How To Survive An Active Shooter or Mass Shooting

active shooter survival tips

Mass shootings and Active Shooter incidents have seen a steep rise in the US and across the world in recent years. To many people this is one of the most terrifying situations to imagine and prepare for. Most modern mass shootings seem to have an element of randomness and primal rage rolled into them which only serves to heighten anxiety. What can an average person do if they were in church, at work, and a shopping center or elsewhere when bullets suddenly started flying?

What is an Mass Shooting?

What is an Active Shooter?

Mass shooting refers to an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence The Congressional Research Service uses a definition of a “public mass shooting” if 4 or more people are actually killed. (source) An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. (source)

What Would YOU Do?

Given the massive increase in these incidents, it is something we should all think about and prepare to survive. I encourage everyone to sit down and have a serious think about what you would do if you were in an area that was under siege by an active shooter bent on doing the most damage possible. Would you run? Would you fight back? Would you barricade yourself in a “safe” place and wait for help?

The upward trend of Mass Shootings continues, sadly

Increasing Your Odds Of Survival…

To help answer these questions I reached out to Robert Richardson, an experienced prepper and author who has written about this topic on multiple occasions on his site Off Grid Survival. Robert was very helpful and gave us some practical strategies and tips for maximizing the odds of survival should you ever find yourself under attack from an active shooter.

What can a person do to prepare themselves for the possibility of being involved in a mass shooting?


The number one thing a person can do is realize that the danger is real; this alone already puts you ten steps ahead of the rest of the public, because at the very least you will start to become a little bit more aware of your surroundings and the possible dangers that exist.

active shooter survival tips

Active Shooter Preparedness Drills are becoming more common

Modern day shootings seem to have an element of randomness, what can a person do to reduce their chances of getting caught in the crossfire?


While this might be true in some cases, if you look at a vast majority of these shootings many of them have a couple things in common.

First, a vast majority of these shootings happen in what are known as gun-free zones. For me, I try not to frequent any establishment or area that limits my ability to defend myself. Most of these mass shooters want a large body count and they want easy victims; that’s the reason most of them target gun-free zones. They know they will meet little resistance.

Second, they tend to target events that will get the most media attention; large public events, grand openings, and opening night premiers are all higher-risk situations. I’m not saying you should live your life in fear, but you should be more alert in these types of situations.

active shooter survival tips

If a shooting occurs what is the first thing a person should do?


The first thing you should do actually begins before the shooting ever takes place. Whenever I enter a new place, I make sure I know exactly where my exit points are; that way should something happen, I know right where to head once the danger strikes.

And for those that think this is being overly paranoid, remember this one strategy can save you not only during mass shootings but also during threats like earthquakes or fires. You should always have an exit strategy.

When should a person run vs fight back?


You always want to make escape your number one priority; fighting back is a last resort option, but an option you must be prepared for. Remember this isn’t the movies; all it takes is one bullet to end your life so escape is always the best option.

active shooter survival tips

Should a person who decides to move to safety run as soon as the bullets start flying or hunker down and wait for an opportunity?


It really depends; it’s something that you’re going to have to decide at the moment, based on what’s going on – there really are too many variables to say for sure. But in general, hunkering down or sheltering in place is almost always a death sentence. I really hate when businesses or schools suggest that sheltering in place is an actual strategy for survival; it’s not!

Your number one priority is to get as far away from the danger as possible.

You Should ALWAYS Have An Exit Strategy

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If they decide to fight back, how do they identify their opportunity to strike?


Your best chance might be during a temporary pause, or when the gunman is reloading. It’s really going to depend on the situation, and you may never have a good window of opportunity. That means if you have no possible route of escape, you need to act. That is your window.

active shooter survival tips

Stat Shot: There were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015, killing 475 and wounding 1,870. (source)

How would you convince random strangers in the same area as you to rush an attacker?


It’s probably not going to happen; most people panic in this type of situation because they never prepared for the possibility. The best you can hope for is yelling “GET HIM!!!” or something like that and hoping others instinctively follow.

What if there is more than one shooter? What should I do differently?


