21 December 2012

Surviving an Active Shooter when you are Unarmed


We need to examine our mindset and training to survive these types of incidents. We know that the best thing to stop a bad man with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  But because of laws and the environment, this is not always possible.

We don’t have to look far to find examples where these incidents have occurred in other states that do have CCW, but for reasons from company policy to other laws, the victims were not armed. The best example of this is the Ft Hood shooting. Although those injured and killed by the treasonous Major Nidal Malik Hasan were trained in the use of small arms, were not armed at the time. Too often when you take away tools, people will also set aside mindset and training.

No matter what the circumstances of an active shooter, you will have three options based on time and opportunity; they are fight, flight, and freeze. Our concentration here will be on surviving the incident if you are unarmed.

More often than school shootings, active shooters are involved in a domestic situation; this is common and presents a unique set of problems, especially in businesses. First of all, the shooter is likely to be known by the primary victim’s coworkers. They are likely not to be alarmed by his mere presence. This familiarity makes it easy for them to gain access to the scene.

Often during domestic disputes, one of the individuals takes up residence even at another location. Even if where they are staying is unknown to the violent/stalking party, the person who fled will usually still continue to go to work. They continue to go to work at a predictable time and place, leading us to further understand why these things often erupt at places of employment.

Here are tactics you should make a habit of-

  •  Always have an exit out of a room or building besides the one you entered through. Active shooters usually act alone, and the back door may be your key to survival.  If there is not another exit, look for doors that lock and open outwards.  These doors cannot be kicked in.  If that is unavailable, look for any door that locks, avoid bathrooms.

  •  Watch other people’s faces in reaction to people entering the area. They can be a great indicator that something is going to happen.

  •  Take notice when people appear “off” in comparison to their normal selves.

If you are in a position to use the “flight option”, this is best in most cases. If you take the above bullet points into consideration, you will have the best opportunity to get out of the kill zone while other people are trying to process what is happening. When possible, do not move in a straight line. Attempt to use cover (anything that will stop or slow down a bullet), and concealment (anything that keeps the shooter from seeing you) people usually don’t shoot at what they cannot see. Do not hunker down behind concealment. You don’t always need to get out of the building.  Historically active shooter incidents do not last long, you just need a safe place to ride it out.

Now for the “fight option”, even if you were armed, you would still have to have time and opportunity to use it. Something not everyone seems to understand. But again, for our purpose here, you are unarmed. If you find yourself out in the open in front of the shooter and have no cover to move to, your only chance of survival is to counter attack him. This could also prove to be the case if you are close to the shooter when the attack begins.

Your first objective is to move the muzzle of the shooters firearm towards the ground, if that is not possible then the sky.

 A vicious attack with an improvised impact weapon or fists and elbows will have the quickest effect on their Central Nervous System. Smashing them against walls, furniture, and to the ground is also effective. The attack should continue until the shooter is no longer a threat.

 More than one person involved in the counter attack is even better.  Often called swarming.

Sadly, I have to include the “freeze option” since it is what will happen to most people. This option however will not likely occur that day, along with the others; they will have chosen to “freeze” long before it happens. Freezing is usually the result of denial, coupled with failing to plan. As things unfold and tachypsychia (distortion of time, usually slow motion) these people’s minds will be working double time, telling them that it is not really happening, and maybe everything will be OK if they just stay put.  Your mind becomes a Rolodex, searching for a response to the threat at hand.  If you have never thought about a scenario, you will not have a response.

There is really no greater example of the Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs, written by Col David Grossman. If you consider yourself a Sheepdog, then you are also likely going to grab those that are frozen and drag them to survival. But this, like your decision to have a plan to get out of the kill zone or to counter attack the shooter, needs to be rehearsed in your head now, not when it happens.

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