Bang! Bang! Bang!
Gunfire erupts several shots near the entrance of your business. You drop the phone and freeze at your desk.
Not smart. Paralysis makes you lose precious seconds that you and co-workers could use to save your lives. You need a plan, forged in advance of crisis, so you can react fast.
“When startled by a gunshot, it’s a natural human reaction to freeze,” according to an active-shooter training video from the Department of Homeland Security. “Unfortunately, this response leaves you vulnerable to what might come next.”
When an active shooter enters a workplace, overcome the instinct to freeze. Kick into action. Quickly determine where the gunshots originated. Don’t necessarily rush down the stairway to the exit. That move could make you the next target.
According to DHS, take action in this order: run, hide, fight.
Run in any direction away from the gunfire. Distance from a shooter boosts your chances of survival. Have an escape route and plan in mind. Help others escape if you can. Move fast. You may have to leave wounded people behind.
“If you own a business or operate a large public facility, you may be able to better enable individual response to such events,” the DHS said, “by identifying emergency escape routes and exits. Design evacuation plans that can be used by employees and guests. This training may be the difference between life and death. See about technology you can incorporate to make your facility safer.”
Employers can equip staff with a “go kit or emergency laddering in case you are not on the first story,” the DHS trainer said. “Explore mass-notification technologies.”
Trapped in the building? Look for places to hide. Close the door, lock it, shove a desk or bookcase against the door, then another. Make it tough for anyone to push the door open. Then get away from it in case a shooter fires through the door or walls. Keep your body close to the floor to minimize your size as a target. Silence your cell phone so an incoming message or call doesn’t give you away. If you can call 911 but cannot speak, leave the line open.
“If the shooter is right outside your door, is it the best thing to walk out that door and go down the corridor? Maybe not,” said Rainer Navarro, captain and trainer of the SWAT team for the Santa Rosa police department. “Do you have safe rooms, a hardened area?”
Sometimes these tactics fail and a shooter bursts into your office or cubicle, firing. As a last resort, fight for your life and lives of co-workers. Be fierce — animal with survival instinct. Don’t cower in fear. Yell. Throw something, improvise a weapon.
“Your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him/her,” DHS said.
“Assume that your actions are all that stand between yourself, your colleagues and grave harm,” the trainer said. “Fight for your life. Search around you for sharp or heavy objects that you may use to disable the attacker. Collaborate with those around you. You are taking action for your survival. Do not hold back. Do not stop fighting until you know you are safe. Commit to your decision.”
“There’s always an element of surprise” and the shooter “may not be expecting a person to take them on. It may be enough to overcome him and save the lives of others. It depends on your personal confidence,” Navarro said. “Not everybody is going to be able to do that,” he said.