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Heed the small things... their rewards are inversely proportional.
Heed the small things... their rewards are inversely proportional.
Heed the small things... their rewards are inversely proportional.
A really small and light gun in a GOOD holster is virtually impossible to recognize or detect without a metal detector. Why is that important to know?

There are many of us who cannot carry concealed where we work. The majority of these places are ‘gun free zones,’ either by law or by policy.  If it’s the law, and you carry concealed you’ve committed a crime. If it’s policy you’re risking your job, and I’m certainly not urging you to do either.

Personally, neither of the above locations is an area I want to intentionally spend any amount of time in. Active shooters, by design, ALWAYS choose a gun free zone to take the lives of innocents. Why? Because they know they will not face armed resistance. It’s a shooting gallery for the 10 or 15 minutes it takes for the police to show up and provide armed resistance.  The casualty rates are usually high, since it’s akin to shooting fish in a barrel and the shooter knows it.

Should you find yourself in an active shooter scenario, conventional wisdom dictates that you (1) Run/Escape if possible; (2) Hide if escape is not possible; and (3) Fight only as a last resort. This wisdom is based on the supposition that everyone but the shooter will be unarmed (and regrettably, that’s usually the case). Under those circumstances, I wholeheartedly agree with the aforementioned game plan so long as it doesn’t require throwing anyone else under the bus to achieve it.

However, if I had ‘bent’ the rules ever so slightly (not that I’m telling you to), I would probably have a very small, very light handgun hidden on my person in a place where no one would ever see it (don’t ask, don’t tell), and move to cover or concealment to await an opportunity to take out the shooter. This plan, unlike the first, requires that I actually execute a threat scan of the space, and make a mental note of the positions or locations that would offer me a tactical advantage and the element of surprise. Should this plan be successful, I will undoubtedly either lose my job, or be arrested. All things considered, I could have had a worse day since I have to be alive for either of those things to happen.

Responding to an Active Shooter

Since active shooter situations develop so quickly and provide little or no warning, it is difficult to prepare for them, but developing a plan for your organization and practicing it can make a difference in saving lives until law enforcement arrives.

The Best Option – Evacuate

The best option in an active shooter scenario is to flee the premises and remove yourself from the shooter’s path. Unfortunately, this is not always a viable option as escaping could put you in greater danger if it brings you closer to the shooter. There are a few precautions you should take if, after assessing the situation, you determine you can safely evacuate. You should:

  1. Call 911 if you can do so safely.

  2. Warn any individuals you encounter to not enter the area.

  3. Leave your personal belongings behind.

  4. Have your escape route planned in your mind.

  5. Resist the urge to move or evacuate wounded people.

  6. If possible, assist other able-bodied people in fleeing.

  7. Comply with all law enforcement requests.

  8. Keep your hands visible and your fingers spread.

Next Best Option – Hide

If you are unable to safely evacuate the path of an active shooter your next best option is to hide, avoid detection, and wait for law enforcement to arrive. While hiding is not as effective as evacuation, it can usually keep you safe long enough for law enforcement to arrive. Hiding can be dangerous though as it can leave you trapped if the shooter were to discover your location. To ensure your hiding spot is as safe as possible please consider the following recommendations:

  1. Remain silent and still.

  2. Silence your cell phone and other electronic devices.

  3. If possible, lock the door to whatever room or closet you are hiding in. Do not unlock the door for anyone at any time. Tell the police that you will wait for them to retrieve a key to the room.

  4. Blockade the door with heavy furniture.

  5. Make sure you remain out of the shooter’s view.

  6. Stay away from any windows.

  7. If the windows are equipped with curtains, close them.

  8. Remain low and attempt to find cover under furniture or other objects.

  9. Do not leave your hiding place until you are absolutely certain law enforcement has arrived.

Last Resort – Fight Back

Occasionally, in active shooter situations, evacuation and hiding are not available options and you may find yourself face-to-face with the shooter. If you find yourself in this situation, your only remaining option is to take physical action against the shooter in hopes of incapacitating them or disarming them. This should be considered an extreme last resort, but if you decide attacking the shooter is your only option consider the following strategies:

  1. Act quickly; hesitation could get you killed.

  2. If possible, stand a table in front of the door to block the shooter’s view of the room.

  3. Turn off all lights and stay quiet in the dark.

  4. Position yourself against the wall next to the entrance to the room and tackle the shooter to the ground from the side when he enters the room. Several people are better than one.

