How To Stay Safe If There's An Active Shooter Near You
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Student Life

How To Stay Safe If There's An Active Shooter Near You

Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world.

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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Mass Shootings and Mass Violence. It's the two-word pairings that we all know too well. Any form of mass violence can happen anywhere and the choice of weaponry can take all forms. This is an extremely sensitive topic and is in no means meant to add friction between Liberals and Conservatives stirring a gun control debate— this article's purpose is to simply educate the people on how to protect themselves if they ever find themselves in this horrific, scary scenario.

Here are the 8 steps you absolutely need to follow to save yourself and those around you:

1. Identify all escape exit routes.

For your own sake, identify all exits from the rooms where most of your time is spent. If you are somewhere fairly new or unfamiliar, simply observe where each exit sign is. If you are in a contained area, like the movies, stop what you are doing and pay attention to the emergency exits instructions. Remember, this does not only include emergency exits but also fire escapes and windows.

If most of your time is spent at school or workplace, plan at least two escape routes for any reason the shooter is near or blocking one of them.

Remember, don't rule out second-story windows. If you need to break the window to escape, smash it from a top corner using any heavy object. You can survive cuts from broken glass or a broken leg from a fall. Most active shooters act alone so realistically if you can avoid the area where you hear gunfire coming from, you are usually safe.

2. Never pull the fire alarm.

Never pull a fire alarm during an active shooter or mass violence situation. This might be your instant reaction if one is in reach, but do not do it. Also, warn others to not do so. You might have to physically move them but if doing that, use your words. Be precise with wording and explanation. People will be frantic.

By pulling the fire alarm it will only encourage co-workers to leave their offices and congregate, and that's bad.

People might not even be fully aware of what's going on so for all you know, they might think it's a simple fire drill procedure. It also confuses law enforcement and first responders as to the nature of the emergency.

3. React, and run as fast as you possibily can.

Your best chance to survive any form of mass violence is to get out of the area as fast as possible. High-intense situations can easily squash common sense for some people due to fear and panic, do not let this anxiety get to you. The only time you will rule out "running away" is if the only escape routes closest to you would put you in sight of the shooter. Always leave your major belongings behind and silent your mobile device immediately.

Take off your shoes or any jewelry if it makes the slightest of sounds or will slow you down.

Call 9-1-1 as soon as you are more than 100% certain that you are safe to do so. Be descriptive and talk in a calm manner. The more clear you make your sentences, the better and quicker help you will receive in exchange. If there's a landline of reach, use that instead of your mobile device because it will give more accurate coordinates of your location.

4. Hide and do so very strategically. 

If there's no escape route, you must shut the lights off, lock and/or blockade the door. Do so creatively and quickly. Move desks, chairs, printers, literally anything. Hide behind large objects and take deep breaths to remain calm and quiet. It's extremely crucial that you remain out of the shooter's view. This includes the view from the outside looking into where you are. Make sure you are provided protection if shots are fired in your general direction.

Never trap yourself in a corner, though. It will restrict your options for movement. Always prevent someone from entering the area.

If possible, tie an electrical cord around the door handle and using two or more people to pull hard on the cord to keep the door closed. If an outward opening door has a hydraulic arm at the top, you can tie a belt tightly around the v-shaped arm and the door won't open.

5. Always bring people with you, never stay alone. 

If you are running, encourage others to run with you. If they are scared and refuse, do not waste seconds trying to convince them otherwise. Simply grab that person and drag them with you.

Tell the people that running is crucial to their survival.

Stating that logic will sink in quick. Plus, if you're running in a bigger group, it'll be harder to target you individually. Having strength in numbers will make a major impact for any reason you run up against the shooter.

6. Use anything in sight to use as a weapon for self-defense. 

If you happen to see a sharp or a blunt object you can carry while running, grab it. That can include anything like staplers, scissors, coffee mug, or even pens. However, do not waste time actively looking for one of these when you could be running.

Act with great physical aggression and be prepared to use stealthy force. Add it on top of your adrenaline.

Make each move you make count by committing to your actions and not holding back. If you need to improvise weapons, throw heavier objects.

7. Fight, if it's your last resort. 

Fighting back does not mean actively seeking out the shooter and facing him one on one. Instead, it's the last resort if the shooter breaks into your hiding place because it could ultimately save many lives, yours included. Stay low but not low enough you are totally sitting or laying down on the floor.

It's instructed by NRA self-defense instructors that it's impossible to aim when solid objects are flying at your head.

Throw stuff directly at the shooter's face. For the split second that the shooter is thrown off guard, everyone in the room needs to swarm him. Not just one or two people, or the biggest, toughest people— everyone.

Remember, there's a severe risk of somebody being shot while swarming but the risk is far greater if you choose to do nothing.

That's why it's so important to come up with a quick game plan for any reason you are trapped. The goal should be to incapacitate the shooter because there is no level of response that can possibly be considered inappropriate. You can absolutely out-smart them, even if that means something as seemingly far-fetched as using an unplugged computer monitor to use to smash over shooter's head.

8. When law enforcement officers arrive, always keep in mind they will be focused on getting to and stopping the shooter (or shooters).

Police officers and S.W.A.T teams will be on high alert for anyone who might be a threat, always keep this in mind. Do not fight law enforcement on anything. Remain respectful by letting them actually help you. Obey and follow their instructions.

Keep your hands visible at all times by raising your hands and spreading your fingers to show you are not a threat.

Avoid pointing, yelling or doing anything that might be construed as threatening. Unless told otherwise, continue moving towards the direction the police came from. Do not ask for directions because silence is key. Help for the injured is on its way, if not already there.


No matter how strict gun regulations will be, "bad guys" will always find ways to be "bad guys." We hear of m
ass shootings and mass violence more often humanity deserves and it's unarguably vile. It's not guns that do the damage, it's the people with the guns who do the damage.

If your workplace doesn't already have active shooter training and drills, let your bosses and human resources team know that it's important. Local law enforcement can often provide free training but if you prefer to reach out to professional training institutes consider like ALICE.

The Department of Homeland Security also has an outstanding Active Shooter Preparedness program that includes instructional videos, training booklets, safety posters and more.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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