The only thing more frightening in life than knowing that your life’s in imminent danger from a person hellbent of killing others, is not knowing what to do.
You may say, “There’s nothing I can do” during an active shooter event, but you’re horribly wrong, because there are many things that you can do to save your life, and those of others.
The first thing you’ll need to know, is the mindset of who and what you’re up against. Basically, you’re facing someone who has gone insane, so don’t waste any time trying make sense of the situation. A mere fraction of a second can make the difference between life and death. Your greatest advantage in this situation is that you’re able to think, and they’re not.
This article is to give you knowledge about what to do in a life and death situation where someone is shooting people, for in an emergency situation people cannot rely on survival resources that they simply do not have. The reality is that people don’t rise to the occasion, they resort to their lowest level of training as their physiological autopilot takes control.
There will be no warning about when or where a shooter appears, so anytime that you’re out in the public, whether at an event, at school, or in a mall, always note possible hiding places and things that can be used to defend you, and/or as weapons.
Your first response will be to process what’s happening, and how you process information is an important process to know of.
All information (sight, sounds, smells, etc.) that enter the brain are first filtered through your limbic system, buried in the center of the brain. The limbic system is often called our ‘inner child’, for it processes unfiltered emotion with only one objective; survival. (the limbic system is what primarily reacts to alcohol consumption.)
The limbic system evaluates all input for threat to decide whether to fight, flee, or freeze to survive. If the information is found not to present danger, the limbic system forwards the information onto the frontal lobes (the adult part of the brain) to make a calm, rational response. This happens all the time without you even realising it.
When danger is determined, the limbic system takes complete control of reaction to the threat. First, it simultaneously scans the brain for any pertinent information that may help as floods your system with hormones (like adrenaline). Then, any knowledge and/or training that it finds, it uses to direct thoughts as raging hormones increase breath and heart rates, and cause your muscles to tense.
You will then respond in one of three ways; your brain will shut down or freeze, you will be impelled to run, or you will attack.
Unless you’re Superman or Wonder Woman, guns unexpectedly going off near you are not only deafening, they will instinctively scare the crap out of you. In the situation of an active shooter, it’s critically important to know how to direct your response to fear.
Controlling fear response begins with training yourself to think and stay calm when your body is surging with hormones, which may make it difficult to think clearly.
That training involves supplying knowledge for the limbic system to find; and re-wiring your brain’s primal response to override your emotional autopilot.
Admit, acknowledge and accept your fear, but instead of being overwhelmed by it, purposefully transform it into anger. And do this, very, very quickly.
I know this sounds a lot easier to say than it’s to do (especially in such a situation), but you’ll now be in a life and death situation, so force yourself to respond appropriately.
Awareness and Prevention:
Active shooter events develop quickly and without order, so I suggest you think like a Grizzly bear.
Wherever it goes, a Grizzly constantly pauses to look, smell, and listen to see if its being stalked. This is called situational awareness. If it feels it’s being hunted, it will very quickly, cleverly, and quietly transform from the hunted to the hunter.
Always pay close attention to your surroundings — all the people, places, things, and in all directions — constantly scanning for potential exits and threats.
If something feels off, and really creeps you out, leave. Listen to your instincts.
One of the keys to situational survival is anticipating emergency situations, and planning your response.
So, always try to identify at least two exits routes from wherever you are.
Mentally map out how you’d survive an event in a crowded area, or, a small area with just one way out.
Always note anything that could be used defensively or offensively as a weapon in needed.
Scan for anything or anyone that looks out of place.
Watch for clothing being worn that doesn’t match the season.
Be on the lookout for anyone carrying long concealed items.
Observe faces for signs of stress and possible psychosis.
Watch for behavior that seems odd, unusual, or out of place.
Situational awareness can and will help you stay alive.
The shooter will be likely be using one of two types of guns, either a long barrel (shotgun or rifle) or a short barrel (handguns). They may have multiple weapons, but no matter how many they have, they will likely only use one at a time.
Know that guns can only shoot where they are pointed. Long barrels are far more accurate than short barrels at distances beyond 5 feet or so, but neither tend to be consistently accurate against rapidly moving targets, so always move as fast and erratically as you can.