  5. Throw items to distract, disorient, or disarm the shooter.

  6. Yell and wave your arms to startle the shooter.

  7. Do whatever is necessary to injure or kill the shooter.

  8. If armed, DROP YOUR GUN and raise your hands over your head when First Responders appear. They WILL shoot everyone with a gun, and who they think MIGHT have a gun.


What to Report to 911 or First Responders

Active shooter situations are extremely frantic and are often over in a manner of minutes. Cooperating with law enforcement and emergency response personnel can prove critical in stopping the perpetrator and saving lives. If you are able to safely call 911, or if you safely evacuate and make contact with first responders, the information you provide is extremely important.

Do your best to provide the following information:

  1. The number of shooters

  2. Location of shooter(s)

  3. The number of potential victims

  4. Physical description of the shooter(s), including gender, clothing, height, weight, hair color, etc.

  5. The amount and types of weapons used by the perpetrator(s).

First Responders’ Roles

Law enforcement is trained to locate and stop the shooter above all else. This means they will not stop to treat or help evacuate any injured people. They will also not escort people out of the building until they have identified and stopped the shooter. This means if you are in a concealed area, remain there until law enforcement personnel indicate that the shooter is apprehended or killed.

Reacting to First Responders

Law enforcement will attempt to eliminate the threat quickly, so it is important to comply with all of their demands and do not attempt to interfere in any capacity even if you think you are being helpful. To best comply with law enforcement and enable them to do their job safely and effectively do the following:

  1. Follow instructions immediately.

  2. Remain calm.

  3. Carry nothing in your hands.

  4. Keep your hands visible at all times.

  5. Keep your fingers spread.

  6. Never make any sudden movements.

  7. Do not ask for help or medical assistance, there will be responders outside waiting to perform this task.

  8. Do not ask for directions on how to evacuate they will either tell you or simply proceed from the area they came from.

Another key issue to consider when reacting to first responders is that an incident like an active shooter may involve more than uniformed police officers you are accustomed to seeing. Some may be in SWAT gear and others may be in plain clothes so it is important to respond cautiously to anyone claiming to be law enforcement until you are sure they are in fact law enforcement personnel.

Develop an Emergency Action Plan

Developing an Emergency Active Plan is essential in protecting staff and guests in the event an active shooter enters your facility. Every organization’s Emergency Action Plan will be different based on the nature of the organization as well as the design of the building, but certain components will be the same for everyone.

Your plan should detail each individual’s responsibilities in the event of an emergency and should be updated regularly to ensure all staff is up to speed. In addition, all evacuation routes detailed in the plan should be checked regularly to ensure they are still viable and nothing is obstructing them. Some key components to consider in your organization’s Emergency Action Plan include:

  1. Evacuation procedures and routes: should vary depending on each location/area within your facility

  2. Route assignments: The way certain people should escape depending on the area of the facility they are most likely to be

  3. Floor plans: To help people better understand their best escape routes

  4. List of exits: Make sure to check each exit to verify it is well marked

  5. Safe areas: Areas that can be used to safely hide during an active shooter situation

  6. Notification systems: How employees and guests will be alerted to an active shooter situation

  7. Contact information: Include law enforcement, fire and rescue, local hospitals and more

  8. Methods for reporting emergencies to these emergency personnel and who should be responsible for contacting them.

Another key consideration when developing your Emergency Action Plan is to accommodate for any employees or guests that may have disabilities or limitations. It is important to place people with restrictions in areas where they would be able to evacuate in the event an active shooter enters your organization.

