How to be prepared for an active shooter scenario

Active shooters and mass shootings have become comparable to natural disasters in America as of late. While that’s an unfortunate thing to have to accept, the resemblance to a natural disaster means one important thing: there’s a preparedness plan. Like hurricanes, earthquakes or floods, there are things to do and steps to take to give yourself a better chance should you be involved in an active shooter situation. Here are some tips, tricks and important information to give students some peace of mind.

Locations of active shooters in the U.S. from 2000 – 2017. Information provided by Graphic by Griffin Dehne.

Communication is Key

As stated by the Department of Homeland Security, a wise precaution is to develop a plan with your friends and family as to what to do in the event of an active shooter. Emergency numbers should be memorized in case you have to use a phone that’s not yours and coming up with a phrase or word to use to quickly tell someone that you’re in a crisis can be helpful should you end up in a situation you can’t quickly escape from.

Be diligent about telling your friends and family where you are or where you’re going, and around what time you think you’ll be back. This is important, because if you’re unresponsive for a certain amount of time or don’t come home at the time specified, they know your last location. This way, they’re able to look for you or alert authorities if need be.

Also, if you see someone acting suspiciously (such as excessively moving their hands in their pockets or refusing to take their hands out of their pockets, wearing oversized clothes or carrying a large bag), be wary and do your best to increase your distance from them. It would be even wiser to alert nearby employees to keep an eye on this person, so they can be ready to call the police quickly if need be. Though it seems paranoid, being quick to report something cagey could mean the difference between life or death.

Another tip from the Department of Homeland Security website is to make sure that you’re subscribed to active alerts by local authorities. As a student, you should be subscribed to Otter Alerts. If you’re not currently subscribed, the process is easy – log on to your dashboard, click on “Your Account” and scroll to the bottom. There, it will prompt you to enter your phone number to sign up for Otter Alerts. Press “Submit” and you’re set.

Being active in the line of fire

When outside the home, the first step to making escape more likely in an active situation is to seat or position yourself as close to an exit as possible. This way, should you see that someone is in the process of instigating an active shooting scenario, escape is not as far fetched as it would be if you were in a back corner. If you’re able to help those close to you escape as well, the Department of Homeland Security urges you to – though, it’s just as heroic to escape and alert authorities while you’re out of harm’s way.

If escape isn’t an option, the best chance of survival is to get out of sight and stay quiet. Silence all electronic devices (making especially sure they won’t vibrate) and stay still. If they’re within reach, turn off lights, lock all doors and shut all nearby windows. If a room or building is difficult to get into, it increases the time it would take for the shooter to get to you – thus, increasing your chance for survival.

In your hiding spot, be sure it provides protection should shots be fired and you’re out of sight. Under no circumstances should you leave the spot until it’s clear authorities have intervened and the shooter has been apprehended.

As an absolute last resort, the Department of Homeland Security strongly suggests fighting for your life. They say as a last effort to live, to be prepared to do serious or even lethal damage to the shooter. Doing things like throwing something at the shooter to distract and disarm the shooter as an individual or with an inspired group of others using surrounding objects as weapons can overwhelm the shooter, and render the area safer.

After the shooter is under control, perform basic first aid to those who need it until paramedics arrive. If someone is injured and unconscious, it’s essential to keep them on their side and warm until a professional can take over. However, be sure to tend to yourself first – otherwise, you won’t be as capable of helping others as you would be otherwise.

Other things you can do to prepare

A few suggestions by the Department of Homeland Security are to sign up for self-defense and basic first aid classes that could be useful in the event of an emergency. Also, since active shooters are an unfortunately common problem, there are also classes offered to teach you how to be mentally prepared to act quickly.

While there isn’t a way to be absolutely certain or completely prepared, receiving basic training and being aware of what to do can help save yourself or those around you.

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