If you are ever confronted with an active shooter — aka you are in a mass shooting — how you respond can mean the difference between life and death.
Below are the 12 essential things to know if you are confronted with an active shooter. You will also learn the top 5 active shooter preparedness steps that are level-headed versus extreme and based on paranoia… three active shooter warning signs to watch for… and the 10 most common characteristics of an active shooter profile to be aware of.
Although active shooter situations are increasingly prevalent, it is still very rare you will actually ever be involved in one. (See the new Top 10 Threats to Your Life in 2018 report below ↓↓↓ for the actual top 10 dangers to your life and quality of life this year if you live in the United States.)
That said, mass shootings are reported loudly and widely, their psychological impact is widespread, and many people are understandingly concerned and wondering what to do in an active shooter situation. Because they obviously do happen — unfortunately increasingly so — you need to know how to significantly increase your chances of staying alive if confronted by an active shooter.
(Please be sure to SHARE this page with everyone you care about — family, friends, employees, members of your church or group, etc. — because it can save their lives, too!)
Active Shooter Preparedness – 5 Keys
If you do — if you find yourself altering your life in any way due to the fear — it is smart to seek help from counselors or other professionals.
Because there is a big difference between rational preparedness for any potential danger, like an active shooter, versus overreaction based on fear and paranoia.
The 5 top preparedness steps include:
- Know where exits are where ever you go, especially if you are among crowds.
- Know where potential hiding places are. Have a basic escape plan in mind.
- Consider carrying a self-defense tool from these top 10 if the location allows.
- If you see anything or anyone suspicious, notify an official or management.
- Review what to do in an active shooter situation with family. Share this post.
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12 Things You Must Do In An Active Shooter Situation
If you’re actually in an active shooter situation, this is the top recommendation: Run. But if you can’t run, hide. And if you can’t hide, fight. Here are the right steps in sequential order:
- Run to get as far away from the gunman as possible.
- Leave personal belongings behind if necessary. Your life is on the line.
- When you escape, warn others not to enter the area, and call 911.
- If you can’t run, hide. Get out of the shooters view, in a place best shielded from shots.
- Silence your cell phone and other devices. Stay as quiet as possible.
- If possible, lock and block doors, turn off all lights, and close blinds.
- Have your self-defense tool or anything that can be a weapon ready in your hands.
- If possible, try to text police or others about the emergency silently.
- If you can’t hide, or the gunman locates you, FIGHT BACK.
- Act aggressively as possible with the shooter, inflicting severe or lethal injury.
- If others are with you, encourage them to take aggressive action, too.
- Distract, disable, and kill the shooter if necessary by any means necessary.
This is obviously a situation no one wants to be in, and even reading some of the steps above can be disturbing for some.
Again, the good news is that, relative to top dangers you actually face as covered in our Top Threats to Your Life in 2018 annual U.S. report, it is quite rare.
But knowing what to do in an active shooter situation, and “playing it out” in your mind, can save your life and the lives of others.
Consider visualizing a mass shooter situation in your mind and what you will do in different circumstances; “experiencing” it in this manner can improve your chances of reacting in the smartest ways should it ever occur.
What to Do After an Active Shooting
There have been situations where the active shooter situation seemed over but it was not (there may be more than one shooter, the shooter may be injured but not dead, etc.). If the police have not yet arrived but the event seems over, exercise extreme caution. Remain in hiding, take better cover if you feel exposed, and remain silent.
When police arrive they will be heavily armored, they may use tear gas or other devices to control the situation, and they may shout commands and push people down for their safety. The job of first responding officers is to secure the situation; once secured, other officers will arrive who will tend to those injured.
- Remain calm. Panic only leads to more potential harm. Try to take deep, slow breaths.
- Release anything in your hands and display both empty hands to police.
- Do not run toward or otherwise try to embrace police.
- Avoid screaming or shouting at police. This can make it harder to control the situation.
- Follow police instructions carefully.
- When asked, notify police of number of shooters, their location, description, and weapons.
- Notify police of the location of any possible victims.
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Active Shooter Warning Signs
Unfortunately in many situations, people are not able to detect warning signs of an active shooter.
That’s because the shooter may be a stranger whose personal issues others aren’t aware of; because the shooter approaches or mixes in the crowd or confined space in a nondescript way; or because the shooter never shows his face at all, such as in the October 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.
That said, these are three basic situational warning signs to watch for:
- Nervous behavior, like excessively glancing around and avoiding eye contact
- Large and heavy clothing, especially if inappropriate for the season or indoors
- Excessively large backpacks or bags, especially if inappropriate for the situation
These signs obviously don’t mean someone must be a threat, but if they are present (and especially if more than one warning sign is present), do “listen to your gut” and inform a security official or other official of the suspicious behavior.
The Active Shooter Profile
There is no official profile of an active shooter. Most are men — only about 6% have been women. Racially they closely match the makeup of the average population: nearly 60% of mass shooters are white. They’ve ranged in age from 12 to 88. They’ve come from different socioeconomic and educational levels.
There are more so behavioral warning signs to watch for, though, whether you know the person informally or work in a school, business, or other establishment:
- A history of bullying, stalking, harassing or otherwise aggressive behavior.
- Victim mentality: excess blaming of other individuals or institutions for their problems.
- Paranoia: irrational belief that other individuals or institutions are out to get them.
- Anti-social behavior: trouble getting along with others, unwillingness to socialize.
- Obsession with weapons: interest in guns and other weapons goes beyond casual.
- Persistent anger: often aggravated, seems to seethe with rage, and/or a “short fuse.”
- Difficulty holding a job and other commitments, often due to conflict with others.
- Bizarre and unsettling behavior: inappropriate remarks, socially unacceptable habits.
- Idolizing or obsession with criminals like Hitler, terrorists, mass shooters, etc.
- Lack of concern for personal hygiene and appearance.
None of these signs are of course “proof” that someone will become a mass shooter or commit other violent crime. They are warning signs, though, and the more such signs are present in someone the stronger the concern should be.
If you know of individuals displaying these signs, it is wise to err on the side of caution and notify officials of your concern — such as management within schools and businesses, and the police if the individual is in your community.
Your awareness of the active shooter guidelines above, and your periodic review of it, can save your life.
It can also save the lives of others you care about, so right now while your mind is on it please do share these guidelines with others, such as family, friends, neighbors, and those you go to school and work with.
Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine
State of Indiana
U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
PLEASE SHARE ↓↓↓ THIS PAGE with everyone you know — awareness is the first key, and this active shooter information truly can save their lives!