Preparing for an Active Shooter

Creating an Emergency Action Plan is an important step in protecting your organization from an active shooter, but it is only effective if you train your employees on how to implement the plan in the event an active shooter situation arises. The best way to prepare employees for active shooter situations is to conduct active shooter drills. These drills will allow every employee to act out their roles and ensure they know what to do in the event of a real-life active shooter situation. Make sure all employees are trained in the following:

  1. Recognizing an active shooter or the sounds of an active shooter.

  2. Knowing how to respond to an active shooter or sounds of an active shooter. This means they should all know how to:

    1. Safely evacuate their area.

    2. Safely hide to avoid detection.

    3. Fight back as effectively as possible.

    4. Contact emergency personnel.

    5. Recognize and cooperate with emergency responders.

  3. Give all employees copies of your facility’s Emergency Action Plan along with maps highlighting escape routes and potential secure areas to hide.

  4. Provide emergency contact information for those employees identified as ones to contact authorities.

Coordinating with Local Authorities

Another great way to ensure your employees are well trained and that your Emergency Action Plan is as effective as possible is to contact local authorities. Law enforcement personnel will be able to help develop a plan and may be available to help conduct drills. It is recommended that before conducting any active shooter drill that all employees, guests, local law enforcement and anyone else who may be in or near your facility are made aware of the drill as to avoid any potential panic or miscommunication.

In a policy Shift, Police Advise Taking an Active Role to Counter Mass Attacks

The speed and deadliness of recent high-profile shootings have prompted police departments to recommend fleeing, hiding or fighting in the event of a mass attack, instead of remaining passive and waiting for help.

The shift represents a “sea change,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which recently held a meeting in Washington to discuss shootings like those in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

The traditional advice to the public has been “don’t get involved, call 911,” Mr. Wexler said, adding, “There’s a recognition in these ‘active shooter’ situations that there may be a need for citizens to act in a way that perhaps they haven’t been trained for or equipped to deal with.”

Mr. Wexler and others noted that the change echoes a transformation in police procedures that began after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, when some departments began telling officers who arrived first on a scene to act immediately rather than waiting for backup. Since then, the approach has become widespread, as a succession of high-profile shootings across the country has made it clear that no city or town is immune and that police agencies must be prepared to take an active approach.

After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, some police departments began telling officers to act immediately rather than wait for backup. Credit Jefferson County Sherrifs Office “We used to sit outside and set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to get there,” said Michael Dirden, an executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department. “Now it’s a recognition that time is of the essence and those initial responders have to go in,” he said, adding that since the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007, the department has been training first responders to move in on their own when they encounter active gunfire.

Research on mass shootings over the last decade has bolstered the idea that people at the scene of an attack have a better chance of survival if they take an active stance rather than waiting to be rescued by the police, who in many cases cannot get there fast enough to prevent the loss of life.

In an analysis of 84 such shooting cases in the United States from 2000 to 2010, for example, researchers at Texas State University found that the average time it took for the police to respond was eight minutes.

“But you see that about half the attacks are over before the police get there, even when they arrive quickly,” said J. Pete Blair, director for research of the university’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and an author of the research, which is set to be published in a book.

In the absence of a police presence, how victims responded often made the difference between life and death, Dr. Blair said.

In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers, civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 16 cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived.

As part of the research, Dr. Blair and his colleagues looked at survival rates and the actions taken by people in classrooms under attack during the Virginia Tech massacre, in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers before killing himself.

In two classrooms, the students and instructors tried to hide or play dead after Mr. Cho entered. Nearly all were shot, and most died. In a third classroom, Prof. Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, told his students to jump out the second-story window while he tried to hold the classroom door shut, delaying Mr. Cho from coming in. Professor Librescu was killed, but many of the students survived, and only three were injured by gunfire. In another classroom, where the students and teacher blocked the door with a heavy desk and held it in place, Mr. Cho could not get in, and everyone lived.

“The take-home message is that you’re not helpless and the actions you take matter,” Dr. Blair said. “You can help yourself and certainly buy time for the police to get there.”

