Concerns Mount About the Run Hide Fight Survival Concept

Run Hide Fight is a survival concept to address an active shooter situation introduced more than 20 years ago by the FBI. Some in the security industry are now concerned Run Hide Fight may not be the best approach. We’ll discuss the reasons why later. But first, let’s examine two incidents where people did little or nothing to protect themselves in profoundly serious, threatening situations. Then we’ll tie this in to Run Hide Fight.

On September 28, 1994, the M.S. Estonia was in the Baltic Sea on its way to Sweden. The ship carried 803 passengers and 186 crew members. It was also carrying packages and materials to be delivered to Stockholm.

There were heavy gusts that night, but this was not out of the ordinary. The weather conditions were even referred to as “normally bad;” a typical autumn storm in the Baltic Sea.

At one in the morning, those aboard heard a loud bang. It was presumed to be a heavy wave hitting the ship’s bow. Over the next ten minutes, more bangs were heard. Then at 01:15, the visor [providing access to the cargo under the ship] is believed to have separated from the boat. Water flooded the ship, and it went down, taking the lives of 852 passengers and crew.

Even though the chain of events moved very quickly and happened in the middle of the night, rescuers were surprised at how few people tried to save themselves. “Several people… seem[ed] to have been incapable of rational thought or behavior because of their fear,” according to an official report about the incident. “Others appeared petrified. They did not react even when other passengers tried to guide them [to safety], not even when they used force or shouted at them.”

Let’s jump ahead to 2001. After the hijacked planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, researchers interviewed some of the survivors and put together a picture of what happened directly after the impacts. Here is what they reported:

Unprepared for what was happening, people either carried on as normal or hung around waiting for others to move first. One study found that half of those who survived intentionally delayed trying to escape, made phone calls, tidied things up on their desk, went to the toilet, completed emails, shut down their computers, and changed their shoes. One woman even returned to her office to change into her tracksuit.

Why? Why did people in both scenarios hesitate to save their lives?

Dr. John Leach, a military survival expert, and psychologist, who has studied Run Hide Fight and the actions of survivors and victims of dozens of disasters, says that in threatening situations:

  • Around 75 percent of people are so bewildered they are unable to think clearly and plot their escape. “They are mentally paralyzed.”
  • About 15 percent remain calm and rational enough to make decisions.
  • The remaining ten percent “freak out” and become a danger to themselves and others.

Leach says that after such incidents, the media typically focuses on those who survived and what they did to stay alive. Instead, Leach believes they should be asking why so many people gave up, failed to adjust to an unfolding crisis, and protect their lives.

He explains that with Run Hide Fight people experience mental paralysis. Their minds have frozen. They cannot adjust to a momentous change in their environment.

This is what so often happens when a violent situation occurs in a school, medical facility, or office. It is also why the survival concept of Run Hide Fight is being questioned.

Run Hide Fight focusses on a dangerous situation as it is happening. It does not consider what happens to us mentally directly after a shooting or threatening incident or when people first realize they are about to experience an extremely dangerous situation.

The Run Hide Fight Alternative

This is also why TAL Global suggests replacing Run Hide Fight with Prepare-React-Recover.

This is how Prepare-React-Recover works:

  • Preparational steps are taken ahead of time to prevent or minimize the chances of a dangerous event happening
  • Reaction involves creating Survival Management Teams. These people are trained in the Prepare-React-Recover approach. They are taught how to evaluate people in dangerous situations and implement a strategy to ensure the security and safety of everyone in the facility.
  •  And because not all incidents can be prevented, the Recovery component involves methods that must be taken to attend to the injured quickly and deal with the emotional issues that typically follow such incidents.

While Run, Hide, Fight was created twenty years ago with the best intentions, the reality is it has limitations. It does not concern itself with the emotional aspects of a dangerous situation. Prepare-React-Recovery does.

TAL Global is an elite security, consulting, and risk management firm that protects human and physical assets around the globe. For more information email:

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