Goodbye Tragic 2012! 9 Tips for Active Shooter Awareness

On December 14, 2012, it was a usual, busy morning, and I didn’t pay attention to the news until everyone on my social network started to update their status with their sympathy about this heartbreaking news. Our team started to talk about it and even today our hearts are still heavy thinking about the poor angels who lost their lives in the terrible Sandy Hook shooting in CT. With the holidays, it makes us especially sad thinking how these families had their children senselessly taken, right before Christmas. No matter what time of the year it is, it is the families that suffer the most from these tragedies caused by active shooters.

It immediately reminded me one of the seminars that I attended held by the US Department of Homeland Security and learned about this phrase “Active Shooter”. Active shooters are defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”

That is the particularly frightening part- there is no discernible pattern or thought process for selection of victims.  “In most cases there is no way to predict when and where the shooter will strike. Even though there may be common characteristics active shooters share, there is no one specific profile for an active shooter, so predicting this type of violence is highly unlikely,” according to the Minot Air Force Base Antiterrorism Office.

Recent incidents involving active shooters are the Columbine High School and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Part of the problem of these violent attacks is the lack of security. “The incident locations have often been described as soft targets with limited active security measures or armed personnel to provide protection for members of the public.”

The best way to help mourn the loss of life is through prevention and education. Here are some key points we took from attending the DHS interactive workshop, and tips from the Minot AFB:

1. If you hear gunfire, very quickly evaluate the situation.

2. If you can’t get out of the building or immediate location of the gunfire safely, find a place to hide and shelter-in-place. Take cover and stay calm. Your best chance to avoid being shot is to remove yourself from sight. Work as a team if you’re in a group.
– Go to a room, barricade doorways; turn off the lights, get down on the floor and hide if possible; make the room look unoccupied.
– Make sure no one can be seen from outside the room, remember to lock doors and silence your ringer and vibration mode on your cell phone.
– Remain quiet as if no one is in the room. Do not answer the door, and wait for law enforcement to assist you out of the building.
– If you are hiding in a room, law enforcement will eventually be clearing each room, stay flat on the floor with your hands on your head and do not move until you are given instructions.

3. If walking down a hallway when you hear gunfire, look for an open room to hide in. Barricade doorways; turn off the lights, get down on the floor and hide if possible. Remain quiet. If the room has shades or curtains, close them.

4. Always try to escape or evacuate even if others insist on staying, don’t let the indecision of others slow down your own effort to escape. If fleeing, you should have an escape route and plan in mind; also, notify anyone you encounter to exit the building immediately.
– Do not attempt to carry anything while fleeing.
– Do not attempt to remove wounded or injured people.
– If outside, get behind a tree or wall; lie down and wait for rescue.
– If in a parking lot, hide behind the front tire/engine of a vehicle.

5. Consider overpowering the shooter only as a last resort; work together or alone, act with aggression, use improvised weapons and fight for your life.

6. Once you are out of the line of fire, try to prevent others from walking into the danger zone and call 911. Provide law enforcement: Your name, location of incident, your location, number of shooters (if known), the number of persons that may be involved, and any injuries to any one (if known).

7. What to expect from the first responders:
– Law enforcement will respond immediately to the area in which shots are being fired or last reported. Their purpose is to stop the shooting as quickly as possible.
– Most first responders will be armed; if you know where the shooter is, tell them.
– The first law enforcement officers on scene will not stop to aid the injured. Follow-on teams will come in after area is secured

8. While these incidents may be near impossible to predict, there are mitigating actions that can be taken to minimize the effects of such an attack. First, you must be able to “realize” and “accept” the event is happening. Next, you must “evaluate” the threat in relation to yourself and take “action” from that perspective. Finally, you must sound the alarm and alert law enforcement ASAP.

9. ALWAYS report suspicious activity and behavior. If you see something, say something by dialing 911 in an emergency.

Learning the tips above is one important part, but what preventive actions can be taken as soon as possible?

  • Access Control with a visitor management system
  • Crime prevention through environmental design is another area architects need to focus on.
  • How about adding a lock vestibule?
  • If there’s no gun control, all staff in the school should have training instead of waiting for police response if incidents happen.

Until our world is rid of violence like this, we must be alert and aware of our surroundings. Our hearts go out to the 26 victims and their families, and can only hope a tragedy like this never happens in your town.