Active Shooter: Will Your Campus Know how to React?

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It seems almost impossible to turn on the news these days without hearing about another active shooting situation. From Vermont to California, more than half of the states have had at least one incident in an educational setting since 2000. While your chances of facing an active shooter in any location are statistically very low, it is smart to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, just as you prepare for a fire or severe weather.

If there was an active shooter on your campus, you would need to think quickly. Going through training allows you to consider how you would react in a dangerous situation and helps you understand the options that could help you and others around you survive. But what are those options?

In 2012, the City of Houston developed the “Run, Hide, Fight” strategy, which is actively endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security and has been put into practice by colleges and universities across the country.

While there is no complete consensus among law enforcement or government agencies on the best methods of dealing with an active shooter situation, Run Hide Fight provides simple, easy-to-remember guidelines.

How Does Run, Hide, Fight Work?

  • Run away from the shooter if it is safe to do so
  • Hide in a safe place and try to barricade the door
  • Fight and defend yourself, only if you are unable to safely run or hide

Situational awareness is extremely important in any active shooter situation as every incident is different and unpredictable. While Run, Hide, Fight outlines different options for escaping, this is not necessarily an ordered list.

Running is considered the best option but you may find yourself in a building you cannot easily escape from, so you may need to look for a hiding place. Fighting back against the shooter is considered a last-ditch effort, but you should be prepared to do so in case there is no alternative.

Reacting in an Active Shooter Situation

Oftentimes people freeze immediately upon being presented with unexpected danger. However, in an active shooter situation, freezing makes you an easy target. While running away is typically the preferred escape option, you must be smart about your movements.

Things to remember when running:

  • Leave your belongings behind
  • Try to bring others with you, but don’t wait for those who don’t want to run
  • Move to an exit quickly and quietly
  • Duck below windows or other openings
  • Check around corners and stairs
  • Consider escaping through windows if they are a safe distance above the ground

You may be in a location where running does not seem safe and may only put you further in harm’s way. In that case, try and find a safe place to hide. A classroom with a locking door that opens inward is ideal, but there are things you can do to help increase your safety.

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Things to remember when hiding:

  • Barricade the door with heavy objects, such as a desk or other furniture
  • Shove a rug or other object beneath the door
  • Secure the doorknob so it can’t be turned
  • Cover windows with blinds, curtains or other coverings
  • Put phones on silent and turn off sources of light or noise
  • Hide behind thick wood or metal, such as a large desk
  • Call 911 if you can do so quietly
  • Continue looking to opportunities to run

If you are unable to safely run or hide from the shooter, you may have to fight as a last resort. You would literally be fighting for your life in this situation, so take any measures available at your disposal.

Things to remember when fighting:

  • Throw anything you can, including coffee mugs, chairs, pencils or other sharp objects
  • Target the head, eyes, throat, fingers, groin and other sensitive areas
  • Never stop moving and make as much noise as possible
  • Work together to swarm the shooter if you are with other people
  • Try to get the shooter to the ground and restrain them
  • If you can disarm the shooter, place any weapons out of sight

Any of these steps could keep you safe until the situation is clear. No matter which safety measure you take, always remember to keep your hands empty and visible once officers or campus police arrive on the scene and let first responders know of any injured people.

If you were able to run, continue seeking shelter and try to not make yourself visible to the shooter. If you found a safe hiding spot, exit the room with your hands visible and follow any instructions you receive from first responders. If you or someone else were able to disarm the shooter, do not carry the weapons to officers as you may be mistaken for the shooter.

Training for an Active Shooter Situation

You can read all the articles you want, whether that is an official FBI report, a training guide from the Department of Homeland Security or even this informational article, but reading material will never prepare you as well as working through training exercises.

Similar to many other safety topics, online training is a convenient way of learning about and preparing for potential active shooter situations. Going through training reduces the amount of thinking-time needed in the moment, making you more likely to act wisely.

Implementing online training for your staff, and ideally your students, reinforces a “whole community” approach. Having the entire campus trained on the same methods increases the chance of minimizing injuries and casualties.

Online training courses are also easily revisited at any time for a quick refresher. Repeated training on this important topic would help make you more comfortable in knowing your options for active shooter situations. After training, you may want to keep safety information available in classrooms and offices as a reminder of these potentially life-saving steps.

The definition of an “active shooter” may vary, but the most common definition comes from the FBI, which defines an active shooter incident as one or more gunmen “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”

In the last five years, the U.S. has seen an upward trend of active shooter incidents. However, incidents taking place in educational environments have not seen a similar rise.

From 2000-2013, roughly 25% of active shooter situations occurred in an educational environment, with 8% taking place in higher-educational institutions. Since 2014, those numbers have decreased to 15% and 2.5%, respectively. So while you are statistically unlikely to find yourself in an active shooter situation, you should strive to be as prepared as possible.

See how the interactive training approach utilized by SafetySkills can help you, your staff and your students learn the Run, Hide, Fight method in a way that will make a lasting impression and may save lives.

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