I find it curious how our definitions change. Disasters come in all different shapes. Ordinarily we think of tornadoes, blizzards, house fires, or earthquakes. Recently we have been forced to add another category: Man-made disasters. In recent memory it was attacks by terrorists on our military installations and naval vessels. Now it has come to include active shooters in schools, malls, theaters, workplaces and even churches.
The odds are still astronomical that you will ever be involved in one of those situations. But with a school shooting at a nearby community college and now a company Christmas party it seems someone is turning up the volume, so to speak, on man-made disasters. With the worldwide political climate being what it is experts aren’t seeing a decrease in violence any time soon. At least one college president (Liberty University) is calling for students to get their permits and carry concealed. County Sheriffs all across the nation are urging responsible citizens to do the same. “The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun!”
So put yourself in this scenario. You’re in a building and hear shots fired. Most of us have trouble dealing with that because we just can’t believe it’s happening. Our normalcy bias kicks in and tells us since we’ve never been involved in anything like this, it’s probably just a backfire, someone dropped a stack of books or some other innocuous loud bang. By the time most people come to grips with what is actually happening they have lost precious time they could have used to better their situation.
The City of Houston, Texas, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security has produced a video designed to offer a plan for what to do if a shooter “goes active” in your space. “Run, Hide, Fight,” is a six-minute video offering advice you hope you never have to use.
Most shootings are over within minutes, and by the time the police arrive the shooting has stopped. It is in those first few minutes the action you take may save your life or the lives of others.
Run. Get out of the there! Leave your purse, your cell phone and anything else you think is so important. Go out the back door. Get others to leave with you, but without wasting time convincing them to do so. I don’t mean to sound selfish here, but this is YOUR life at stake. Get out and get away. And try to not look like a perpetrator. There just may be police or security personnel out there and if your hands are raised and you’re crouching, that may score some points for your non-perp-ness.
Hide. Sometimes you can’t get away. The shooter is between you and the exit. If it’s an office or class room, barricade the door, hide in a closet, under a desk or table. Get out of the line of sight of someone looking to find you. And don’t forget to silence your phone!
Fight. As a LAST resort! This is the one that seems to raise the most controversy. If a shooter is bent on taking lives, there is no sense in just letting him have his way. Don’t just stand there waiting to be another statistic. If multiple people rush a shooter, he can’t get all of you. Grab something to use as a weapon and when he enters the room, take him out!
I really hope none of us ever need this information. But decide right now to do something if that moment ever comes. A little “preparedness” may come in handy and just might keep you alive.
As always send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us.”