PRR – Students – Active Shooter
Active Shooters are individuals who participate in the action of killing or attempting to kill individuals in a populated or confined area. In many cases, the perpetrator has possession of firearms and does not have a clear direction or pattern of targeting victims. Many of their actions are unpredictable and can escalate quickly in a short amount of time. Situations involving active shootings on average occur within 10 to 15 minutes before law enforcement arrives on the scene, so it is important to prepare both mentally and physically if such an event should occur.
Although not many schools administer active shooter drills, they should have student handbooks that discuss recommendations on how to react during certain scenarios. Some other tips to consider as a student are to take note of places you frequently visit and locate areas you could take cover during active shooter situations. Be aware of alternate exits (side doors, windows, etc.) in buildings and classrooms: you want to have another plan for getting out of the room or building safely if the main exit is compromised. Having an idea of escape routes and hiding spots will also decrease the chances of you freezing on the spot should an event actually arise.
If you have suspicions that a classmate or peer may pose a threat to you and your school, you should address this to the school administrator with credible information about the threat. Other people you can contact include the campus security, law enforcement officers, and the FBI. Some states implement anonymous lines and apps that allow students to share potential threats without having to interact with authority figures in person or over the phone. One organization that emphasizes this idea is the Safe2Tell program in Colorado, which ensures that students, parents, teachers, and community members have access to a safe and anonymous way to report concerns to local responders and officers.
Lockdowns may also be initiated by schools. They are intended to protect the students, staff and faculty should an active shooting event happen. Individuals can be notified of lockdown procedures through voice announcements, emails, or text messages. When initiated, normal school activities cease until the threat has been eliminated. If you are notified of a lockdown while off-campus, do not attempt to go on campus; find a safe place to stay until you are notified that the process is cleared.
Generally, school lockdown procedures instruct students on how to react during these situations. Common instructions are to run to the nearest classroom or office if the student is inside, then proceed to shut and barricade the door with heavy furniture or objects. Doors should be locked inside, all lights should be turned off, and blinds should be closed. All individuals are to remain out of sight from windows and doors and stay quiet. If students are in their dormitories, they should lock the doors, not let anyone in, and stay quiet and out of sight. Whatever the case, follow the lockdown drill instructions and do your best to get familiar with the process so you are prepared in the case of an active shooter incident.
This type of event often lasts only a few minutes, as police are often notified immediately after shots have been heard. Thus, surrounding individuals must act quickly to protect themselves. As according to the Harvard Police Department, there are a few steps to take in the event that an active shooter is identified on campus:
This should be your first instinct, immediately following your awareness of the gun shots and identification of their general location. Run the opposite direction, as fast as possible, with the goal of finding shelter and help.
As previously mentioned, when attempting to evacuate the area, move yourself as far away as possible from the affected area and then find a secure location to reside. However, if running is not a viable option, find a place nearby to hide. This place should be out of sight, not easily accessible, and secluded if possible.
Before committing to this step, be sure that all other options have been exhausted. If neither fleeing, nor hiding is possible, the final option would be to confront the shooter, incapacitating them if possible.
While this information is provided by UCLA, this advice may have valuable consideration at any university campus.
When an active shooter is present, call 9-1-1 to notify the police if you feel that you are in a position to do so safely. Other options for notifying authorities include the use of the Bruin Safe App. When police arrive, they will proceed to the location at which the gunshots were most recently heard in an effort to detain the shooter first. They will not stop and attend to injured victims if the shooter is still active. This is in an attempt to prevent further injuries. If you see an officer and have any information on the shooter or their location, please tell an officer as it will aid in their search. When given instructions, it is best to remain calm and act as told. Once you are in a secure location, you will more than likely be questioned and assessed.
In terms of area specific course of action, UCLA provided pointers on what to do in specific situations that can be found here. If in a classroom or office, it is advised that you act as if you are in a lockdown drill. Turn out all lights, shut and secure window and doors, hide out of view of the windows, and remain silent. If the shooter is gauged to be removed from the immediate location, carefully and quietly exit the building through windows or doors and find a secure location few from the scene.
If you are currently in a hallway when the active shooter on campus is announced, the first step is to find the nearest location that is securable. Then, follow the steps similar to when in a classroom. However, if there is an exit nearby, you may want to run quickly, over a short distance to remove yourself from the affected area. Otherwise, do not run down hallways.
When in a large open space, look for any material or structures that could be used to conceal or protect you. Brick walls, concrete structures, and vehicles are good examples of cover locations. If in a large, open building, such as an auditorium, make your way to and out all exits and move towards police units or a secure location, given that the gunman is not present.
When Dealing with an Active Shooter in Proximity
If you are every trapped in a space with a gunman, the most important consideration would be to follow their instructions and not attempt to provoke them. If given the possibility, contact the authorities to either speak with them or leave the call open so that they may listen to the situation. Again, Bruin Safe is a key resource in this situation as it contains an emergency plan to follow in the event an active shooter, and provides emergency contacts, as well as crime map.
In the event that the shooter begins to open fire, there are three choices that you can make:
- DO NOT MOVE: This decision is based on the idea that they may not see you if you are not moving or may miss you. An extension of this is the idea of pretending to have died. The logic of this is that the shooter is looking for live targets, and may not shoot you if they believe that they have already done so.
- RUN: When making the decision to run, it should be to the closest exit that is unblocked. It is advised that the runner replay a zig-zag patter because that will make t more difficult for the active shooter to hit you.
- ATTACK THE SHOOTER: This choice is not recommended, however, if given no other viable options, attack the shooter as a last resort. They will likely not expect this.
It is extremely important to remember that these situation are not predictable, thus creating a definite plan is complicated. However, the previous advice are all valid and important considerations to be familiar with in the event of an active shooter emergency.
When an active shooter event concludes, one should take certain measures to re-establish safety and mitigate any physical and/or mental damages that may have resulted from the incident. When the active shooter no longer poses as a threat, make sure you are in good health and do not have any injuries. If you are harmed, get assistance and medical help as soon as possible. If asked by a first responders or law enforcement, provide information about the event such as the number of weapons or potential victims, location of shooting event, physical description of shooter, and your personal experience if inquired. Notify your immediate family members and inform them about the situation and your condition. Do your best to remain calm and follow protocol. If you would like to receive counseling to resolve or manage any traumatic stress you may have experienced, look for resources that are often provided by the institution.
Incidents such as these can be upsetting experiences for everyone involved and should receive support throughout the recovery process. While recovery takes time, here are some ways you can get back into a comfortable routine:
- Take care of your safety by finding a safe place to stay
- Meet your physical and mental health needs by maintaining a balanced diet and getting adequate amounts of sleep so that your body can recover
- Surround yourself with those who can love and support you
- Set priorities and tackle goals in small steps
- Gather resources and information that can help you during the recovery process
- Stay positive and be open about sharing your experience with others