Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surviving Disaster: Mall Shooting

Again, I wasn't able to catch the broadcast of the latest Surviving Disaster episode, but thanks to the internet, I was able to watch the full episode here. Here's the scenario: terrorist have taken over a small town shopping mall. They have positioned themselves above the courtyard and are shooting everyone they see. Here's the high points of the episode:
  • Malls, schools, and other places where people gather such as these are considered "soft targets" by terrorists. There are lots of people, mostly women and children, who are unarmed which makes for easy targets.
  • Smaller rural or suburban malls also have little security and are a ways away from the nearest SWAT team.
  • When the shooting starts, immediately get down and get behind something that can cover you (ie: stop a bullet).
  • In many terrorist scenarios, the shooter's mission is to kill, there is no reasoning with them.
  • You need to get out of the "kill zone" as quickly as possible. Spread out, don't play dead, and don't pile up with other people which makes for a large, neatly packaged target.
  • People's stress response is to fight, flight, or freeze. Don't freeze, get moving.
  • Use hand signals to communicate with others.
  • After about ten seconds in the kill zone, you will usually have a chance to escape when they are reloading.
  • Move from cover to cover to escape the kill zone. If you must cross an open area, wait for a lull in the firing.
  • You may have a greater opportunity to escape if you go into a store since all stores in a mall are required to have a fire exit in the back. The nearest doors and other obvious escape routes may have been chained closed.
  • Once in the store, head towards the back and find the exit to the hallway which runs behind the stores. Be sure to move pallets in front of the door to the store you just exited or create other quick obstacles.
  • Note that fire escape doors may be chained closed to keep people in and the police out by the terrorists.
  • Call 911 as soon as you are able to and provide as much description as possible: how many shooters, types of weapons, descriptions of the shooters, if they are wearing body armor, etc.
  • Don't wait for mall security to come and save you; they are easily overwhelmed in these types of situations.
  • If you can't leave through the fire escape, go back into the store and use the computer to print out maps of the mall from the mall's website.
  • Take cover in the store until you have a plan of escape. A good escape route (in this scenario) is the freight elevator near the food court which leads down to the loading dock area. This is usually a large area that is difficult to contain and will probably be where SWAT enters.
  • In the video, local police were first on the scene but were pushed back by IEDs that were set near the entrance.
  • About ten minutes into the scenario, the terrorist have killed most of the people and are now entering the "cleaning phase" where they go from store to store searching for survivors to kill.
  • At this point, the group was in the store and the power went out. This is usually police protocol to make it more difficult for the terrorists to move around the facility but it is good for survivors who can hide in the darkened stores ("if they can see you, they can kill you").
  • Immediately find weapons such as scissors, box cutters, metal bars taken from display racks, etc. The group also found a camcorder which had zoom and night vision which can be used like a periscope to look around corners without exposing yourself.
  • If you are trapped in a store with the gunman coming, you will need to ambush the shooter. Find weapons, outlined above, and a metal suitcase which you can fill with phone books which can be used as a shield.
  • The group needs to work as a team to ambush the shooter. One person takes the suitcase and rushes the shooter in order to "pancake" him, while another team member uses a bar to swing low at him and another uses a metal bar to swing high at him. When the shooter is down, the fourth person bashes his head with whatever object will do the job.
  • To ambush the shooter, the team gets into "ambush" position and waits until he is in the middle of the strike zone before springing on him. Ambush position is basically surrounding the person so there is no one target for him to aim at and no escape when the group converges on him.
  • Once the shooter has been taken out, take his weapons, magazines, body armor, any information he is carrying, etc.
  • Two of the group takes the weapons and magazines and also cuts the body armor at the shoulder straps (which will make two pieces of body armor to serve as chest shields) and they duct tape these to their bodies.
  • At this point in the video, the group is given a quick lesson on AK 47 use including: keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot, keep the weapon pointed up until you are ready to use it, how to seat the magazine, how to position the stock into your shoulder before firing, and how to rack the weapon to remove any bullets that may jam.
  • When heading towards your escape route, the group needs to move like a small military unit. Move single file, about a foot from the wall, with one person with a firearm covering 9-3 up and down in the front and one person covering 3 to 9 up and down in the back.
