News about the Orlando shooting is everywhere — plastered across social media, as headlines on daily newspapers and nightly news, as the main topic of late night monologues. This latest tragedy is heartbreaking, and it not only brings home the fact that terrorism can hit at any time in any city of any country, it also reminds us we need to be prepared. What can you do in an active shooter situation to up the odds of survival?
The latest tragedy in Orlando, Florida, is now the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Since this terrorist sought to kill using guns, once again, the topic of gun control has surfaced. As emotional as it is, what people forget is that these massacres are not a gun violence issue — they are a hate violence issue. And until the true problem is addressed, a true solution will never be found.
Weapons used for killing have included pressure cookers (Boston Marathon); fertilizer (Oklahoma City bombing); knives, machetes, and acid (Daesh) — the list goes on. It is violence that grows from hate, whether an active shooter situation or a terrorist group, and that issue must be addressed.
Until hate is eradicated, which, let’s face it, will probably never happen during our time on Earth, we must have safety plans in place to protect ourselves and our families in case something like an active shooter or some other kind of terrorist attack occurs. Terrorism is here, and it will touch you when you least expect it.
Just like developing a plan in case there is a fire in your house — know your exits, have an emergency bag packed, have a communication plan in place between you and your family — the same thing applies here, only this is specifically in case of an active shooter situation.
There is training available that specifically addresses active shooter situations, because, sadly, they are happening more and more often. You can also contact your local police department for information for your school or business. Although we pray this will never happen to us, here are some things you can keep in mind, just in case.
- Before you go to an event, always tell somebody where you will be and give a general time-frame.
- When you get to a venue, especially if it is with a lot of people and in a closed space, always identify where the exits are, whether it’s a dance club or the mall. Always know which direction you could run to exit the premises.
- People-watch. Everybody has that sixth sense. Is someone acting suspiciously? Find a security guard and alert them. It’s better to be alert and it turn out to be nothing.
- Note what they look like. You can get a description of clothing, however, someone could easily take off a blue shirt to show a red shirt beneath. Note features that wouldn’t change: hair color and length, mustache, beard, piercings, tattoos, etc.
Obviously, having an active shooter near you will cause panic, but it is imperative to keep a cool head. It is beneficial to think these things through ahead of time so there is less thought involved and more automatic action. There are basically only three options during an active shooter situation.
- Escape: If you can get out, get out! If you can take people with you, do it. Grab as many as possible on the way out and stop others from coming in.
- Hide: If the exits are blocked or there is no safe way to get to one, barricade yourself in a room, lock the door, turn the lights off, silence your cell phones, make it seem as if nobody is in there. Try to get behind something that will stop bullets from getting through, whether it’s a desk, a conference table on its side, or a vending or copy machine.
- Fight: If there is no way to escape and nowhere left to hide, and the absolute last resort you have left is to fight, at least do it right. Get as many people as possible involved. Use anything you can as a weapon. Do it like you mean it. If you hesitate, you or somebody else can get shot or killed.
It is helpful to law enforcement if you can get a description, as referenced above, of the shooter so you can tell them who they’re looking for. Also, try to note if there is just one shooter or more than one, what kind of weapon(s) they have, and which direction they were headed.
It is very important to decompress and move forward at your individual pace.
- Allow yourself to be in shock and take time to heal, whether you were a victim or a first responder.
- Fully cooperate with law enforcement.
- Go to counseling if you need to. If you have survivor’s guilt, please get help.
- Talk with your kids at an age-appropriate level about what happened and give them a few of their own safety tips of awareness.
- Give fear time to work its way out of your system, but don’t allow it to win.
- Help others. It takes the focus off of your stress. Like JetBlue is doing, providing free flights to those affected by the Orlando shooting.
Since all situations are different, whether the motivation of an active shooter is hatred or bias or mental illness or warped ideologies, the single most important thing for us all to remember is that we are all different, and the freedom to be different is what this country is founded on. “Love, compassion, unity” will move us forward and lessen the hate that continues to be a threat.
Be safe. Be aware. Be strong.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]