Handguns are notoriously inaccurate beyond just a few feet. Shotgun blasts scatter and lose velocity over distance, so must be used in close quarters. Rifles are far more accurate and possess greater penetrating power than other types of guns.
However, long barrels can basically only be used outside of the attacker’s personal range of motion, so if you’re able to move inside their range of motion, you’ll instantly have the upper hand.
The rule is that your proximity (nearness) to an active assailant will dictate what action(s) you take. For example, if an active shooter comes through the door of small meeting room, hiding or running may be impossible and unwise. However, if the attacker is distant, and you can evacuate, you must, and as quickly as possible.
Move fast, stay low, and out of line of sight. Do not stop – keep moving until reaching safety.
If and when you feel safe, call 911.
When law enforcement arrives, comply with their commands and follow all of their directions.
Understand that if you’re trapped in an active shooter situation, you’ll be facing someone with a weapon, so it’s imperative or you to do whatever you can to arm yourself too, even it’s just grabbing a pen or pencil.
In an emergency, almost anything and everything can potentially become a weapon that can be used to blind, cripple, throw, stab, smash, ram, slam, crush, jab, rip, cut and/or tear.
Distract and Divert:
If the shooter is immediately in front of you, but their focus isn’t on you, do whatever you can to break their mental pattern, something so unpredictable, violent, or bizarre that it mentally forces them to pause to process what’s happening. Something like loudly laugh, roar as loud as you can, smash something, throw a chair through a window, etc.
Then use the next precious second of the shooter’s diverted attention to either duck to safety, or provide yourself and/or someone else with the opportunity to attack the shooter.
Whatever you do, whether it’s running away from a shooter, or toward them, NEVER stop moving – and NEVER ever run in a straight line.
If you cannot safely evacuate, you are left with few options other than to lock, barricade, arm yourself and take cover.
Get behind as many locked doors and obstacles as possible. Active shooters always look for easy targets first – so distance and difficulty dramatically increase your chance of survival.
If it’s not possible to move away from the shooter, or safely shelter in place, your only chance left to live may to defend your life by fighting for it, as statistics tell us active shooters don’t negotiate.
If you find yourself face to face with the shooter, it will be a time when you need to release the beast within you, and put all of the hormones giving you super reflexes and strength to good use.
To survive, you must match or exceed the ferocity of the maniac trying to kill you, and quite honestly the only way to effectively do that, is for you to very intentionally set out to kill the killer.
Do not simply attempt to disarm, wound, or ‘incapacitate’ the attacker, as this type of inhibition by you will greatly diminish your chance of survival.
This is when you must use your weapon, even if that weapon is only you, as angrily, hard, and fast as you can against the assailant.
You do not need to be big and strong to fight for your life and win. Even a 40-pound child, who turns his/her whole body into a weapon with gnashing teeth, claws and bones, can be a fatal force.
Bite, claw, shred, tear, pull hair, and use you knees, elbows and fists to strike and crush. Do whatever you can, as hard as you can and don’t stop until the person can no longer hurt you or others.
This is life and death. If the only weapon you have is a pen or pencil, drive it into their eyes and throat repeatedly, and do not stop until it breaks or the person no longer presents a threat.
If you have nothing else to use, ram your fingers into their eyes, and/or use your fist to crush their throat. Knee them in uncomfortable places, throw chemicals in their face – just do whatever you have to in order to live.
If it serves no other purpose, your attack will distract and wound the shooter, giving others the opportunity to disarm, take down, and take out the threat.
If someone else is engaged with the attacker, DO NOT just stand there and watch! You are very likely going to die if you do not assist them, so forget your fear, and add your anger ferocity to theirs.
Remember that we all have the right to take a life to defend our life in this type of situation.
This is survival, do not try to ‘restrain’ the person, or go for a ‘knock out’. They will kill you if given the chance. Your only job is to remove that chance. Go for total destruction, and DO NOT STOP until you achieve your goal. This is NOT the time to give into emotions or inhibitions!!!
