Image of hospital worker survivng an active shooter

No one heads off to work, school, the mall or the movies believing he or she will encounter an active shooter with a grievance and a gun. And yet, more and more, innocent Americans face such terrifying situations and, because they are unprepared and untrained, will have to fight past their own panic, disbelief and denial.

“Survival can be messy, emotional and chaotic,” said FBI special agent Jin Kim, who gave SBH staffers a dramatic lesson this week in survival training. “The first reaction is ‘Oh my God,’ and then comes a level of fear – which can be debilitating – and a lack of information, as most never see the attacker or hear the gunshots. It’s a terrorizing trifecta.”

Kim offered the following information to staff, with advice that this advice be shared with each one’s loved ones:

  • Everyone involved in an active shooter event is managing time – including the attacker. Most killing is done before law enforcement ever arrives.
  • The decision window is seconds for victims to decide whether to run, hide or fight.
  • Exterior access must be a top priority. In the case of people at work or school, this should mean knowing three to five ways out of the building ahead of time.
  • Get out – don’t worry about taking any personal belongings.
  • If you choose to barricade yourself in a room, use whatever is available to keep the door between you and the attacker. This can include pushing furniture (e.g. hospital beds) against the door, or using such things as cable or telephone wire, doorstoppers, cargo straps or eyebolt screws to prevent access to the shooter.
  • Look for makeshift weapons, if necessary, such as a fire extinguisher.
  • Never cower in the corner or hide under a desk. Always keep mobile and keep something in front of you – such as books – to deflect gunfire.
  • If you end up confronting the attacker directly, go for the eyes and remain a moving target.

“Playing dead” can be a successful ploy – it saved the life of a six-year-old at Sandy Hall Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.