You’re an hour into what is normally your every day routine. Perhaps you just finished your coffee, caught up on those emails, or just started digging in the cable trench that you’ve been working on for a couple days. As you lean back for a quick stretch you notice something, you’re not sure what it is, but something seems off. Maybe there are people running abnormally. Perhaps there are people yelling and screaming. Maybe there is an announcement over a loudspeaker that there is an active shooter. Are you ready?
This is not the time to start thinking about your EDC bag, purse, or on-person carry and whether or not you put the right things in it. This is where tragedy happens. You should’ve rehearsed mentally for this situation, planned for what might happen. You should already be going through your mental checklist on what you’re going to do next based on your observations and situational awareness.
There is little real-world preparation for an active shooter situation unless you are former military, law enforcement, have been through a shooting before, or have taken scenario-based training.
Most companies today require active shooter training that does very little for the worker, but rather satisfies a company requirement for the government and insurance coverage. It’s up to you to become more knowledgeable about how to protect yourself if you’re forced to fight. The Department of Homeland Security offers this guidance for an active shooter: “Evacuate if you can, Shelter in place if you can’t get out, Fight as a last resort”. Remember, self-defense isn’t about causing injury to another. It is about saving yourself. I don’t know about you, but regardless of the potential of getting fired, I for one have no desire to shelter in place and leave myself open to becoming a victim if at all avoidable. Of course you should try to evacuate as this is always the best and safest option. As for fighting as a last resort? I am an Army Veteran, fighting is in my blood. I also have a insatiable urge for adrenaline. I have seen too many keyboard warriors write about how macho they are and how they’d “take out the bad guy with a pen and save everyone”. Listen, even if you have the proper training, are in the right situation, and with significant luck on your side, the odds are still against you. People do get a lucky break every once in a while but you’re not John McClane from Die Hard and your going to get yourself if not others hurt in the process.
There are some Preparedness steps and measures you can take that will better prepare you for the “fight as a last resort” scenario. First, look at your daily routine. Where do you go? How do you get there? Who do you regularly encounter? What items are you allowed to have at work? What items are available at work and are in close proximity to your location? Is your vehicle readily accessible? These answers are important. Obviously keeping a semi-automatic rifle at your side isn’t going to go over well with anyone. But can you even have a gun at work?
It’s easy to write and talk about the do’s and don’ts, the should and should not, but what is important in preparing for an active shooter is repetitive training and the ability to stay calm in high stress scenarios. If you can’t think when stressed, then run and hide. Do not try to fight unless you’re about to die. The reason you here this over and over is simple: Live to fight another day. Unless it is absolutely necessary for your immediate survival, don’t offer up your life on a platter expecting to come out as a hero. If we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it is that real-life scenarios don’t get played out in the movies.
Training is key. Being agile physically, and versed on fighting techniques will always give you an upper hand. Being able to move and adapt to your surroundings with minimal effort will allow you to concentrate on other important tasks. Anything can be used as a weapon, whether in an offensive or defensive manner. But using it as an extension of your arm may not come fluently. being able to swing something like a bat, or throw it like a ball, or perhaps use it like a knife; in a thrusting and slashing motion, is something that should feel almost common. Training also allows you to get familiar with what your body can and can’t do. If you need to jump over a large opening in the floor or ground in front of you without falling to your death, can you? what if you need to climb several rungs on a ladder, perhaps to a rooftop? I point these out for a reason – not everyone is going to be able to fight. Take a wheelchair bound obese employee with asthma, a heart condition, and diabetes, who also takes anxiety pills, and has trouble doing anything without an inhaler. This employee is not going to run down an aisle-way let alone go up a ladder.
Communication is probably one of the greatest assets and tools we have today. Smart phones can connect to social media and the internet in a “live-mode” so those watching can see what is happening in real time. This can be very helpful when law enforcement or other emergency service providers need to assess the situation. Maintaining calm and proper communication can make all the difference. Being able to provide clear concise details as to the layout, players involved, who is where, etc… This can prevent an innocent party from getting hurt. Always be sure to tell others who is able to fight and what weapons are being used. Be sure to include clothing and body descriptions to prevent mistaken identity.
A great tool for being prepared for an active shooter is to conduct active shooter drills in coordination with local EMS/Police and company officials. Playing out scenarios will provide a treasure trove of data that can be used to help guide and shape future responses and possibly save lives.
Above all else, knowledge is the supreme power. Knowing what to look for and where to find resources is beyond helpful in any situation. I recommend looking into actual active shooter scenarios within our nation, read about them, understand what happened, why things happened, and why the outcome resulted as it did. Learn from history. Apply the lessons learned. Maintain situational awareness, preparedness, and stay alive. The three keywords for this is Plan, Prepare, Practice.