Kristina Anderson, 26, who was shot three times during the Virginia Tech attack, said that every situation is different but that she thinks it can help for people to develop a plan for how they might act if a mass shooting occurred.

The lessons are clear. One fights fire with fire, and defeats force with force. Criminals make a point of striking in places where police and the possibility of armed resistance are absent, and the police can’t repeal the laws of time and motion to get to the scene in time to stop the murders. If someone collapses with a heart attack, a citizen first responder with an AED is more likely to save him than a long wait for a paramedic unit. In exactly the same way, an armed “good guy or gal” who is at ground zero of the attack can stop the carnage sooner. History often proves this to be true more often than not.

What Happens When Someone really IS trying to Kill You?

Here are the six most common results when someone IS trying to kill you. They are:
1) You die.
2) You spend a long time in the hospital.
3) Someone runs away (usually you).
4) You shoot back (often prompting the other person to run away).
5) You retaliate with such ferocity and force that the other person is injured, killed or runs away.
6) Someone else intervenes resulting in some combination of 1-5.

People intending to kill you usually don't stop until a) they've succeeded; b) they believe they have succeeded; or c) the danger to them becomes too great to continue.

We are all going to die. The only question that remains is, when we do, are we going to die well.



Active Shooter Resources

Interested in more information and tools to help prepare for an active shooter situation? Here are some tools from other organizations that we found helpful:

  1. Active Shooter Booklet from Dept. of Homeland Security

  1. Active Shooter Training Course from FEMA and DHS

  1. School Shooting Threat Assessment Guide from Dept. of Education

10 Cases Where An Armed Citizen Took Down An Active Shooter

An armed “good guy or gal” who is at ground zero of an attack can stop the carnage sooner.

Legally armed employees can help protect and defend a workplace from an active-shooter.

In early January of 2015, two fanatics attacked the offices of a satirical publication in Paris, Charlie Hedbo. They murdered 12 people, including two police officers, wounded another 11 and escaped. According to some accounts, the two slain policemen were unarmed and helpless to fight back. The attackers were killed in a gunfight with police after taking a hostage in a signage company outside Paris. At the same time, a related group of fanatics took hostages in a Jewish delicatessen in Paris, where they, too, were neutralized by French police, but not before more innocent casualties were tallied. These events resulted in, among other things, one of the most influential rabbis in Europe calling for more Jews to be armed, and for many in the region—and in the United States—to publicly speculate whether armed citizens might have been able to reduce the incident’s casualty count.

The perpetrators in Paris were heavily armed, with sources reporting shortly after the incident that they possessed AK-47s, a submachine gun, pistols, a shotgun and explosive devices. Skeptics scoffed, “How could one defender with a pistol defeat that sort of firepower?” If that’s the question and the Charlie Hedbo massacre is considered Case One, the answer is Case Two, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1993. In that incident, four terrorists armed with fully automatic assault weapons and hand grenades attacked the Saint James Church. Their sudden, violent assault killed 11 victims and wounded 58. But a single armed citizen named Charl van Wyk was able to draw his personal carry gun, a five-shot snub-nosed .38 Special revolver, and open fire. He wounded one of the attackers, and all four were so jarred off their plan by this unexpected return of gunfire that they broke off the attack and fled.

Homeland Terror

Case Three: Last year in Moore, Oklahoma, a man went berserk in a food plant and attacked a female worker, literally decapitating her. He then went after a second woman. Hearing the screams, Chief Operating Officer Mark Vaughan availed himself of a firearm, ran to the scene and shot down the killer.

Sometimes, taking the perpetrator at gunpoint is enough to stop the screams. The hero of Case Four. A vicious teen had stabbed his mother to death the night before to gain access to his estranged father’s locked gun cabinet. He subsequently showed up at the high school in Pearl, Mississippi, and opened fire. Hearing shots and screams, Vice Principal Myrick ran to the parking lot and retrieved his Colt Officer’s .45, with which he confronted the escaping killer. The young monster, who had killed two young victims and wounded 11, surrendered as soon as he looked down the barrel of the vice principal’s sidearm. He had been on course, with the stolen .30-30 rifle and more ammunition, to a nearby junior high school when Myrick captured him.

