In the first part of our series, How to Survive a Workplace Shooting, we focused on reacting quickly to gun shots and knowing where to run. In the conclusion we’ll look at knowing how to hide, fight and what you need to do when law enforcement arrives so you have a better chance of surviving a workplace shooting.
Know How to Hide
Hiding may be the most misunderstood part of this plan. While hiding may work temporarily, it shouldn’t be considered a permanent solution to keeping you alive. Hiding should only be considered if immediate escape is not an option.
Many people would think that the first thing they need to do when a shooting begins is get down and take cover. They may think that they will be safe under their desk if they are out of sight. Shooters know to look under desks. Most shooters move around the location trying to find any easy target they can to run up the body count.
You need to understand that in an active shooter situation stillness is equivalent to death.
The longer you stay in one place, the odds of you being harmed increase. Ed Calderon, a counter narcotics expert has an excellent saying, "Stillness is death." Hiding should be considered as you move along your preplanned escape route. You may need to hide in several places briefly as you make your way out. You will be a much harder target for the shooter when you are running out the door than when you are hiding under a conference room table.
Most likely your workplace doesn't have bulletproof furniture. That inexpensive pressboard desk made in China isn’t going to stop a bullet. There is a difference between concealment (hiding) and cover (protection). If what you are hiding behind can’t stop a bullet, then it’s “concealment”. If you are hiding behind a metal vault door that will stop a bullet, then you have “cover”. You need to know what you hide behind may not save you from taking a round in the chest. This is why movement is so important.
Hiding can also include barricading yourself in a smaller space. If immediate escape isn’t an option then you can close the door to the room and fortify the door. If the door has a lock, use it. Also move tables and chairs behind the door to make it harder to open. Also turn off any lights and electronics that make noise. Hide behind large objects and keep quiet. Let the shooter think the room is empty.
Fight if you Have No Choice
Only as a last resort when your life is threatened should fight become an option. Don’t try to John McClane the situation especially if all you know about active shooters came from the movies. Getting away is still your first option.
You don’t have to be a ninja to fight off a gunman. When you make the decision to fight, commit to it all the way. Don’t hold back. That gunman wasn’t holding back on you and your coworkers, so don’t give him that courtesy. Yell, punch, kick do whatever you can to to let him know you’re not down without a fight. That violent resistance might scare him off.
If you can, use common workplace items as improvised weapons. Chairs and other heavy objects make good weapons. Look at the items in your desk like a letter opener, scissors and even a red Swingline stapler. These can be weapons if used in the right defensive manner. But don’t rely on your quick thinking in an emergency as our motor skills diminish under extreme duress.
Consider making an emergency kit and keeping it in your desk. Stock it with a flashlight, medical supplies, utility blade and pepper spray. I don’t encourage the use of pepper spray indoors as it can get caught up in the air conditioning and distributed around the building. However, when facing a violent gunman don’t worry about that. That’s a problem for later. If it’s legal for you to carry a knife or a concealed weapon in your office then consider those options as well.
When Law Enforcement Arrives
The call of an active shooter is one the the scariest scenarios to which any law enforcement officer can respond. Even with all of their elite training, officers are still on edge and mistakes can happen. Don’t do anything that might make an officer think you are a bad guy. Stay out of their way and do as they say.
Responding officers will be giving commands rather loudly. Don’t be offended if you are asked to raise your hands or get on the ground. They have to check each person they see for a gun to make sure they are not encountering the gunman.
Also know that rarely do first responders have an accurate picture of how an active shooter situation is developing. The emergency operators will be getting lots of calls and doing their best to pass that information along to those on the scene. It will be chaotic. If you remain calm and respond to their requests, then the quicker they can move on and take down the bad guy.
Understand that the task of the first responding officers is to stop the threat. It’s not to help you get out. They have to secure the scene before medical personnel can enter and treat anyone who is wounded. Don’t try to stop the officers or even offer thanks until everything is clear. You can bake them cookies later.
Run, Hide, Fight is not a guarantee of survival, neither is this article. Each active shooter situation is unique. It is up to you to keep yourself safe. The information provided here is to help you make more informed decisions if you are even in a situation like this. Your personal safety is your responsibility. Commit to being an active participant in your own survival.
I hope that you are never in an active shooter situation. Start your preparedness the next time you step foot into your workplace. Walk the property, look for exits, cover, concealment and know where to run if you have to.
Fore more on active shooter response, read the official training document for The Department of Homeland Security. If you want to know more ways to keep your family safe, consider subscribing to The Secure Dad Newsletter.