The recent tragedy in Colorado brings heightened awareness to the capabilities of a determined individual. What is referred to now as the “active shooter” is unfortunately a commonly heard term not only in law enforcement circles, but in our society as well.
Many people wonder “why”? Why would someone target large masses of people, especially children or the elderly? The answer is simple: high profile, low resistance targets. What you should understand is that Active Shooters are not looking for individual targets. Active Shooters have one objective and that is mass casualties.
The Columbine High School shootings opened our country’s eyes to what even children are capable of. Since Columbine, law enforcement has not only been evaluating our responses to Active Shooters, but also evaluating tactics used by those who survive these types of attacks. Through case studies, one thing is clear- potential victims who chose to be proactive dramatically increased their chances and countless others’ chances of survival.
For example, Dave Sanders, a teacher at Columbine High School, sounded the alarm in the school cafeteria and ordered students to evacuate seconds before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered the cafeteria. Dave Sanders obviously saved many lives that day by being proactive.
My goal is not to frighten anyone- it is to help make you aware that by planning and educating yourself and those around you, you can increase your chances of survival by being prepared. Below are some strategies that can be used to survive an Active Shooter situation:
Communicate quickly. Information is very important. If you are in an office building and you see someone walk in the front door with a weapon, get the information out by any means at hand- mass emails, phone, PA, etc. Alert everyone in the building as to the gunman’s location and direction of travel. Those who are not in the immediate area of the gunman are then given the opportunity to escape.
Create obstructions. Those who are in positions near the gunman’s location but cannot escape still have options. Barricade the door to your room/office with objects in the room-desks, chairs, filing cabinets, etc. Remember, the gunman is there to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. If a gunman reaches your door to find it locked and barricaded, chances are he will move on to look for easier targets. This also increases the time the gunman is not engaging while law enforcement is responding.
Prepare for the gunman to breach the door. Be ready if he makes it into your room. Gather objects that can be thrown at gunman. Books, telephone, staplers, anything that will be a distraction. Move. Not much skill is needed to pull a trigger at a stationary target. Anything you can do to decrease the gunman’s accuracy changes the dynamic and increases your chance of survival. The Active Shooter is not expecting to be struck with flying objects. Can you imagine walking into a room and suddenly 20 people at once throw a 3lb book at you? If 5 of those 20 people throwing objects rush the gunman and hold his arms, he physically cannot overpower them. During the Virginia Tech shooting, many victims were shot while sitting underneath their desks. Students in one classroom on the second floor did something that no others did-they jumped. As Professor Liviu Librescu held the classroom door, students leapt to the ground. Obviously many students were injured in the fall but they survived the attack. Professor Librescu heroically gave his life by holding the door, allowing time for his students to escape.
Always look for the opportunity to escape. Constantly look at your surroundings, and then do what you have to do to survive.
Create as much distance as you can between yourself and the gunman. If running, don’t run in straight line. Make yourself a difficult target.
Mentally prepare. Use the “what would I do if someone began shooting right now?”scenario in your daily life. You could be at the grocery store, work, school, etc. Prepare yourself for the situation and you will be ready to respond. Someone once said, “Experience is something you get right after you need it”. My hope is that none of us ever gain this experience, and that this information may help you prepare and protect yourself, your family and coworkers for an event that you never experience.
Pfc. Melvin is a police officer in the City of Milford and assigned as School Resource Officer for the Milford School District. Pfc. Melvin is a Certified Instructor through the Delaware Council on Police Training and has 10 years’ experience as a police officer.
If you have any questions contact Pfc. Joey Melvin at 302-430-7918 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.