Practically speaking only three reactions need to come to mind in the event you find yourself in a building with an active shooter attacking inside – Get Out – Hide Out – Take Out. This kind of scenario is the most dangerous workplace violence situation and will require some forethought and discipline to survive.
Get Out – In order to select the right initial response you will have to assess, as best as you can safely, where the shooting is taking place and which way the active shooter may be proceeding. That will be your first clue to determine whether you can select the first, and most desirable option, which is to get out immediately. If you are at work, it will help if you have a predetermined exit plan with a back up if that pathway would lead toward danger. Saving time and reacting immediately can be the difference between getting out safely and getting trapped in. When you evacuate take nothing with you –your personal stuff can stay. Though you want to move quickly, check around corners and into stairwells before you enter in case the shooter is moving quietly after the original shots were fired. Get people to come with you. If they resist don’t let them slow you down and stay as quiet as possible in the evacuation. Once outside, seek cover at a safe distance and prevent others from entering unknowingly.
Hide Out – If the active shooter is spotted or heard outside your immediate space and you cannot get out, then hide out. If behind closed doors, barricade your space and lock the door and remain quiet. If you are in a cubical or open area hide silently under a desk. Doing it silently will be hard but you must stay quiet! Turn off all radios, office machines, and lights if possible. Turn off cell phones. Don’t just put on vibrate mode- turn OFF! Let someone else call the police for help from a safe place. Hide behind anything thick and heavy and available for cover. Mentally prepare for the last option if the active shooter enters your space.
Take Out – If you are in a space with others, assemble as quiet as possible and plan to attack in mass should the active shooter enter. Do not hesitate to hurt the shooter very badly because you are fighting for your life. Don’t just hurt them –incapacitate them! Then restrain them with whatever is available after getting the weapon from them. Do not take the weapon with you if you then exit. Listen for any other shooters before leaving that space because there might be more than one. If police have begun searching the building be very careful how you exit or move towards an exit. Responding police don’t know you! Do what they say if they see you.
Now if you were by yourself under a desk, the best you can do is try to get something to use as a weapon and prepare to fight for your life if the active shooter finds you. If they go past you, be very careful before you try to exit because you don’t really know where the shooter is. This will be a personal decision but remember to move quietly if you do so.
For a more detailed set of guidelines check out the Active Shooter Response course on www.imac-training.com which will be released for purchase later this year as part of our ongoing Workplace Violence Prevention series.