#SecurityInsights: What To Do if a Shooting Incident Is Happening Right Now

As this is being written, the latest figures indicate that 232 shooting incidents have occurred in the U.S. since January 1, 2021.

It’s hard to believe.

In an earlier post, we mentioned that workplace violence – specifically workplace shooting incidents – were essentially unheard of in the U.S. before the 1980s. Although we are sure they did occur, no doubt they were nothing like we are experiencing today, neither as frequent nor as gruesome.  

But workplace violence and shooting incidents are now part of American life 

What would you do if you heard shots and screams in your office right now?  

People react differently and handling a crisis situation can be emotionally trying. However, experts indicate there are three actions we should take to protect our lives. These are:

Run

Typically, the first reaction when a shooting incident is occurring is to hide. Get under a table or behind a wall. However, what is often the best thing to do is find a way to escape. Run as far as you can away from the incident as fast as possible.

Don’t pick up your belongings. None of those are important now. And if you see people that have been wounded, now is not the time to help them. You should only have one thing on your mind, and that is preserving your own life by getting out.

Once you are running, run with your hands out. Should police see you, having your hands out makes you less of a threat.

If in an open area, run in a zig-zag pattern. Shooting a moving target is much more challenging. Once you believe you are far enough away from the shooter, now is the time to take the next step, hide. 

Hide.

When running is not an option, and in many cases, it is not, then the next best option is to hide. Try and find a lockable space: a bathroom or a closet. If there is no lock, barricade the door with tables, chairs, and anything you can find. Turn off all lights and remain silent.

In a random shooting incident, shooters are often looking for easy targets. Even if they know people may be hiding in a room, if it is hard to get into, they may move on.

But here is something else to know. According to the book 100 Deadly Sins, shooters will sometimes knock on a door, asking for help or offering to help people hiding inside. 

Unless you are sure it is not the shooter, do not open the door.

Fight

While fighting is certainly not for everyone or every situation, there are cases when we may have no choice.

On August 22, 2015, three Americans riding on a train from Amsterdam to Paris heard gunshots onboard and rushed the alleged attacker. While two people, including one of the Americans, were hurt, many people could have been killed if they had not decided to fight and subdue the attacker.

On February 27, 2012, a football coach, John Hall, heard gunfire. According to Hall, the gunman “sees me and he takes off down the hallway. I chase after him again screaming, yelling. I get to within like six, seven, eight feet of him,” and eventually chase him out of the building. While the shooter killed three students and wounded two others, the carnage would have been far worse if Hall had not decided to fight.

Chris Norman, who assisted the three Americans in the Amsterdam train attack just described, explains his reason for taking action:

OK, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go. I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than sit in the corner and be shot. Either you sit down, and die, or you get up, and you die. It was nothing more than that.

Norman survived the incident and his decision to fight likely saved the lives of many people.

More information on shooting incidents is available at the FBI website.

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