If your weapon is longer or larger than a pen or pencil, drive it upward between the assailant’s chin and throat, toward the throat, as hard as you possibly can, as fast as you can, and as many times as you can. Then use the weapon as a blunt object to beat and pummel until you’re confident that the subject no longer presents a threat.
If all you have is a shallow sharp object (such as a piece of broken glass or plastic), use it to cut up the assailant’s eyebrows and forehead. The forehead bleeds profusely, and all that blood will significantly impair the person’s vision (an old boxer’s trick) giving you a distinct advantage.
If possible, do something that will cripple them and cause intense pain. Knees are extremely good to take out. Knee injuries are incredibly painful, and will severely limit further mobility. Don’t waste time striking them in the natural direction of travel of the knee (front to back), as the ligaments and tendons are too strong that way to do serious damage. Go for the side of the knee instead.
It doesn’t matter which direction you strike (inward or outward), just do it as hard as you possibly can to move it in a completely unnatural way, causing the tearing of its inner tissues. Never do this or any of these suggestions, unless in an extreme life and death situation, as they may cause permanent disability, and/or be fatal.
It will be a natural reaction to pain for the shooter to reach for the area of damage, which will instinctively cause a weakening of their grip and the lowering or dropping of their weapon. Use this opportunity to attack with all your strength and unbridled ferocity.
If you’re being targeted (hunted), try to enter a room with a door that you can hide behind, but do not shut the door all the way. Leave it open just a few inches and lay on the floor behind it on your back, legs poised to kick the door as it opens as hard as you possibly can, and then taunt the assailant to draw them toward you.
As the shooter throws open the door and begins to enter the room, kick the door with everything you’ve got, crushing the shooter between the door and door jamb, and giving you time to leap to the attack.
Again, this is survival, do not try to ‘restrain’ the person, or go for a ‘knock out’. They will kill you if given the chance. Your only job is to remove that chance. Go for total destruction, and DO NOT STOP until you achieve your goal, or, you are directed by law enforcement to cease and desist.
At any time if you’re able to take possession of the assailant’s weapon, do not simply point it at them. Rapidly shoot them once in the head, then once in the heart. Repeat as necessary.
If the weapon jams, use it beat them about the head until you are absolutely certain that they cease to be a threat.
Once the threat has been neutralised, drop any weapons you have, remove any and all weapons from the person’s proximity, and move away.
Responding to Law Enforcement:
According to US Homeland Security statistics, the average police response time to an active shooter event is 18 minutes.
70% incidents of active shooter events end in 5 minutes or less.
Law enforcement has one mission when it responds to these situations: to end the violence. So, expect them to arrive acting very aggressively, moving fast, and with weapons drawn.
The police do not have time to decide whether you are holding an iPhone or a handgun. They will quickly scan the scene for anything or anyone who presents a danger, and if they perceive a threat, they WILL respond accordingly.
So, here’s a list of what to do to help keep officers and yourself safe:
- Drop or put away anything that you have in your hands. Don’t become a target – put away your cell phone, put your hands up, or get on the ground with your hands over your head, and stay there.
- Move away from anything that can considered a weapon, or move it away from you.
- Don’t point, scream, talk to officers, or try to help unless they specifically ask you to.
- Never touch or grab a law enforcement officer.
- If you are among the injured, stay down until directed by police to do otherwise.
- Cover your head, stay quiet and let them move over you.
- Follow any orders they give you.
- If you’re not among the injured, get and stay out of law enforcement’s way.
- If you are a concealed weapons permit holder, be very sure to disarm prior to the arrival of law enforcement.
- When instructed to move, move in a direction away from the shooter.
Make no mistake; we cannot predict and therefore prevent an assailant from committing a spontaneous act of violence, but having basic knowledge of what to do will increase your chances of survival.
You have just put that knowledge in your head by reading this, so when the Limbic system goes looking for a response in an emergency situation, it will now find one.
Remember, it’s always better to have a plan but not need it than it is to need a plan and not have it.
Don’t be a hero, just do whatever you have to do to survive such a horrible occurrence.