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How To Survive A Public Shooting

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The day after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, my wife and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises. It felt strange to watch a movie at which dozens had been hurt or killed less than 24 hours before, but we had already made plans and I saw no point in changing them.

As they say, if we change our day-to-day lives “the terrorists win.” But I must admit, during the movie I found myself glancing around, thinking how horrific it must have been to be in that theater in Aurora. And now with the shooting at a Sikh temple, I’ve been thinking about what to do in an active shooter incident.

I believe as the economy gets worse, the world will become a more dangerous place. Many people, broke and frustrated, will simply snap and go on rampages. I’m not saying you should live your life in fear. After all, the odds of being in such a situation are very small. But it is possible, and it never hurts to be prepared.

Some of the advice in this article will probably seem paranoid, but at least keep it in mind when you’re out and about. Remember, the police take 10-15 minutes to respond to shooting incidents. Until then, you’re on your own.

How to Prepare

Know your exits. Whether you’re in a theater, a stadium, or some other kind of building, always be aware of the nearest exits. Not only that, look for faster exits that most people might not notice. For example, if you’re in a mall and there’s a shooting, don’t run for the main exit along with everyone else. Instead, cut through a store and go through the stock room and out the back door.

Sit near the exit. Most people hate sitting on the edge of the theater or in the corner of a stadium, but better safe than sorry. You never want to be right in the middle, and that goes for all sorts of situations that cause mass panic (tornadoes, power outages, earthquakes, etc.)

Dress appropriately. Obviously, don’t go to a theater dressed as a character from a movie. (AMC Theaters has already banned this.) The reason is because you don’t want to be noticed. Anything that could make you an easy target is a bad idea. My wife complains, but I often wear plain clothes without designs or anything flashy. I don’t just like to stand out in a crowd. Also, wear good shoes. You won’t be be able to run from danger in sandals.

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If It Happens

If something doesn’t feel right, just leave. Many people who were in that theater said when they saw the shooter, something didn’t feel right. But their minds tried to make sense of what was happening and came up with the explanation that it must be part of the show. Don’t ignore your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right or if you don’t feel completely safe, get up and leave.

Leave your stuff behind. You’d be surprised how often women reach for their purses before they flee from danger. It’s just the force of habit. You have to mentally run through the scenario a few times in your head and think, “Get up and run. Get up and run.” You don’t want anything to slow you down. And men, please don’t leave your wife or girlfriend behind like this guy did. And parents, don’t abandon your children. People are not stuff.

Once you’re out, keep going. Just because you’ve gotten outside doesn’t mean you are safe. For all you know, the shooter is in pursuit. It’s amazing to me how many people stopped once they were outside the theater in Aurora and took out their video phones. Don’t do that. Keep going until you’re absolutely sure you’re out of danger. Then and only then should you call 911.

If There Is No Escape

Take cover. If the shooter is between you and an exit, the best thing you can do is take cover behind the thickest thing you see and lie face-down on the ground to make yourself a smaller target.

Hide and don’t make a sound. If you’re in a building and the only exit is in the direction of the shooter, get inside a room and lock the door. Then turn off the lights, your cell phone and anything else that could attract attention. Make it seem like no one is there. During the shooting incident in Columbine, dozens of students and teachers hid in a closet for hours.

Fight back. If you are cornered, never sit still and plead for your life. Killers have no compassion, so your odds of survival are much higher if you charge forward and attempt to tackle the gunman. I’m not going to get into combat techniques here. But if you have a concealed carry permit, I hope you’ve taken classes and been properly trained to use your firearm. If so, here’s a resource that can help even more: Active Shooter Response for the Armed Citizen.

What happened in Colorado was a terrible a tragedy, but the sad truth is that it won’t be the last one. Please be safe.

More Resources:

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  • papa bear

    This also applies when we are at home and in the car. With the number of reports of home invasions and carjackings in the news. Always be aware of your surroundings.  I used to tell my daughters,” Always expect everyone else on the road is a total idiot. Then you will be prepaired to react when they do something totally idiotic.”

  • David

    Good article, good points.