  • The people in the middle of the line should help scan for shooters.
  • Don't walk too close to the wall as bullets often ricochet and travel down walls.
  • In this case, the group needed to move past a choke point (ie escalator) which was being guarded by a sniper. Their only option was to take the sniper out.
  • Make a silencer for your firearm so as not to alert the rest of the terrorists to where you are and that you have a firearm. Duct tape a piece of clothing over the barrel of your firearm in order to silence your shot.
  • At this point, the person who was going to take out the shooter (with a head shot since he was wearing body armor) was giving some basic shooting information--stock into shoulder, use a stationary object to stabilize the firearm that you are holding, get your sites on the target, breathe a couple of times then squeeze the trigger when you are at the bottom of your exhale.
  • The group then ran up the stairs and, like with the previous gunman, they took his weapons, body armor, etc. They also taped down the transmit button on the gunman's radio to make a "hot mic" (this would make it so the terrorists could not communicate with each other).
  • Next the group of terrorists figured out what was happening and went after the group of survivors. They divided into teams of an equal number and took turns covering each other with fire as each group moved from cover to cover towards their destination (ie: one group would shoot at the terrorists while the other group moved then the other group would shoot while the other group caught up with them).
  • If you don't have much ammo, slow your rate of fire.
  • One person was shot so they drug him into a store. Use a hand or shirt to provide direct pressure over the wound. A tampon was pressed into the wound to help stop the bleeding.
  • A "drag line" was made with belts to help the team drag the injured guy. Loop a belt into the last hole then put it under one arm. Do the same thing with another belt and put it under the other arm. Put the third belt through the other two belts and fasten it. Use this to drag the injured person along the floor.
  • The group then used tables in the food court to set up a defensive position. While some were firing, others found a garbage cart with wheels to put the injured person in. Another found a fire extinguisher and they used a belt to keep the extinguisher spraying thus creating a smoke screen to allow them to escape to the elevator with each person taking a corner of the garbage cart in a diamond formation.
  • When the group got to the elevator, they kept their weapons trained on the elevator door in case more terrorists were coming up in the elevator.
  • In the elevator they got down low and continued firing at the terrorists who were coming towards them until the doors closed.
  • When the elevator was going down, they put all of their weapons on the floor because SWAT would more than likely be waiting when the doors opened and if they see people with weapons they will shoot, not knowing if they were the terrorists or not.
  • When the elevator doors opened, the group kept their hands in the air and followed all instructions given by the SWAT team. The group is treated as terrorists until it can be ascertained that they are the victims.
  • Do everything the SWAT team says, always keep your hands visible, don't make any sudden moves, and don't run towards the officers as this will be seen as an aggressive action.
  • At the end of the video, the group gets caught in the cross fire between SWAT and the terrorists; they crawled (not stood up and ran) out of the danger zone and followed one of the SWAT officers to safety.

Another good show full of great information. While most people will never be caught in such a situation, and those that do may find the scenario unfolding differently, just having this type of basic information is a very good way to become more prepared since usually after an active shooter situation all you get are sound bites on the news, not facts and explanation on how to best survive such an event.

Since training and muscle memory and all of the other vital skills necessary to survive such a situation require more than just watching a video, consider other ways to train to respond to such an event, including paintball (it's not the same as getting shot at but you will become more adept at a number of useful skills such as reading your environment, identifying "enemies" who are hiding from you, traveling silently, etc), taking a firearms course or two, and participating in practical shooting leagues and events which will increase your firearms skills dramatically.


  1. I really enjoyed this show as well, I learned quite a bit of information. That fact about bullets traveling along walls approximately 12" away - I would have never known that.

    BTW, much thanks for the recap of important facts of these shows. Really much easier to read this and commit this to memory, vs. watching the show and memorizing on the spot.

  2. Seems to me that "Gun-free safe zones" aren't, and have only been a means for the mulleted, Coke-bottle-glassed socialists to provide optimum targets for whack-jobs.