More than one shooter definitely changes the equation, but again these things happen so fast that you really aren’t going to have the opportunity to change things up. You will have to be more aware of where the shooters are, but in general your options are about the same; escape if you can, fight back if you have no other options.

active shooter survival tips

If you had to hunker down how would you signal the outside world for help?


If you can quickly dial 911, without taking your eyes off the danger, then yes. And remember, when hunkering down there’s a difference between cover and concealment. You need to take cover behind something that’s actually going to stop a bullet. Real life is not like the movies, and things like chairs, cars, etc. are not going to stop a bullet.

What should you teach kids to do if there is a shooting at their school?


I would tell them the same things as I would an adult; your best chance is to escape. I don’t care what policy the school has in place, if they tell your kids to shelter in place inside a classroom they are wrong, and I would have some serious doubts about sending my kid to that school.

Make sure your child knows where the escape routes are, and if possible download a map of the school and show them where to go.

Robert’s article Protecting Your Children from Active Shooters & Mass Shootings covers this topic in detail.

active shooter survival tips

From an Active Shooter drill, too late to make a plan now…

How do we increase our level of Situational Awareness to be able to detect danger?


Part of it is just starting to make a conscious effort to look at your surroundings on a daily basis.

Take note of the types of people that are around you, what they are wearing, what your environment normally looks like, etc… that way if something odd happens you will instantly recognize that things aren’t right. And don’t be afraid to trust your gut, we have these feelings for a reason.

If you have kids, point things out to them when you’re out in public. Teach them what to watch out for, where exits are when you enter a business, and encourage them to look around at the world. Make them put down the electronic devices! If your face is staring at your phone you’ll never see anything!

What are some areas/events to avoid if you want to minimize your chances of being a victim of a mass shooting?


  • Avoid opening night events or premiers.
  • Avoid politically charged rallies or anything that has a planned protest around it.
  • Avoid high profile events like championship games etc…

active shooter survival tips

Top Priority: Know where your exits are

What big mistakes are we told to do by the media and authorities if we are faced with this type of situation?


The biggest mistakes, or downright lies and misinformation spread by the media, include telling people to shelter in place, and not mentioning the importance of carrying your own firearm protection. The simple fact is, these shooters want easy victims, and there is no way the police are going to be able to respond in time to save you. You can be a sitting duck, or you can even the playing field and give yourself a fighting chance.

You can be a sitting duck, or you can even the playing field and give yourself a fighting chance

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Active Shooter Situations are a cold, hard reality in modern day life. We need to face this reality and prepare for it like any other. As we see from Robert’s advice, there are a few simple things we can do to increase our odds of survival:

  1. Avoid high profile events if possible
  2. Know your exits whenever going someplace new
  3. Practice situational awareness to get a gut feeling of any situation
  4. If a shooting occurs evacuating the area should be a the priority
  5. Fighting back or sheltering in place are distant second options but may be necessary
  6. If you choose to fight back look for an opportunity where the attacker is distracted or reloading
  7. If you choose to shelter in place find something solid (preferably concrete) that you can hide behind and call for help

Further Reading

Robert has two articles on his site Off Grid Survival that cover this topic. They are great resources and if you want more info I encourage you to check them out:

Here is a fairly good instructional video on what to do if caught in an Active Shooter situation:

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any suggestions for how to survive an Active Shooter scenario?  What would you do if you were caught in the crossfire?  Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About Robert Richardson

Robert Richardson is the founder and head writer at OFFGRID Survival, one of the top emergency preparedness/survival websites in the world. He is preparedness and survival training expert with over 20 years of real-world experience, and a licensed ham radio operator with over 20 years of emergency communication experience. He is a hunter, fisherman, & extreme backpacker. He writes about his hunting and fishing adventures at

Robert Richardson is the Author of the Book: The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide: Self-Reliance Strategies for a Dangerous World. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

Get more great survival strategies from Robert here.

