​​​​​​​​​Arthur P. Meister

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Experiencing an Active Shooting!

Suddenly there is gunfire!  Like bracing yourself in a car about to crash, there are points to consider in the first few seconds of this event.

Your strongest urge will be to run, to put as much distance between you and the shooter as possible.  However, the closer and more visible you are to the shooter, the more important it is to first take cover.  Get out of their view as a person (target).

 If running is an option, leave belongings behind.  Run erratically (zig zag) from pillar to pillar, tree to tree, car to car, etc., or any combination thereof.

 A lot depends on the shooter’s intent, their proficiency with and caliber of weapon used, and where you are in proximity to the assault.  What will be common in each is their focus on seeking targets.  Anything that can break that focus could help in the opening seconds of the engagement.

 There will be an abject fear of drawing attention to yourself, but if you are in direct view and very close (within 10-12 feet) or somewhat confined (seated at table, at the front of a classroom, standing at the outer edge of a group, etc), you might consider throwing something accessible (book, ipad, bottle, plate on table, cup of coffee, stapler, etc) at the shooter to deflect his or her aim and concentration as you dodge for cover, upend the table you are sitting, or rush the shooter if necessary.

 If rushing the shooter is the only option when cornered in a subway car, alcove, or room with no exit, do so to knock him or her over as opposed to first grappling for the control of the gun.  Aim your shoulder at the shooter’s pelvic area.  It makes you a smaller target and gives you better leverage to knock him or her off balance.  Once knocked over or pushed against a wall, stab the eyes with fingers to impair his or her vision if possible.

When in crowded, fixed seating venues – theaters, sports events, or church, etc., where congestion in aisles or exits is likely – lie prone between seats or in foot wells of a bleacher.  Make yourself the smallest target possible.  Wedge yourself under seats and pull down retractable seats for added cover.

In rooms with floor to ceiling windows occupants should upend and crouch down behind the conference table, credenza or other furniture with the larger surface facing the shooter.  Upending a cafeteria table in the same fashion could serve to remove you as a visible target, use it as a makeshift shield to move towards an exit, or rush the shooter if necessary.

In rooms with cubicles or single offices with a desk where you can’t lock a door, hiding in the kneehole of your work station or desk may suffice.  Remember to silence your cell phone and pull your chair in after you. If you can lock a door with a window, turn off lights and stand or crouch down against the wall of entry out of shooter’s view.  Make sure reflections from windows or mirrors on opposing walls won’t reveal your presence.

 If there is time to barricade a lockless door with furniture, then stand against the wall close to the point of entry.  Be ready to hit the shooter with anything devised as a weapon – a heavy lamp fixture, broken table leg, letter opener, hot coffee pot, etc.

 When confronting first responders, be ready crouch down or drop to the floor to enhance their view of the shooter and put you out of the line of fire, and follow their directions implicitly.

These are not mandates or guarantees, but suggestions to consider when suddenly surprised by this unspeakable event where escape options are limited.  Use what you have on or around you to enhance survival instead of freezing in place, running with the crowd, trying to push through a human jam at an obstructed exit, or anything that prolongs your visibility to the shooter.

 
The author, Arthur P. Meister, is a 38 year veteran of law enforcement.  He retired from the FBI in 2002, after having served as Chief of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), in Quantico, Virginia.  He also recommends readers Google “Run, Hide, Fight,” and watch the video.  It is a public service advisory on dealing with workplace shooting that is also available on www.fbi.gov.