Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mass Shootings: How to Protect Yourself and Your Family (part 3 of 7)

First the bad news:

  • Whether or not you become a victim of a mass shooter is pretty much unavoidable.  A mass shooting is a random event and therefore, there is no way to "improve your odds" of avoiding such an event.
  • Whether or not you live or die during a mass shooting is also random luck or the opposite thereof.
  • If you are being specifically targeted, it's a pretty good bet you will die (as in the case of mass shootings where domestic violence is the impetus and the shooter is targeting specific people at the beginning of his rampage).
  • NO ONE--no expert, no educator, no survivor of such an event--can tell you that if you do this, that, and the other thing, you will survive a mass shooting event.  Every event is different so tactics that worked in one event may or may not work during a different event.
  • Mitigating a mass shooter event is also pretty much impossible (there are a few things that can be done which we will discuss tomorrow).  It isn't like wearing a helmet to prevent injury when riding a bicycle or wearing a seat belt to mitigate the damage of a car accident.

There are, however, a number of things you may want to consider when it comes to mass shooting events:

  • Avoid places where mass shootings may be more likely to occur (malls, schools, public places with lots of people, etc).
  • Avoid situations where a mass shooting may be more likely to occur (contentious work places, being part of a tenuous domestic violence situation or being around others who are in this type of situation, etc).
  • Be aware of your surroundings and note things that seem out of place (if it is 85 degrees outside but a couple of people are wearing large, heavily padded trench coats at the mall, you may want to become concerned).
  • Be aware of your surroundings and note where exits are, note where good places to hide are, note where you could take cover if necessary, and note what items you could use as weapons.
  • Make sure you know your workplace/school's mass shooter plan and be ready to follow it.
  • If you hear shooting, take cover.  Better to be a bit embarrassed if it turns out to be a car backfire than the opposite--wandering around looking for the source of the sound only to find out there really is  an active shooter situation unfolding.
  • If you find yourself in a mass shooter situation, consider hiding.  This works if the shooter hasn't already seen you and if you don't have the option of escape.
  • If you are hiding, the more "stuff" you have between you and the shooter, the better (ie: walls, locked doors, darkness to keep the shooter from seeing you, a locked door that has also been barricaded, etc).
  • If you find yourself in a mass shooter situation, consider running.  If you have an avenue of escape, depending on what is happening, you may want to run and leave the area (consider a moving target is more difficult to hit than a stationary target, consider also that you could end up running into other shooters if this is a coordinated attack).  
  • If you find yourself in a mass shooter situation, you may have to decide whether to fight.  This is a last resort, especially if you are bringing only your fists to a gun fight, but if you are face to face with the shooter there may be no other option.
  • Stay low.  There is a reason that people "hit the deck" when shooting starts, it makes you a smaller and more difficult to hit target.
  • Consider being armed.  Obviously bringing a gun to a gun fight evens the odds a bit, but if you do decide to arm yourself with a firearm you need to consider a myriad other things: you must practice regularly, firearm concealment and firearm retention are imperative, shooting targets is way different than shooting at A) a human being, and B) a human being who is shooting at you trying to kill you.  Consider taking as many tactical firearms classes as you can.
  • Be sure to call 911 or text message for help ASAP.  You want help on the way while you are figuring out what to do.
  • Put your cell phone on silent, you don't want a ringing phone to give your location away or draw attention to you.
  • If you are running away from a shooter you want to stay low if possible, and you want to run in a zig zag pattern instead of a straight line.  You also want to run from cover to cover so that you will have something to block any shots being fired at you.
  • Consider ways to distract the shooter if possible (pull a fire alarm, for example).
  • Consider all exit possibilities (windows, fire doors, rooftops, etc).
  • When TSHTF, consider other options: talking to the shooter, throwing anything you have at hand at him, playing dead, etc.
  • Realize that in the midst of a traumatic event, your mind is going to freak out on you.  Some people freeze, some people faint, some people throw up, you may get tunnel vision, you may try to rationalize what you are seeing as something else...since this is a situation that has never happened to you before and it is traumatic, you simply will not be able to plan ahead for how your mind will react.
  • Pay attention to warning signs--this could be anything from another student joking about shooting up the school to a co-worker who has been "normal" all along but suddenly becomes abnormal.
The bottom line: there are a few things you can do to give yourself an advantage in an active shooter situation.  Unfortunately active shooter situations are all different, they all unfold differently, and luck plays a big part in the outcome.  Practice can help, especially with children, so be sure to practice "lock down" drills, play the "what if" game with them, play hide and seek (which is actually a game based on very real survival skills), play tag, and practice awareness.

The best news of all: random shooting events, while they tend to be on the increase and make the evening news for days on end, are still quite rare. The the possibility that you will be involved in a mass shooter event is statistically very, very unlikely (less than 100 people have been killed by mass shooters each year compared to the average 35,000 people who die each year in car accidents or 25,000 people who die each year from falls). 

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