Best tactic to survive a mass shooting

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The following excerpt is based on the ESCAPE Model developed by the Community Safety Institute and presented in Mass Shootings: Six Steps to Survival. The single best tactic to survive a mass shooting is to EXIT when possible without presenting a target. When confronted with a mass shooting you must take immediate action.  You cannot “freeze up” or “freak out,” as survivors have described their responses.  You must try to remain calm, keep your wits about you, and immediately take action by exiting the location as soon as possible. Exiting the location and removing yourself from the violent incident is the single most important action for surviving a mass shooting event.

But exiting is not as simple as just jumping up from your chair and running away from the scene.  You must make intelligent choices concerning escape.  The autonomic response of “flight” sounds simple, but to survive an attack by an active shooter is significantly more complex. Simply getting up and fleeing could be the worst action to take if you then present a target to the offender or draw his attention toward you.  Based on the specific circumstances presented, you may have to crawl on your knees or belly, or hide until the shooter’s attention is diverted away from you and then crawl or run to safety.  In open spaces you may have to zigzag or vary your running pattern; when indoors, moving in short bursts from one position of cover or concealment to another may be your best option. If you are sitting or standing by an exit and the gunman is not immediately in front of you or staring at you, exit as quickly as possible and run as far from the scene as possible. DO NOT wait and see what the gunman is going to do next or what is going to happen to others. Leave the scene immediately and do not attempt to move wounded individuals.

If you have small children try to pick them up and run with them; drop everything else—purses, handbags, computers—in order to be as mobile as possible.  If practical, shed high heels or long coats which may impede your ability to quickly escape from the scene.  Remember, your life is at stake and any item that slows you down makes you more susceptible to becoming a victim. While exiting, keep your hands in plain sight or over your head if ordered to do so by responding officers.

Once you have cleared the scene, call 911 to ensure that assistance is coming.  Never assume that someone else has called 911. What to Report when Calling 911:

  • Your specific location, with building name and office or classroom number if applicable.
  • Number of people at your specific location
  • Injuries, with number of people injured and types of injuries

Note:  If possible and when safe to do so, the dispatcher may provide instructions on how to care for injured until medical assistance can be provided.  You may be asked to describe: the shooter(s) specific location; the number of shooters; race and gender; physical features (height, weight, facial hair, glasses); clothing color and style; whether he has a backpack or other type of bag; the type of weapons (rifle/shotgun, handgun) if known; if you recognize the shooter; if you know his/her name; if you have heard explosions separate from gunshots, and so on.

If you can’t speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen to what is taking place.  This is an effective technique which has been utilized in schools to alert both students and teachers, and one that has been used for years by police officers who find themselves in dangerous situations and need to alert other officers of their need for assistance. Remember: the single best response to an active shooter situation is to exit the location as quickly and safely as possible.