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