Active Shooter Survival Tips



Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

13 comments on “How To Survive An Active Shooter or Mass Shooting

  1. I wonder where you got your info from. 372 mass shootings in America! Killing over 400 and wounding over 1800.Did the news media keep from reporting this? Maybe I missed 365 or 350 them on the news. Just saying that’s a lot of shooting with no coverage. I believe if your going to say something like this you need to put where you got it. Someone like me will not believe what you are saying. I did read this and agree that you should be aware of your surroundings. You should have a plan in case you are in the line of fire. Just to throw a number out with no back up>>>>

  2. If a mass shooting involves 4 or more deaths how do 372 mass shootings add up to 475 deaths. I think that PBS is not a very reliable or unbiased source.

  3. Good article, but there were not 372 mass shootings in 2015. That is a stat put together by gun haters. They count any shooting over two. In reality there have been very few mass shootings

    1. Hey Red State, are you aware of a clearer stat from the Pro-gun side? I would be interested in hearing the other side of the debate.


  4. PBS isn’t the greatest source for information on this subject, since they have an anti-gun liberal bias. If we subtracted the number of inter-city shootings in places like Chicago, where gangs kill off their competition, I wonder how many of these shootings we could subtract? These shootings are not taking place where the average person is going to be attacked. Most of these shootings are criminals attacking each other, not in schools, malls, etc.. There is a lot of black on black inter-city crime included in these numbers.

    1. Hey Don, I agree that the media plays this up but I do not know of a way to break out the stat. If you come across anything I would be happy to add it.


    2. Yup. Almost ALL of the so-called mass shootings counted in that report are regular criminal activity. They are certainly not what the average Joe/Jane thinks of as a mass shooting (unless he/she lives in Chiraq [I mean Chicago] or South Central or some other similar place). What we really consider mass shooting are the Columbines, Charlestons, Auroras, San Berdoos, Orlandos, etc.And these are NOT very common, though our enemies would like them to become regular events. And there’s not much we can do to completely avoid these events, though avoiding gun-free zones, etc., will help.

      As for avoiding the more common so-called “mass shootings,” don’t go to stupid places to do stupid things with stupid people.

  5. Thank You, Chris! This is a wonderful compilation of great tips and statistics regarding active shootings. Thank you for this excellent break-down.

  6. Well, people we can only be educated enough to know the tips he has shared..regardless of the statistics of what is reported there are mass shootings and we need the intelligence to be aware..if you see or hear something, say something..dont roll the dice..if some crazy neighbor is going on and on about killing people in your neighborhood then maybe you should contact the authorities..If your neighbor is shooting the authorities immediately. It is our country, we need to become less politically correct and more aware. Rant over, but people everywhere are scared and I refuse to let some lone shooter to end my life or my family’s lives because he is having a bad day..your liberal ideology has led us to this put crazy people in a corner because they do not fit your agenda..and mass shooting is what happens..I also blame the media and their victim ideology..where they demasculinated men to serve some pro nasty woman. People understand this is serious and when society pushes on certain people, they are arming these men or women with hate and discontent, so much they disconnect from society..its time We put a stop to political correctness and call a spade, a spade..period..its time before anyone else dies to know that people are bad not guns or other inanimate objects.

  7. I question the sheltering in place comment. If you have the opportunity to lock yourself behind a solid door than that is absolutely what you should do. These people want the most death as fast as possible. They will not take the time to try and break a door down. They will move on and find the next target. I could be wrong but this is what was drilled into me as an MP. That being said you obviously shouldn’t seek shelter in an area that you can not secure.

  8. Thank you for the practical steps to take. Yes the stats are misleading, what does one expect from the Left, but your article is good.

    Since I was a boy in the 60’s, I read books about chivalry and valor that emphasized men protecting women and children. It was reinforced during my service in the Army, beginning in 1976.

    It goes against my inner being to flee when women and children are being killed. I cannot stomach that idea…but I’m from a different generation.

    (In my opinion, if you are armed and a man, run toward the fire fight. Take the shooter out.)

    The video was a good source of information. Thanks for posting it! I can adjust anything in the video, so I don’t violate my conscience. I think we need to get back to teaching men what it is to be a man, and what self-sacrifice for others is all about.

    This in itself could save more lives, and take down more shooters.

    Again, Thanks!

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