The active shooter scenario can be a terrifying idea, although it is less than 3% of all incidents of workplace/school violence (WPV/SV). Most people have been taught and live by the mantra that they were instructed more than a decade ago and they are nearly identical: Run, Hide, Fight or Avoid, Barricade, Confront.
There is another one that is probably more useful…if you can. It turns those 3 words on their proverbial head. It turns them around into a better and much more controversial model: Fight, hide, or run or confront, barricade, or avoid.
With all the things floating around about an active shooter plan and what employees should do, what should you do? My answer is to take the attitude of Flight 93 that crashed in ShanksVille, PA. on September 11, 2001. In their case they could do nothing but fight to save lives in Washington D.C, unfortunately it ended with their deaths but how many did they save?
I believe that this is the best course of action. Fight the intruder first before they can cause further mayhem. It has been over-whelmingly, through innumerable scenarios – real life and training, proven that if you attack the perpetrator, remember they may not all have a firearm; you can overwhelm and stop them. And if you don’t stop them, you will slow them down enough to potentially allow your co-workers/students to escape before harm can come to them.
The next obvious question is how do you fight or confront them? For some people this will never be easy. Some people are understandably reluctant to face a weapon. Personally, while on duty, I have been threatened with a pipe wrench, .45 automatic, and a large butcher knife. I was fortunate enough to talk my way out of it and not attack or been attacked.
Those people who feel that they can’t attack still need to keep their faculties and use the final 2 points of these mantras… hide or run. Not only to save their lives but potentially the lives of others. For those that have the courage and intestinal fortitude, you’ll never know until the need arises in most situations, you need to do what you can to prevent any more death or chaos. You can do this by;
- Throwing things at the perpetrator. Anything you can use that is close at hand, including coffee cups, staplers, desk phones, or even canned goods. (Wonder what happens when you hit someone in the head with a can of pickled beets?
- Trying to distract them, anyway you can. If you are a ventriloquist…
- Acting like a linebacker from your favorite football team
IF you decide to attack it’s always preferable to have more than just yourself, as in Shanksville, to do the work. And in the case of an assault the more people you have to knock down and hold the perpetrator the better your chances of keeping them from killing or injuring someone else, including yourself. As for the hide or run scenario…
Running should always be an option for someone who may be fearful of the perpetrator and especially if that person knows the shooter is targeting them. People such as; Ex-significant other, co-worker or student, or supervisor/teacher, or anyone else that believes the shooter is specifically targeting them. If they don’t remove themselves quickly from the scene then the murderous intent of the perpetrator has no reason to abandon their quest.
A caveat here for evacuating the building. Always find a different way of getting out of the office. Don’t rely on specified and listed evacuation routes. If it is safe, as most alternate routes wouldn’t be in a fire, then take it. My thought on this is that the perpetrator, especially an ex-employee/student, will know those routes and if the attack doesn’t initially work…
As for barricading or hiding yourself before they find you, it’s just as simple. Your hidey hole needs to be as small as it can be for you, dark, and easily barricaded with a desk, file cabinet, or something similar if it doesn’t have a lock on it. The only issue with that would be, is that if there is no external lock on the door, or handle, then the perp will know someone is in there, so…
Likewise, if you have a serious respiratory health issue, you may not want to have anyone else with you as you hide. The reasoning here I think is fairly obvious. A dead giveaway is for you to be gasping for breath while hiding and potentially fatal for anyone with you.
Studies have shown that it takes law enforcement approx. 5 – 10 minutes to respond to an active shooter call. These same studies also show that the incidents are usually over within 2 to 3½ minutes. That means you can’t depend on law enforcement or security to stop the perpetrator before they get to you or anyone else.
Most people, employers or security personnel especially, unfortunately, assigned to your building will have no idea how to react to such an incident or be poorly trained at best. If they do offer the necessary training, you need to take full advantage of it and learn it, not just attend for brownie points.
WPV/SV is a growing concern for schools and businesses. Whether that violence is because of a work dispute, bullying, mental issues, rebuffed romantic wishes, domestic violence, terrorism, or something else (remember anyone, anywhere, at any time, for any reason) we as security professionals need to be prepared. That means developing an action plan, which by necessity, includes the fight, run, or hide scenario.
With more than 15 million incidents every year it’s clear that we need to do something. And if we can’t turn our schools & businesses into gulags, which aren’t very aesthetically pleasing or wanted, or throw out Constitutional rights we have to train and prepare for such an event, and the fight, hide, run model should be an integral part of that.
Robert D. Sollars assists businesses & schools to safeguard the lives of their employees & students to lessen their risk of violence as well as other security/customer service related issues with time tested and proven ideas. You can follow him on his website www.robertdsollars.com, twitter@robertsollars2, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He is the author of 2 books on preventing violence in both schools and businesses:
Never to Grow-Up: Preventing Violence in our Schools
One is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence
both available on Amazon. His upcoming book will be available in May, watch for more details on
Murder in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Prevention
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear
Permission to reprint? Of course, with these guidelines; the original content must be printed in full with original wording, with grammatical corrections, and full attribution.
Copyright 2018 Robert D. Sollars