As you may have noticed in the last dozen (or many dozens) of mass shootings that have hit the news, there is no way to absolutely prevent getting yourself into a mass shooting event. Unless you never leave your house and have your home locked down like a military facility (and even that isn't a guarantee) you can't just avoid places that are likely to be a target of a mass shooter because these shootings happen literally everywhere--malls, airport, restaurant, church, schools, nightclubs, etc.
So in the rare but not unheard of possibility that you find yourself in a mass shooter situation, here are 27 points to keep in mind:
Before an event:
- Take a first aid class so you know what to do in the event of a medical emergency.
- Always--like every single day--play the 'what if' game. What if there is a shooter right now? Where are the exits? Where might the threat be coming from (look up, down, left, right, forward, and behind you)? Where is the closest cover? Where is the closest concealment? What is the pattern of traffic? What if (pick any random person) is the shooter--can you look at them then remember details about them later?
- Keep yourself in good physical shape in case you need to right, fight, hide, duck and cover, etc. In other words, do all of those physical moves that the average American hasn't done since high school. Once you can run, jump, hide under a desk, pull yourself up into the false ceiling, etc., practice these moves regularly. I'm not kidding.
- Take some classes. Take a concealed carry class. If you can carry and want to carry, do so. Even better take a tactical shooting course, an escape and evasion course...basically any course that will give you better insight into how to survive a mass shooting or other disaster.
- Be prepared. My EDC bag always has the basics (first aid kit, bottle of water, granola bars, spare mag if permissible depending on where I am, tourniquet, cell charger, etc) and I never go anywhere without it. In the case of a mass shooter event you may be in holding (or hiding) for hours on end and you want to have everything you need for a good several hours without anything being provided to you from outside sources.
During an Event:
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Was that a gun shot you just heard or a car backfire? What are people doing? How are people acting?
- If possible, run away from the scene. In the heat of battle there is no one answer about what to do when the bullets start flying so this is but one option.
- If you can't get away, drop and cover or hide yourself. Again, this may be your best option depending on the situation.
- Play dead. Yet in other mass shooter incidents, people have 'played dead' in order to survive.
- If you are carrying a weapon, it is up to you to decide whether to shoot back or not. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
- Put your cell phone on silent (you don't want your cell tones to give away your location).
- Ensure the safety of your loved ones if possible.
- Just because you exited the initial scene, don't let down your guard. Are there additional shooters? Explosives? Other things that are still a threat?
- Call 911 to report the incident immediately if it is safe to do so and answer all of the dispatcher's questions as calmly and factually as possible. After law enforcement is on scene do not call 911 unless you need specific assistance as this ties up the phone lines and others who may need assistance can't get through.
- Identify yourself to law enforcement as soon as it is safe to do so (ie: show your hands if you are walking/running towards them, yell for help if you know the shooter has been eliminated and you won't draw the shooter to your position, etc).
- Help others if possible (this can be anything from directing people to an exit to shouting orders to get help on the way to providing medical attention to those in need).
- Monitor social media. Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, etc usually have up-to-the-second info about what is happening.
- Pay attention to directions from the authorities (this can be overhead announcements about the situation to signals from law enforcement to stay down or come forward, etc).
- Take photos and/or videos of the scene if it is safe to do so.
After an event:
- Stay on scene if asked to do so (and realize it takes A LOT of time to stabilize the scene and commence an investigation so you may be waiting for a while).
- Provide as much factual information to authorities as possible including any photos and videos you took. And be patient, for all they know YOU could be the shooter so it may take a bit for all of the facts to be determined.
- If you leave the scene, contact law enforcement with your information for them to follow up with you later.
- If there is a shooting at your child's school, don't run into the scene like a maniac as you could be mistaken for the shooter by law enforcement and/or otherwise cause the response to go sideways.
- Write down as many details as you can remember, as soon after the incident as possible (and before talking to others about it as that can change what you remember).
- Activate your emergency communications plan and let everyone know you are OK (so you won't be getting 50 phone calls from people worried about you). A blast text message, email, or Facebook message should do the trick.
- Do your own "after action" review. Once you are clear of the incident ask yourself what went right (you chose to run in the correct direction), what went wrong (there was a closer exit you could have used), and what could be improved (you should have had a few additional important items in your EDC bag).
- Monitor your mental health and the mental health of your loved ones. Pure adrenaline will make you feel like Superman...until it wears off. PTSD after a mass shooting is very common so be aware of how to help yourself and/or seek professional help if needed.