‘Run, Hide, Fight’: Ohio State University Attack Advice Goes Viral, But What Does It Mean?

In the aftermath of Monday’s Ohio State University attack, three words had gone viral as news outlets were processing what had just happened, who had perpetrated the attack, and why the attack had taken place. These words – “Run, Hide, Fight” – were issued by OSU Emergency Management officials in a tweet, and also included in text messages sent to students. But what do those words mean in the context of campus attacks, and why did they become so controversial?

On Monday morning, Ohio State students were gripped with fear as a man reportedly drove into pedestrians using his car, then emerged from the vehicle wielding a knife and stabbing people in the span of just five minutes. According to USA TODAY, the suspected attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, had injured 11 people before OSU police officer Alan Horujko fatally gunned down the young suspect.

Social media was also abuzz in the aftermath of the Ohio State University attack. Facebook’s “check-in” feature was activated for the first time in Ohio history on Monday, and for only the fifth time in the U.S. And on Twitter, the “Run, Hide, Fight” instruction had quickly trended. USA TODAY wrote that the OSU Emergency Management tweet had been retweeted close to 2,300 times about four hours after the attack took place. As of this writing, the advice has gotten close to 20,000 re-tweets.

Although guns were not involved in Monday’s incident, contrary to what was initially posted by OSU officials on Twitter, the guidance to “Run, Hide, Fight” applies to all kinds of situations where an armed person is involved. Chapman University (California) chief of public safety Randy Burba told NBC News that he supports this methodology, regardless of the type of weapon being used by the attacker.

“That basically is an emergency alert to let the campus know there is potential danger and if you can run, run, and if you can hide, hide.”

Although it was only during Monday’s Ohio State University attack that the mantra was publicized in depth, NBC News notes that it isn’t a new idea by any means. “Run, Hide, Fight” was first conceptualized in Houston in 2012, as city officials created a video promoting these tactics as a means of defending oneself in any shooting. The video received the backing of the Obama administration, with the Department of Homeland Security helping out and the government extending a $200,000 federal grant. It was created in the aftermath of that year’s Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting, as officials believed most people weren’t sure how to respond in such events.

NBC News added that while the wording may be similar, and not exactly the same, “Run, Hide, Fight” has been used in other educational institutions aside from OSU. Bowdoin College, Georgetown University, Indiana University, and New York University were mentioned as schools which support the guidance.

Despite the guidance having received the backing of government officials in the past, “Run, Hide, Fight” comes with its share of criticism. Earlier this year, and well before the OSU attack, a blog post from Police One opined that there are some fundamental problems with the advice, starting with the so-called “freeze” people feel in unexpected violent situations not being taken into account.

“The problem with the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ model is that it ignores the possibility that a victim will freeze when attacked. This is critical, because the vast majority of the public lacks the mental conditioning and physical skills to adequately deal with violence, making them especially likely to Freeze in an active shooter situation.”

The blog post also posited that the advice is flawed due to its promotion of fixed “linear thinking” and its promotion of non-aggressive behavior that leaves most people ill-prepared for such events.

Additionally, there have been some critics who believe that the “fight” component of “Run, Hide, Fight” is especially questionable. National School Safety and Security Services president Ken Trump told NBC News that the stage where an attack victim has to “fight” is a “highly controversial” one that has not yet been accepted on a mainstream level.

[Featured Image by John Minchillo/AP Images]