact is that mass shootings more often take place closer to home. According to the FBI, more casualties from shootings involve family members or individuals who had a close personal relationship with the shooter. 2
Whether you’re at the office, in a soft target location like a concert or the grocery store, or even at home, there are steps you can take to eliminate or minimize the effect of an active shooter event.
Prepare for the worst
Whether you’re at home, in the car, at work or a public gathering, think about what you can do and where you can exit should an active shooter event transpire. Consider the following:
- Anytime you leave your place of business during the working day, or your home during evening hours, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Even a simple text will suffice.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. When walking into a new building or store, look around and recognize potential landmarks, and routes in and out of that location.
- Be prepared to think on your feet and problem solve in distress.
During an event
Training is key to surviving an active shooter event, as you’ll have to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests individuals be trained on the Run-Hide-Fight method. Here’s an overview:
- RUN, if you can. Getting away from the shooter or shooters is optimal, when possible. Leave all belongings and get out of the area or facility as quickly as possible. Call for help only when you’re sure you are in a safe place. Describe the shooter, their location and amount and type of weapons.
- HIDE, when you can’t get away. Silence electronic devices. Lock doors, turn off lights and close blinds. Don’t hide in groups, hide under or behind large objects, like desks or copy machines, or along walls. If you can, communicate with law enforcement through text or a sign in an exterior window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear.
- FIGHT, when in immediate danger. Use makeshift weapons like chairs, scissors, fire extinguishers, hot coffee, pens or books to disarm and distract the shooter.
When first responders arrive on the scene, remember their primary goal is to eliminate the active threat and stop the violence. First responders will not be able to stop and help injured persons, until the environment is safe. Keep your hands up, empty and visible to the officers. Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the direction they came from.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Situation: Options for Consideration, illustrates the Run-Hide-Fight method in a workplace setting. The Department also offers an online training course, Active Shooter: What You Can Do.
After an event
After an active shooter event, take the time and get the help necessary to heal from the incident. Even if no one was seriously injured, or the incident was only a threat, each person will react differently. Consider speaking to a professional if ideas and thoughts related to the event are consuming your mind.
Living in an era of active shooters
Four of the five deadliest shootings in the U.S. have occurred in the past 10 years. This includes the deadliest in modern U.S. history, the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, that killed 58 people.
While it is important to prepare, and train yourself for such an incident, know that an active shooter event is still unlikely. Keeping this in mind will help ease panic and allow you to prepare for the unexpected.
 FBI. A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 200 and 2013, page 10. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-study-2000-2013-1.pdf