An active shooter is an individual set on killing or attempting to kill several people in a confined and populated area. Shooter situations are often unstable and escalate quickly. Also, shooters rarely follow a distinct pattern or method to their selection of victims. These types of crisis are usually over within 10-15 minutes before law enforcement arrives to handle the situation. Therefore, potential victims need to be both mentally and physically prepared to deal with the emergency.
Statistics show that 96% of the time this type of violent crime happens in a “gun free zone.” The chance of potential victims carrying a firearm is minuscule. Furthermore, the best chance for survival comes down to training in an incident response plan. There is two type of response plans that are in debate; The Run, Hide, or Fight or the Move, Escape, or Attack method. Though both are similar, they are still very different. Each set of words triggers a different set of psychological responses.
Is Run, Hide, or Fight the Best Response to an Active Shooter?
The Run, Hide, or Fight practices for dealing with an active shooter are to be aware of your surroundings, locate the nearest exits, and hide in an area out of the shooter’s sight. Barricade the entry to your hiding place and lock the doors if possible. If you do cross paths with the assailant, only when your life is in imminent danger, act with physical aggression. Attempt to immobilize the shooter if you cannot flee, such as throwing items or using fire extinguishers when the shooter is in close range.
The problem with the Run, Hide, or Fight model is that it does not encourage the warrior mindset. Nor does it adequately prepare potential victims to save themselves or others involved in the crisis. We as humans are wired to do one of three things when fear sets in; Freeze, Flee or Fight. Even if the potential victim decides to flee or fight, they usually freeze initially before moving towards flee or fight mode. Panic induces a type of paralysis that leaves potential victims likely to freeze in an active shooter situation. Which case in point leaves them in a dangerous position.
Is Move, Escape, or Attack the Best Response to an Active Shooter?
The Move, Escape, or Attack method may be a better strategy. Verbiage does matter when embedded in an incident response plan because words influence mindset. The last thing a potential victim should do is freeze. Moreover, this freeze response often happens when the victim is in a state of confusion or shock due to the sudden violence that occurs during an active shooter incident. So that leaves the question of why do we freeze in situations of danger? Well, the answer is simple. Freezing is a built-in impulse controlled by ancient circuits in the brain as a part of our predatory defense system.
The “Move” command jump-starts the mind into problem-solving mode and breaks the freeze response while propelling potential victims into action. After the feet start moving, the brain can then evaluate the appropriate response to the situation. The “Escape” command implies that the victim removes themselves from the area of danger using any action to increase the distance from the shooter. The “Escape” command consists of finding a temporary hiding place or fleeing the scene altogether. Psychologically, the “Attack” command is more of an offensive type word whereas the “Fight” command is more defensive when processed. The emotional strength of the “attack” command will prompt a potential victim to use aggressive violence when in self-defense mode.
How Do You Respond Once Law Enforcement Arrives?
Once the police have arrived on the scene, remain calm and follow their instructions. Put down any items you are carrying in your hands (i.e., jackets, bags) and immediately raise your hands with your fingers spread open. Make sure to keep your hands visible at all times to prevent first responders from assuming you are the assailant. Avoid holding on to the police officers for safety. Making quick movements towards them such as this prohibits them from locating and removing the threat. Instead continue to move in the direction the officers are entering the premises and avoid screaming, yelling, and pointing during the evacuation process.
In conclusion, whether you decide to adopt the Run, Hide, Fight practices or the Move, Escape, Attack method, it all comes down to training and keeping your warrior mindset. Both of these methods are an advancement over the traditional “lockdown” model and have evolved due to the increase of active shooter threats that have plagued our country.
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