Above: There are some things you can do to protect yourself in active shooter situations. Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay.

Sometimes We Have to Talk About Unpleasant Things

Dr. DaShanne Stokes, an expert on American politics, culture and civil rights, once said “Thoughts and prayers won’t stop a speeding bullet.” Isn’t it crazy that we have to plan for this? But it seems we do. The number of people caught in mass shootings in public places in our country appears to be rising.

There are countless theories as to what goes through the mind of someone willing to shoot mass numbers of innocent people he does not know. For you, why the shooter stalks and then shoots innocent victims is not important. NOT being one of those innocent victims is.

This year has been an overemphasis of that point. I’ve had my fill of so-called experts and pundits, offering mindless lip service rather than constructive and productive information.

Three things that I know about active-shooter incidents.

One, if you have prepared in any way, your chances of surviving increases. Two, if you remain stationary, you will die. And three, panic will freeze you and you will die.

Prepare. I met a firefighter who told me an interesting story. He said that when he traveled and checked into a hotel, he paced his steps from his room to the nearest exit, counting each step, knowing that in a fire, the thick smoke blinds and disorients the victim searching for an exit. They crawl around but since they cannot see, they don’t know where they are going and die from smoke inhalation.

He went on to say that in 1980, while staying at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas, the hotel caught fire. Faulty wiring caused a fire that spread quickly to other parts of the hotel. Thick smoke quickly filled the hallways. He saw the fire advancing but when he opened his door, he saw nothing but smoke. He knew that unless he moved quickly, he would die.

police line tape
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

He recalled the direction and step-count to the exit. He wet a towel that he wrapped around his nose and mouth, and then proceeded to move quickly along the hallway, feeling his way along the wall while he counted steps. Even though he was unable to tell the difference between doors, he stayed with the step count until he reached the magic number. He felt the door. It was not hot, so he opened it to discover the stairs.

He moved down the stairway and eventually to safety. Eighty-five people were not so lucky and died in that fire, many trapped in their rooms. His point was simple. Have a doomsday plan.

To survive something, what would you do? Survival is the bottom line of going home or not. That’s why you should think of nothing but creating your action to survive. No rules—none!

Panic will kill you. You need to force it back by concentrating on what you need to do to survive.

Look at the options available.

Are there windows and if so, are they locked or unlocked? How high up are you? Second floor? If you jump, you may break an ankle or leg. If you have the choice of injuring yourself or being shot, I would say most of you would soon be airborne.

If you’re trapped, with no other escape available, fighting may be the only option. First, do what you can do to barricade the door, even pushing against it as a last resort. If that fails, think through the urge to panic and fight. Surviving is a powerful motivation, sidelining your panic if you recognize the threat at hand. Listen for gunshots. Are they coming closer or fading? If they are fading, then it is time to make a break for it. If not, do you have a chance to surprise the shooter? Can you position yourself alongside the closed door to surprise and jump the shooter?

Remember the Gun Goober who likes everyone to know he has a gun? He just may be the guy who stops the threat or perhaps the one who gets it first because the shooter saw him and his gun. Too bad for him, but you can only play the cards you are dealt, so if that card means you have seconds to move away from the threat, then fight the urge to panic and freeze, and start moving until you have no other choice. Then you fight.

Do you have a weapon with you? This might be a good time to use it to stop the threat. If you have no weapon, then remember: create movement. Moving targets are hard to hit.

Do yourself a favor when you go out to dinner or a movie. Did you look to find the exits? and did you think “what if?” Remember to react and do your best to move away from the threat.

The good news?

Chances are that you’ll never have to experience such a horrific event, but in the back of your mind, in a particular environment, large store, movie, public gathering, festivals, etc., it would be a good idea if you took a mental note of how you would clear a dangerous area.

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.