Surviving When an Active Shooter Is In the Building

Surviving an Active Shooter

Active shooter situations are usually over within 10 to 15 minutes, so this means you will have to deal with the situation on your own for what feels like an eternity until police arrive. Even when the police arrive however, the situation may continue for hours, because in some cases, the shooter barricades themselves in the building with hostages.

The result is usually either the shooter is killed by police or they take their own life. It is rare that potential victims manage to take down an active shooter. It does happen though, as was the case in Minnesota. A former police officer named Jeanne Assam was at church when a 24-year-old gunman named Matthew Murray began firing at parishioners in the parking lot. Murray claimed two victims before Assam opened fire on him with her personally owned concealed weapon. After receiving multiple hits from Assam, Murray then shot himself (Broderick, 2007).

Assume you will not have a firearm in your possession, so your objective is cover from rounds and concealment from the shooter until you can evacuate the area. Unfortunately, in most cases you will not know there is a shooter until shots ring out and this usually means there is a victim, a first casualty that alerts you.

Gather Information before You Need it to Save Your Life

  1. Know the exits and know how to get to them from your office, break room, workstation and so on.
  2. What can cover and conceal you in your office or workstation such as a filing cabinet, desk, door that can lock heavy machinery and so on.
  3. Evaluate your surroundings no matter where you are, so you have some semblance of a plan for when the shooting starts.
  4. If confronted by a shooter what can be used as a weapon? The last resort is to attack the shooter. You cannot simply stand there and be shot. You have to act by, yelling, throwing something at them, and attacking the shooter by throwing your body against them or striking the shooter with something in your hands.

If you do have an office or access to one stay inside it with the door locked and/or barricaded. Contact police immediately and give them the shooters’ location or suspected location and your location. Put your phone on silent, or leave the line open and shut off any radios or televisions in the office.

If you are in an open area drop to the floor, move away from the sounds of gunfire toward the nearest exit, and do not try to carry things with you. If getting to an exit is not possible look for cover and concealment. Your mind will be reeling but you have to stay calm and not let yourself be trapped.

When the Police Arrive

The first team’s objective is to neutralize the threat. The first team will not render aid to the victims. A second team usually consisting of EMT’s and law enforcement will attempt treatment/evacuation of the wounded first and then attempt evacuation of others.

Initially police will not likely know the shooter, so anyone with a firearm in view will be considered a threat so do not have a firearm in your hand. Inform police if you are armed.

Keep your hands in view at all times once the police arrive, and expect to be questioned off site once all people inside are accounted for. You may experience tear gas or pepper spray and officers may seem rough at first, because they may push you to the ground if you attempt to stand up in some cases.

You may be asked for identification and searched in some cases if the shooter is still at large, or if police suspect there is more than one shooter.

There should be emergency protocols in place in every workplace, so make sure you know your company’s emergency action plan. There may be a specific area to gather in, for example, and other emergency procedure that the safety officers within the company would want you to follow. However, plans are subject to change and this means of course you may have to adapt as the situation calls for.