America has experienced a tragic, dark event in its history. At least 58 people have lost their lives in an active shooter terrorist attack in Las Vegas. As a country, we couldn’t have foreseen a 64-year-old man with no known criminal activity becoming a deadly sniper. This type of an attack was well planned and used an above average level of skill to execute.
Note: I will not be using the shooter’s name as to not immortalize him for his evil actions. I hope the media will follow suit.
When in public it’s important to keep your family safe. Here are some tips to help make your family safer in the event of a large venue active shooter situation.
Know Where to Run
The first thing you need to know in the event of an active shooter anywhere, let alone a stadium, is where you need to go to escape.
When you enter a stadium, note where you entered and where your seats are located. Walk around and take in the sights. Explore the concourse, vendors and public areas. It is here you will find signage that points to fire exits and stairwells.
On your own, casually work backward from the fire exit to your seat. Find the exit or stairwell, then take the most direct route to your seat. This will be your escape route. It only takes a few minutes to do and will be vital to your survival in a worst case scenario.
Consider making a backup plan once you get to your seats if you can’t use your route. For example you may be forced to go down a section or two instead of going up. As long as event staff are not preventing you from going, check out a second way to get out.
When it’s time to escape, make a plan for your children. If you can carry your child, do it. Children can not be counted on to know how to respond to a fight or flight situation. Every adult should be assigned a child to carry. Plan this in advance so you don’t have to do it on the fly. If you have multiple kids with you, carry them both. Your adrenaline and your parental instincts should kick in.
Don’t hesitate to escape. As we’ve seen in the videos of the Las Vegas attack, people began to flee immediately. Waiting around to get video on your phone or stream it Live on Facebook is not a good idea. Get out as soon as you can.
Know Where to Hide
If you are caught in a situation where escape isn’t immediately possible, then the next best thing to do is hide.
Upon entering the venue, make sure to notice vendors, private lounges and snackbars.
Most newer venues have built in areas that have access from the rear. If these places have not locked their doors or drawn down their security gates, then you can escape into them.
Jump the counter of a snack bar. This provides immediate cover. From here you can search for the employee backdoor. Most likely this will lead to a hallway that may have an exit. Find your way to the door and make your escape. Don’t worry about being in a place you are not supposed to be. This is life and death, all social norms are off the table.
If you enter a room that has no immediate exit then you need to barricade yourself. Work with items found in the room like trash cans, chairs and tables to block the door. The room you’ve chosen may have a lock, so double check. You can also use a belt tightened around an industrial door closer at the top to keep it from opening. Wrap it around the metal door closer to keep the door from opening.
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Know How to Fight Back
If you cannot escape and have hidden well you may still have to fight for your life.
Being in a large venue means that most likely it will be illegal or against the rules of the venue to have a concealed firearm or knife. I was surprised at my first NHL game when I was actually wanded for weapons before entering. Now most places have metal detectors. This means you’ll have to defend yourself using random objects in your environment and open hand skills.
At one point in my life I thought I was in the mindspace to fight off an attacker. I decided to get real, hands on training. I studied Krav Maga for Self Defense for three months. That’s when I learned how foolish it was to think I could fend off a motivated attacker with no training or experience. I got hit in the face many times learning that lesson. But I’m thankful for it.
Don’t wait for another national or personal tragedy to learn how to fight. Find a reliable self defense instructor in your area today. It can be intimidating to make that call, but it just might save your life. I was apprehensive at first, but I relaxed and enjoyed my training. I will get more in the future.
Also you may be able to call your local law enforcement for active shooter training. Many offices have required active shooter training, but you can request it for a group on your own. Gather friends, family, neighbors or church members for this valuable information. Homeland Security has free online resources for active shooter training for private citizens that you can read at your own pace.
Open Air Venues
We’ve all been to a game, a race or an outdoor concert before. When I go to these places I look at the lighting grids and surrounding buildings to spot sniper perches. Why? My situational awareness is that high. I constantly play the “what if” game. What if something here goes wrong, where do I go?
Have I actually considered a sniper to be a threat to me? Not really. If I had been at the show in Las Vegas I would have noticed the surrounding buildings, but I wouldn’t have taken the threat seriously. Sniper attacks are not common when it comes to active shooters. So being prepared is a must.
In many open air venues like football stadiums there are law enforcement snipers ready to do what is necessary. They became a standard after 9/11. I’ve spotted these guys and talked to them on the elevator. Most of them are never seen by the public. This leads us to our final point.
Let Law Enforcement Do their Job
Don’t be a hero. Run, hide and fight, if you must.
Don’t try to attack an armed gunman without a weapon of your own. The odds will not be in your favor. Let the police do their jobs. Don’t get in their way.
Think back to other critical incidents you’ve seen covered on TV like Dallas or Columbine. There’s always a stream of people with their hands up as law enforcement checks each person that passes.
That’s because law enforcement must inspect each person to see if they are the threat. It’s a protocol I call “Good Guy, Bad Guy.” You want to be assessed as a good guy, so cooperate by putting your hands in the air and listening to commands. You and the police are on the same team.
If you are barricaded in the venue, or are inside when the swat team comes through, understand that you must be investigated and cleared before you can go. Don’t walk up to a swat team member and thank him for his service when he’s got an MP5 shouldered up. These team members are on high alert with their adrenaline spiking through the roof. Stay calm, quiet and do as you are told. Bake cookies for them next week.
No matter where you are, you need to consider the safety of your family to be your top priority by knowing what is going on around you. This is called situational awareness. I’ve written a series on Situational Awareness for Families you may find useful.
What happened in Las Vegas is a terrible tragedy. I hope America will never see anything like it again. I have been overwhelmed with the stories of heroism by first responders and private citizens in the wake of this event.
As a country, a government, a law enforcement community it seems this attack could not have been predicted. I’ve studied enough work of nationally-acclaimed protection expert Gavin de Becker to know that family and friends might have been able to see some sort of change in the 64-year-old.
They may have noticed some change in his attitude or mood swings. Perhaps he made threatening comments that he had not before. Please know the saying is true and vitally important; “If you see something, say something.” It’s at this personal level that attacks like this one can be prevented.
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