Actions For You & Yours In An Active Shooter Incident

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Active shooter again today.  This time it's at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School (#StonemanShooting) in #ParklandFlorida.

Every time there is an active shooter incident, it is a chance to think and talk about how you would react.  It is a chance for you and your people to think about how you all would navigate an active shooter incident.

This is important.

It sucks to think through these things, but it will help you if – heaven forbid – you or yours are in an active shooter scenario.

How would you feel, as a student?  How would you react, as a parent?  As a teacher?  A spouse?  A friend?

Thinking through a scenario before it happens helps you not panic, to freeze less, to focus, and to take decisive action in a crisis.

Would you panic if your kid was in a school in a live shot on TV, where kids are running out of the building with their hands up – running past cops with big guns?  Would you panic if one of your kids texted you from inside a closet, hearing gunshots?

Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t panic.  That’s a good starting point.  If you are in touch with someone who is stuck in an active incident, they will be scared.  You can help them to not panic, too.  Having some actions to take can help you focus.  Being aware that you are panicking can help you shift away from it.
  • Breathe.  Remember to breathe.  Even taking a few seconds to breathe in a crisis can cause a shift in your reaction.
  • Schoolkids and some workplaces do training and drills on active shooter procedures to prepare for the worst.  You can talk through what might have been covered in that training – and what was not.  The training itself should cover the protocol that is encouraged for a shelter-in-place or evacuation.  Training may encourage a “run-hide-fight” approach, and you can talk through that and where there would be challenges.  Humans have a natural fight, flight, or freeze reaction as well, and that’s worth considering.  What happens if you freeze?  How do you “break” that freeze – even if it’s only for a moment?
  • Think through a hiding scenario.  Absolute silence can be a key to hiding.  You can talk to your kids or family about silencing any cell phones if they are hiding.  You can do texts and not phone calls.  You can have an open line with your kid, and mute the sound on your end so there is no sound on their end if they are in a dangerous spot.  That will work better if you talk through it ahead of time.  You can text while there is an open line.  Kids can help other kids with these things as well.
  • Remember that those inside the emergeny need to remain focused on the scene, and not on texting you every moment.  They are in the emergency – not you.
  • Training won’t cover what it’s like to hear gunshots, or to see injuries.  Consider talking through a potential scenario, or pre-view a video showing a tough scene that you can then talk about at home.
  • Here’s something else:  if there are injuries, those on site can STOP THE BLEED.  If there are injuries, people trapped in the incident can help stop active bleeding until paramedics can get to the injured.  It may save a life.  Go to the Stop the Bleed website to learn more, and to practice at home.  The site has how-to videos and more info on why this is critical.
  • You can think through a potential response as a person outside the scene as well.  What you would do if you got the call, notification, or news that someone you love is trapped in an active shooter scenario.  How would you help them stay calm and navigate the situation – or escape it safely?
  • If this is a known incident and police are already at the scene, there is no need to call 911.  The 911 system can quickly overload from concerned parents and citizens.
  • Know your school or workplace’s plan ahead of time for connecting with those impacted by the incident.
  • Don’t drive directly to the incident.  There should be an area set up for parents and family to gather, and that is the best place to go to.  There should also be a communication channel to track down your people and get updates.  This may be a phone line or physical location.
  • Police, firefighters, EMS, dispatchers, and schools have response plans set up to respond to worst-case scenarios.  It will help if you can let them do their job.
  • You may have to wait for information.  You may have to wait for a very long time, depending on how long it takes to secure the scene.  It will seem like a whole lot longer than it actually is.  Find people you can talk to, and help where you can.  In any emergency, there are always people with varying levels of stress, fear, and panic.  Look for the helpers in the group, or be one if you can.  It can keep you busy, too.
  • If your school, workplace, or community has an emergency notification system, sign up now.  Keep your info in the system up to date.
  • Follow the Twitter or Facebook pages for your school, workplace, and local law enforcement.
  • You can ask school/organization leaders for information about what they would like family to do if there is an active shooter scenario.  If they don’t have a plan, you can encourage them to find best practices and develop a plan.

The nature of emergencies is that we don’t know when they’ll strike.  Not one of us are immune.  Being ready for the unexpected can help us deal with crisis when it happens.

Share your comments below on your own actions to get ready for an active shooter, or any take-aways from incidents you have survived that may help others be ready.

(This isn’t a spot for gun ownership opinions or politics.  Any such comments will be deleted.  We all know guns are the shooting part of active shooter scenes.)

This IS a place to face risk and talk about it.  The risk is:  we never know when an active shooter will strike, and they are dangerous.

We can be more ready, though.


A version of this post was also published on here on Facebook.

Interested in more support or work on this kind of incident, or on something related?  Check out private coaching at inclusive pricing rates.  Public speaking and consulting is also available on active shooter / active threat prep.  We are better prepared for high-risk low-frequency events when we work through them ahead of time - at home, at work, or with our organizations.  Call for more info.  This site and organization is here to help.

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