MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The United States Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” Generally, there is no specific pattern to choosing victims.
There are, however, established guidelines to help individuals survive the situation. If caught in the midst of a hostile active-shooter situation, there are three approaches to maximize chances of survival and assist in the apprehension of the shooter.
The first approach to surviving an active-shooter situation is hiding. It is imperative to first observe your surroundings, and seek a room for shelter. Immediately lock the door and improvise a barricade with nearby furniture if necessary. Ideal furniture can include chairs, podiums and desks. When it is safe to do so, contact emergency authorities and remain in place.
While cellular devices can be considered useful, they present both an advantage and a threat to surviving an active-shooter situation.
“It is important to keep cell phones on silent,” said Niki McBain, emergency manager, Force Protection, G-7. “If a cell phone rings or makes any noise, it can give away your location to the shooter.”
The second approach to making it through an active-shooter situation is fleeing the danger zone.
In this instance, it is important to observe any accessible escape routes and leave the premises if possible. Leave any and all personal possessions behind and, if able, lead other co-workers out of the building.
Once successfully away from harm or danger, seek the assistance of authorities. At this point, keep hands visible and slowly approach first responders. If anyone is wounded nearby, leave them in place and seek attention from first responders to assist. Cooperation with first responders is vital. Give any details that may assist with identification and apprehension of the shooter.
“The first thing the victim needs to do is relay to the first responder as much information as possible,” said Capt. Ben Gutek, operations officer, Provost Marhsal’s Office. “Anything that will paint the picture, whether it is how many victims are alive or injured, or where the shooting is taking place.”
If all else fails, and only if one’s life is in imminent danger, it is advised to take action against the shooter to increase your chance of survival.
“Fleeing and hiding are important,” McBain said. “To fight is the absolute last solution to dealing with an active shooter.”
Improvise weapons if possible, and seek to incapacitate and disarm the shooter. Commit to your actions once they have begun.
If incapacitation with an active shooter is successful, contact the authorities when it is safe to do so. The phone number for Combat Center emergency is 830-3333.
“Everyone must remain calm and know what they need to do,” Gutek said. “Rehearsals help in this scenario. If people follow instructions, it helps the first responders be more effective in the performance of their duties.”
For more information about guidelines in an active shooter scenario, visit http://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.