The situation in France reminds us that terrorist or criminal active shooter events can happen anytime, anywhere. What should you do if you’re caught up in an active shooter incident?
First, review the City of Houston’s excellent video, Run-Hide-Fight. This is the fundamental active shooter strategy. Schools, airports, sporting venues, concert halls may have slightly different protocols and variations, but from a civilian perspective, the fundamentals are the same:
- Run! “Get off the X,” as the military folks say. The X is where all the bad stuff is happening. The more you can move away from the incident, the less likely you are to become part of the casualty list. Even if the shooter is shooting at you, a moving target is harder to hit than a stationary target. If you can’t get completely away from the incident, look for a place of cover and concealment. Cover, may provide you some protection from bullets and bomb blasts. Concealment, just conceals your location but may not provide you protection. Which brings us to our next point…
- Hide! If you can’t run, hide. Get behind a door and lock it. Many shooters won’t waste time with a locked door. Turn out the lights. Silence your cell phone and turn off the vibrate function too. Don’t give away your position.
- Fight! If you can’t run, nor hide, or if you’re hiding and you’re discovered, this may be the last day of your life, so fight for it. Do anything in your power – you are fighting for your life at this point. Fight dirty, grab anything you can use as a weapon and don’t stop. An injured person can still pull a trigger, so if you get the upper hand, keep at it and call for help. If you can get away safely, then do so.
Remember to go over these tactics with your kids and family members as well. Active shooters know no boundaries. Have an evac plan if you’re in a public venue.
Let’s address some variables here – like, what if you are armed or what if the shooter is wearing a suicide bomber vest.
We’re assuming you are a citizen and not a law enforcement officer in this scenario. Cops have their own protocols. I can’t advise you to stay and shoot it out with the bad guy, although I know some of you will. The correct thing to say here is that you need to use your firearm to save your life or another, but you have to make the decision about how to best do that. There are a million variables here and you’ll need to make a decision that’s best for you and others at the time, given the circumstances. Some will return fire, some will freeze, some will seek cover and only use the gun as a last resort weapon. Keep in mind that responding law enforcement may not figure out that you’re a good guy (or girl) and not the shooter.
If the shooter is wearing a suicide vest, then obviously the goal is to run or, if you can’t, get to a place of cover, and get down. Bomb blasts go upward and outward in most cases, so stay below the belt line and ideally, eat pavement. Get right on the deck. If you have to fight a suicide bomber, you’re well within the kill zone, and you are completely fighting for your life at this point, but the only other option is to run and hope they don’t detonate until you’re out of the area.
Even if you see how the bomber intends to detonate (i.e. finger on the button and ready to release, or depress), and you neutralize that, it may still not stop a 3rd party confederate who uses a cell phone signal to detonate the device remotely. The Israeli fighting discipline known as Krav Maga has a weblink that has strategies if this is a skill set you’d like to learn.
Ideally, you won’t be in this situation. The best defense here is to identify the circumstances, surveillance, and pre-incident indicators before it ever gets this far. And fortunately, in the US (so far) we haven’t had the active shooter/suicide bomber type attack at the level just seen in France. I hate to be the one to say this, but we may need to start developing better tactics for civilians to deal with this new threat.