More recent was Case Five, the Clackamas Mall shooting in Oregon, in which a psycho with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire. Nick Melli, a young man carrying a pistol on a permit, drew and took aim at the gunman. Melli didn’t fire, for fear of hitting innocents behind the perpetrator, but the gunman at that point fled through an employees-only doorway and down an inside hall, where he then committed suicide. What could have been a high-casualty mass murder was apparently aborted by the mere sight of an armed citizen.

Good Guys With Guns

Carrying a gun in places of worship is becoming more commonplace. Remember Jeff Cooper’s Condition Yellow mindset: “Today could be the day I may have to defend myself.”

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to shoot the perpetrator to stop or prevent a massacre. When a man tried to shoot up a church for the second time, Case Six went down. Jeanne Assam was  working volunteer security for the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2007, when she heard the opening volley of shots and literally “ran to the sound of the guns.” Armed with the 9mm pistol she was licensed to carry as an armed citizen, she shot the killer on the run and dropped him, at which time he shot himself, concluding the matter. Assam was hailed for her courageous act, which indisputably saved many lives.

Case Seven would be ignored by the same mainstream media that focused intensely on a mass murder in a theater in the same city three months later. In Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, a crazed gunman showed up at a church there and opened fire by surprise, killing a helpless woman. Before he could claim any more victims, however, he was shot and killed by an armed citizen officer among the parishioners, who was carrying his own handgun. The incident occurred at the New Destiny Christian Center.

Another off-duty cop cut short a massacre in Case Eight, the mass shooting at Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2007. Kenneth Hammond was having dinner with his wife in a mall restaurant when he heard the shots, and responded. The killer had slain five helpless victims and wounded four when Hammond spotted him and opened fire with his subcompact 1911. The carnage ended there: Hammond pinned the gunman in position with judicious shots, making him forget about inflicting death and focus on preventing his own until the first responding officer arrived. The gunman was eventually killed by SWAT officers. It should be noted that, for most intents and purposes, there is very little difference in cases like these between an off-duty cop and a competent armed citizen—each is the proverbial “good guy with a gun.”

Sometimes the good guy isn’t supposed to have a gun but does. Case Nine occurred in Pennsylvania last year, when an enraged man entered a psychiatric clinic and shot a caseworker dead and wounded one of the doctors before the latter drew a small-caliber pistol and shot the man down, limiting the death toll to one. The doctor recovered and, declared a hero by local police, suffered no consequences for being armed in a “gun-free” zone. The general consensus was that the Pennsylvania doctor had done the right thing and prevented a massacre.

Nothing New

Mass murders stopped by armed citizens go back a ways in history. Let’s return 100 years to Case Ten in 1915, when The New York Times ran a headline that read, “Kills five, wounds 20, and is himself slain.” Some of the wounded later succumbed to their injuries. The incident occurred in Brunswick, Georgia. Believed to have snapped under the pressure of financial losses, a businessman opened fire in the street, blasting anyone he could see, including the police. An attorney named Eustace Butts procured a shotgun and another citizen, E.J. Minehan, a .32 revolver. Opening fire almost simultaneously, they both shot the gunman, who fell, eventually dying of buckshot wounds to the kidneys. The armed citizens had cut short the massacre and saved many lives; the dead madman’s pockets still held more live ammunition.

The lessons are clear. One fights fire with fire, and defeats force with force. Criminals make a point of striking in places where police and the possibility of armed resistance are absent, and the police can’t repeal the laws of time and motion to get to the scene in time to stop the murders. If someone collapses with a heart attack, a citizen first responder with an AED is more likely to save him than a long wait for a paramedic unit. In exactly the same way, an armed “good guy or gal” who is at ground zero of the attack can stop the carnage sooner. History often proves this to be true more often than not.