Safety Articles

Preparing for an Active Shooter

For businesses and other public areas, active shooters are a real concern in today’s day and age.

An active shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically with a firearm. Regrettably, active shooter incidents have been steadily on the rise in the United States, with at least 255 documented events of varying size recorded in 2019. Yet, despite these numbers, governments continue to debate the topics of gun control, arming teachers or those in the workplace, and other knee-jerk responses without offering any real practical solutions.

Although there have been numerous examples of gun violence in public places, such as the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, businesses are probably the least prepared to address this threat, as most do not have even the most basic emergency response plans. The likelihood of an active shooter is real and not likely to diminish any time soon. While most government leaders seem to stand idly by, in the spirit of American independence, that means for the foreseeable future that it will be incumbent upon individuals to protect themselves from this threat of violence.

Run, Hide, Fight

Due to the fact that most businesses and schools do not conduct active shooter drills, when such a situation happens, most persons are unclear as to how to respond. Nevertheless, this can change by undertaking a little effort to understand the problem and plan on how to react properly.

Historically, most of the deaths in an active shooter incident occur within the first five minutes of the attack. Even with armed law enforcement responding from nearby, or as in some cases even when they’re already physically present, the damage is usually done before police can intervene. Therefore, it is the actions taken during the initial moments of an active shooter incident by those affected that dictate the best chance of survival.

It’s more than simply walking out of the building, like we are trained to do during a fire drill. Instead, it is knowing what to do in either the office or classroom. Knowing an immediate way to escape or finding a secure place to hide and, in a worst-case scenario when there is no other choice, to be prepared to fight back is the minimum individuals should plan. Although the U.S. government promotes the view of “run, hide, fight,” it is important to understand what these concepts mean so that you will know how to react should an incident occur.

Run: This involves fleeing via whatever means is necessary, such as breaking windows to get out of a building. It’s unlikely that any office or school would ever promote destroying their property, yet sometimes this may be the only option to get away. When preparing for an active shooter event, all the options for survival must be considered. In the workplace or at school, think in advance of what avenue of escape you might take.

Hide: Hiding is not just blocking yourself away from the attacker but also making sure you have a way to get out as soon as the opportunity arises. There is little sense in hiding under a desk if the attacker finds you because your physical movement will be restricted and prevent you from getting away. It is better to locate a place to hide where you cannot be found, such as an office or closet where the door can be locked from inside. This way, even if you are discovered and cannot run away, you have barricaded yourself away from the attacker who cannot gain entry.

Fight: This may be the least desirable option, but if you cannot get away or hide, make sure you are prepared to defend yourself. Give some thought in advance as to what you might do to fight, such as throwing chairs or anything else that will distract the shooter from the ability to fire a weapon. It is important to understand that active shooter training teaches how to fight your attacker not to win, but to take actions just long enough to create an opportunity for you to get away.

The Proper Response

With more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, I can say the active shooter tragedy will likely continue for the foreseeable future. The next active shooter incident is not a matter of if but when. We cannot wait around helplessly until the government finds solutions to this problem, but rather we must empower ourselves to ensure our own personal safety. Understanding the proper response to an active shooter event is exactly that empowerment that can keep you alive.

About the Author:

John Iannarelli is a retired FBI Special Agent and the author of How To Spot A Terrorist Before It’s Too Late, which identifies indicators of planned acts of violence and how to respond in such situations. For more information, contact: The Safety Institute,

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