For those that don't know, I live in Central Florida about 4 hours from where the Parkland shooting happened just two days ago. In this article, I am not going to engage in the "gun control" debate as the recent social media explosions have already proven everyone is set in their ways (on both sides). Instead, I want to discuss how important it is to be vigilant and proactive in maintaining your own and your family's safety.
Posted signs now litter most public venues that read, "See Something? Say Something!" That sounds great, and I believe all suspicions should be reported, but to think it's enough is simply ignorant. What happens when nothing is done about your concerns? The FBI released the following statement regarding the Parkland shooting: "On January 5, 2018, a person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI's Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to report concerns about him...Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life...We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami field office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time."
So a concerned citizen followed the proper steps to notify the appropriate authorities of their suspicions, and not even a follow-up look was made. I understand how swamped law enforcement of all levels must be, but no one had time to make a phone call to pass the information along? But that's neither here nor there. There's no preventing it now, but I sincerely hope that steps are taken to review and fix whatever problem caused this major crack in the system.
That said, what can you do to make sure you don't end up in this tragic situation, and how do you survive one if you are?
Know your surroundings, and your bearings within those surroundings!
The first step, run, is great... Unless you're running blindly. Where are you running to? If you simply run to the nearest exit without assessing where the threat is coming from, you may find yourself running towards the threat. The nearest exit may likely also be the nearest entry point. When you run, unless you're standing right next to the exit, you should be running for cover. If no cover is available, look for concealment. Run to the safest place you can to assess the situation and determine your next move.
Now, the first step being to run is actually very situationally based. Like I said, if you are next to or extremely close to an exit (or somewhere to hide) then yes, sprint as if your life depends on it. If there is nowhere you can immediately get to within 3-5 seconds, and the shooter is in the same room, one of the safest things you can do is drop immediately. Lie completely still, face down with your hands covering your head (with your head turned to one side). As the shooter moves from room to room, there will be a safer opportunity for you to run. Until then, you're just a moving target and I promise a bullet travels faster than you do. Statistics show that 56% of active shooter incidents ended before police had a chance to respond. In 64 incidents where the specific duration of the incident could be ascertained, 44 (69%) of 64 incidents ended in 5 minutes or less, with 23 of those ending in 2 minutes or less. With the national average of emergency response time being 10 minutes (according to American Police Beat), that suggests the attackers are moving as quickly as they can throughout the premises to inflict as many casualties as possible, not standing there walking through a single room shooting those presumed already shot.
However, keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule and once you are in an active shooter situation, nothing is completely safe! Every situation is different, and all we can work from are statistics to prepare us for the most likely of scenarios.
The last option, fight, is once again contextually based. Fighting back against an active shooter is not the same as fighting back against an armed assailant who merely wants to rob you. The main difference is intent. In the latter scenario, the assailant is using the weapon as an intimidation tool to get you to comply. This does not mean they won't hurt you, it just means that their main objective is to obtain control. When dealing with an active shooter, you have someone whose intent is to inflict casualties. They don't want anything from you but your life. As such, the response to each type of assailant is completely different and too lengthy to detail in this article. However, here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with an active shooter.
According to an FBI study of active shooter incidents (click here for the full 47-page report), 13% of the incidents in the study were stopped by courageous, unarmed citizens. Therefore, stopping an active shooter without having a weapon yourself is definitely possible, but all of the factors must line up. Do not underestimate the importance of timing and distance. Police academies teach a 21-foot-rule that states an attacker can reach you as long as they are within 21 feet before you draw your firearm and fire an aimed shot. Flipping that around, that means if you are within 21 feet of the assailant, you can get to them before they have a chance to draw their gun and discharge it accurately. Of course if the weapon is already drawn that distance is significantly decreased, but when they're reloading is a great time to make your charge. The same is true if you are in a position to catch them from the side or rear by surprise. There are too many variables and contexts to go over in this article, and I cannot stress the importance of real, repeated training if you hope to survive such an encounter.
Please keep in mind that to fight back is to accept that you will most likely be shot. You may even die because of it, but you may save countless others. If you are not willing to accept that, the safest thing you can do if you can't get out is to hide and pray. To fight back is a personal choice, and everyone must decide for themselves what is best for them.
As previously stated, this article is merely an overview of appropriate steps to take in response to an active shooter. This is not meant to be a complete instructional guide and should not be taken as such. The absolute best thing you can do is seek out the highest quality of training available, and train with the intensity that your life deserves. As a certified instructor for the Law Enforcement Tactical Training Institute, I (and several others around the country) are always available to offer active shooter response workshops for you or your organization. I also offer training on a regular basis in Clermont, Florida. Do not rely on others to keep you safe. Arm yourselves (with weapons, knowledge or both), and be vigilant. To rely on others is to be nothing more than sheep, and sheep get led to slaughter.