What To Do In An Active Shooter Situation: Run, Hide, Fight

It’s concerning to see the number of active shooter situations that unfold across the country and many may wonder what to do if there is an active shooter at your school, a workplace, or in another situation. These events often unfold quickly, so knowing beforehand what to do in a school shooting could help you or your child make the best decisions, even in such a stressful predicament.

Best Practices To Survive in an Active Shooter Situation

These situations are unpredictable, especially when shooting seems to be random, with no specific target. However, active shooter safety guidelines could help you stay calm, act to limit risk to yourself and others, and even save lives.

When wondering what to do in a school shooting, there are usually three options that experts advise you to consider. We summarized them and you can use these three words—Run, Hide, Fight—to help you remember your options. Analyze the circumstances and pick the best actions for that moment.

Run, Hide, Fight

RUN: Evacuate If Possible

What to do: Your goal is to move away from the shooter, towards a safe place. In the case of the shooter being in your building, try to move outside and get as far as possible from the building.

When to RUN: This is an option if there is a good distance between you and the shooter.

  • Guidelines when you choose to RUN:
  • Leave everything and go. Take off your shoes if they hamper running and leave them behind.
  • Only grab a weapon if you happen to see an appropriate object and if it’s comfortable to run with.
  • Encourage others to also RUN, but if others decide to stay, go.
  • Run straight for an exit—evasive maneuvers are only appropriate when you know the shooter is aiming in your direction.
  • Once you’re safe, phone emergency services—report the incident and provide particulars of the incident.

HIDE: Hide Silently in as Safe a Place as Possible

What to do: Find a place where the shooter can’t see you and remain there until you’ve confirmed all is clear.

When to HIDE: This is the best option if you’re close to the shooter and can’t RUN.

Guidelines when you choose to HIDE:

  • The fewer the windows and the thicker the walls, the better the room. If outside, look for a large tree or a wall or building you can hide behind.
  • Inside a room, reduce visibility by turning off lights and closing windows and curtains, so a shooter can’t see you from outside that room. Lock and barricade the doors.
  • Put phones and other devices on silent.
  • Hide as low to the ground as possible to reduce the risk of stray bullets hitting you.
  • Look for weapons, so you’re prepared in case the situation develops and you may need to FIGHT (see below)
  • Remain in place.

FIGHT: Take Action to Disrupt or Incapacitate the Shooter

What to do: Cause disruptions to the shooter’s actions, or try to put the person out of action. Creating noise and confusion can create an opportunity to escape or help disorientate the shooter, giving you a better chance of winning in hand-to-hand combat.

When to FIGHT: This is a last resort and should only be considered if you can’t RUN or HIDE and if you know your life is in danger.

Guidelines when you choose to FIGHT:

  • This will require physical aggression, not verbal interaction such as trying to reason with the shooter or pleading for your life.
  • Look for and use objects nearby that can be weapons, such as a fire extinguisher or a piece of furniture.
  • Throw objects, or, if you plan on trying to get the shooter’s weapon, maneuver as close as possible without being seen before initiating the altercation.
  • If you engage in a fight, aim high, such as hitting the face, neck, or arms, that makes it more likely that they’ll let go of weapons.
  • Contact emergency services when it’s safe and report the incident.

Video courtesy of CNN. 

Shootings: What to Do When Emergency Services Arrive

Even once emergency services are on site and have taken control of the situation, your actions are still important. Keep the following in mind:

Actions towards emergency personnel: as soon as you notice law enforcement, make it easy for them to distinguish you from the shooter/s by keeping your hands visible. Also, raise them with fingers spread after putting down anything you may be holding.

Actions to avoid:

  • Sudden movements
  • Yelling
  • Stopping to ask for advice or directions (follow their instructions)

Help law enforcement with information: When talking with an operator or while being questioned afterward, your feedback on the following can be valuable, so try and take note of such details:

  • How many shooters do you know of and their locations
  • Physical attributes of shooter/s
  • Description of weapons
  • Victims you know of

How to Talk to Children About School Shootings

Anyone responsible for children—your own or if you’re a teacher with students in your class—has the responsibility to inform them of what to do in a school shooting. Regularly remind them of the RUN-HIDE-FIGHT guidelines and explain tips in a way they can easily understand, such as using visual aids for clarity or doing live drills.

Important tips they must remember:

  • If they need to run in an area where shooting is taking place, run zig-zags
  • When choosing between hiding places, concrete is the best option, and avoid bathrooms
  • When there’s no protective cover available, hide so the shooter can’t see you
  • Stay low on your hands and knees when you hide

Average Police Response Time to an Active Shooter Incident

The response time of law enforcement depends on various factors and cities’ data show different statistics. It can be as little as 3 minutes before a response team is on-site, but it can also take an average of 11 or 15 minutes in other places. [Source]

What is Being Done about School Shootings?

School shootings have prompted action on local, state, and federal levels, with billions having been spent on this matter over the last few years.

For example, in schools you’ll find tools such as armored doors, panic buttons, and some campuses have officers patrolling the premises. On a state level school shootings have prompted changes to gun control legislation in certain areas, ranging from reviewing firearm storage laws to raising the legal age for handgun purchases.

Active Shooter Safety Resources

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