October 16, 2018

Few people expect to be the victim of a shooting in their place of work. It is rare that you will meet anyone who has actually been involved in an active shooter situation where they work. Very likely, you have no formal training in what to do if an active shooter opened fire in your office of plant.


Statistics show, however, that active shootings do occur. There were 40 active shooter incidents during 2014-2015 (the latest year data is available for from the FBI).  46% of the shootings occurred in businesses and retail establishments.


According to a study done by the FBI, it was discovered that most active shooting end in 5 minutes or less. That is barely enough time to call someone for help and certainly not enough time for law enforcement to arrive. In that amount of time, you don’t have much time to think and debate about how you are going to handle the situation. The only way you can survive an active shooting is you’ve got to know what you’d do before it actually happens.


In the movies and on television shows, when an emergency situation arises like a fire in a public building or gun shorts ringing out in a crowded room, everyone panics and runs for the door. In reality, in most emergency situations most people tend to freeze up. They don’t run or do anything to defend themselves; they simply freeze up in terror. It makes perfect sense because most people aren’t faced with dangerous situations regularly and thus don’t know what to do when they are.


Several research reports have been written on the “bystander effect”. In February 2010, Valentin Verner was shot multiple times at a fried chicken restaurant in Tulsa , Oklahoma. Not one of the customers or workers in the restaurant went to his aid. Instead, workers continued to ring up orders and customers stepped over the dying man to get their chicken and fries. When first responders arrived, they had to fight through the crowd of people waiting to get their food. Verner later died at the hospital from his wounds.


Most people are hardwired to rely on people in positions of authority to make decision and tell them what to do. They tend to follow the crowd and blend in. In an emergency situation, if no one is giving instructions on what to do and everyone else is hiding in fear or standing frozen with terror, most people will do the same thing.


The only way to overcome those tendencies is to prepare for what you will do in a situation like that ahead of time. Remember when you were in grade school and once every quarter, the whole school would participate in a lock down or fire drill exercise? The purpose was so that if there were ever a fire or a terrorist attack on the school, everyone in the school would know what to do and be prepared to do it. The same is true in an active shooter situation in the workplace.


What would you do if you were in your office and you heard gunshots coming from the hallway?


What would you do if you were in a meeting in the conference room and an assailant appeared in the doorway with a gun to your boss’s head?


Learning how to survive a shooting is much like learning how to survive an airplane crash: such an event is statistically unlikely to happen to you, and simple chance may make you a victim before you’re able to take any action. Here are things you can do to increase your odds of survival. You ought to know and practice them.


  1. Situational Awareness. If you hear something that sounds like a gunshot, you need to quickly scan the area and take in your surroundings with all of your senses. Begin making preparations to take action. Try to remain calm and keep your eyes and ears open so you can take in what is going on.


  1. Know where all the exits are. Quickly scan the area and determine the exit points.


  1. Your main objective is to get to safety. Quickly leave the premises and get as far away from the shooter as possible. If you encounter others in the office, try to convince them to escape with you but keep moving and get out of the area of danger as soon as possible.


  1. If you can’t run, Hide. If you cannot safely reach an exit, hide in a secure location out of the shooter’s view. Find a room with a door that locks or barricade the door with chairs and tables or other objects. If you make it difficult for the shooter to get to you, they will move on and look for easier targets. Turn off the lights and be silent. Don’t open the door or respond to someone’s voice until you are certain that the shooter has been neutralized.


  1. Call 911. As soon as you reach an area of safety, call 911 and report the incident.


  1. When all else fails, be prepared to fight. An active shooter is not likely to just let someone go if they find them, so doing nothing is just resigning yourself to be killed. Many civilians are concealed carriers of firearms. If you are a Concealed Carrier, let the shooter know you are armed and prepared to shoot. Then take the shot.


  1. If you are not armed, you still have the element of surprise on your side. An active gunman will not expect an unarmed civilian to fight back or charge him. Doing just that throws him off of his plan and will buy you a little time. Don’t attack him head on but rather attack from the side or from behind where it is harder for him to shoot at you. Grab any object at your disposal: chairs, fire extinguishers, coffee pots and inflict as much physical violence on the shooter as you possible can to incapacitate him.


Of the 40 active shooting incidents that did occur, 6 ended when citizens acted to end the threat while the remainder ended when law enforcement neutralized and or apprehended the shooter.