OSEA Safety Blog

Surviving an Active Shooter Attack

Thursday, July 26, 2018 Amanda Coniglio

250 FBI-designated active shooter incidents* occurred in the United States between the years of 2000-2017, starting with one incident in 2000 and rapidly climbing to 30 incidents in 2017 alone. Sadly, 2018 is showing little to no chance of dropping below that number, and it has become more important than ever to add rigorous Active Shooter Preparedness plans, training and drills into your safety repertoire within the workplace!

By now, we have all heard of the basic “run, hide, fight” cadence in response to incidents. If you can run and escape, run; if you can hide, hide; and if you are all out of options, fight back. This can be generally sound and simple-to-remember guidance, but sometimes people will opt to hide which can essentially make them sitting ducks and ultimately decrease their chances of survival or they will run when they are too close to the assailant to safely do so (please note, this is not always the case as EVERY incident, building, and location is different) and are hesitant to fight. The newest push in Active Shooter Preparedness is to meet an attack with counter violence which studies are showing can increase the rate and number of survivals during an attack.

What you need to know about meeting an active shooter attack with counter-violence: the shooter is there to cause casualties, they’re there to intimidate, scare, and feel powerful, they are not expecting anyone to stand up to them. Therefore, a counter attack has the potential of startling them which can give you the time to subdue or neutralize them while waiting for first responders (most incidents are over within 2 minutes).

Some tips to keep in mind/consider:

  • Before committing to a counterattack, look around you for an improvised weapon (coffee pots, scissors, or other heavy/sharp objects) that can multiply your force;
  • Throw stuff at the shooter; blind him if you can with laser pointers, hot liquid, cleaning products, etc.
  • If possible, attack from the side or from behind, and always be as aggressive and violent as you can.

By training on active shooter preparedness and rehearsing a plan, you can better protect yourself as well as employees in your workplace. Most people freeze or hesitate when their bodies go into the fight or flight response. The goal of training and rehearsals is to make the run, hide and/or fight reaction, choose which is appropriate at each stage of an attack, and ingrain it in your brain as to decrease the amount of processing time from incident to response. Your plan, training, and rehearsals should absolutely include the concept of counter violence and, if possible, include some hands-on self-defense training designed to give your employees confidence in their ability to protect themselves.

*This blog post is written to address Active Shooter incidents (defined as: an individual actively engaged in killing or intending to kill people in a confined space or other populated area) and not Mass Shootings (defined as: as an incident in which 4 or more people, including the perpetrator, are injured by gunfire), although many of the same principals apply should you find yourself involved in either type of incident.

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