How to survive an Active Shooter

What can we learn from the Orlando nightclub shooting?


Run, Hide, Fight

As tempting as it may seem, it’s impossible to second-guess the strategies of the people on the receiving end of the terrorist attack inside the Orlando nightclub as a terrorist turned it into the scene of the worst terror attack on US soil since 9/11.

Some hid. Some ran. Some who hid died. So did some who ran.

Which is right? It depends.

But there are certain things that we can say are true in most situations.

Rule 1: run

Away is always better than stay. If you can get away, do it. Go!

The principle here is to create distance between you and the attacker as fast as possible. Move with purpose, if possible, place obstacles between the attacker and yourself by running around a corner, between cars, or whatever will interrupt the attackers’ line of sight. If caught in the open, running in a zig-zag pattern will make it much harder for the attacker to shoot you.


Do not run directly towards a police officer without showing your hands clearly. Listen for commands and direction from the officer, Obey!

You do not want to be mistaken as an attacker by the police. You are likely to get shot if they think you are a threat.

Do not stop to help others unless you are sure it is safe to do so.

Though it may go against your nature, you are likely to lose time and get shot.

Stop others from unknowingly entering the area.

Don’t interfere with police response (remember, responders may not be in uniform)

Call 911

Don’t assume someone else did!

Rule 2: hide

If you decide to stay, there are three things you should do –

  1. Make it difficult for someone to find you;
  2. Make it difficult for someone to get to you; and
  3. Be prepared to be discovered.

Make it hard to be found.

When you choose a hiding place, really hide. Just being in a small room, a closet, or a bathroom might not be enough. Consider hiding behind or under something, rather than just standing in the middle of the room and waiting to see if the door opens. Also, make sure your phone is silent; it’s not uncommon for friends and relatives to try to call to check on you.

Make it hard to get in.

In most mass shooting situations, the shooter wants to move quickly. He usually looks for the easiest target. If he tries a door and can’t get in, he might go to the next door rather than waste time forcing his way through.

Of course, if he finds a door locked, he might suspect someone is hiding inside. So he might try to shoot the lock or kick the door in. That’s why you need to push furniture up against the door or jam a broom or a chair or whatever works under the handle so that it can’t be pushed open, even if the lock is shot out.

Do whatever you can to make it time-consuming and difficult for the attacker to get inside. Do not be coerced or otherwise persuaded to come out by the attacker pretending to be the police or emergency services.

Be ready to be found anyway.

But, with all of that said and done, you have to be prepared to be discovered.

If you are found, you have a couple of choices. You can plead and/or beg for your life; just sit or stand there and get shot. Or you can fight.

Rule 3: fight

If you have to fight, you must unleash everything you’ve got. You have to use extreme violence and aggression. This is not the time to hold back. This is not the time to turn the other cheek. This is a fight for your life and the life of others. Thrust your fingers into the eye socket of the attacker. If he can’t see, it’s harder for him to kill you. Get others involved, the more people, the better the chances are that you will win.

If you have A gun, use it.

It’s unlikely that you have a pistol with you, but if you do, or you can get one, now is the time to use it. Aim for center mass; if you miss the target, you are more likely to hit another body part. Don’t stop shooting until you are certain that he is incapacitated.

If you are not armed

If you have something you can use as a weapon, use it. A chair. A mop handle. A fire extinguisher. A desk-top copier or scissors you can throw. An umbrella can be a spear. Anything is better than nothing.

Don’t stand right in front of the door. If the attacker shoots before opening the door, you’ll get hit. If the attacker comes through the door and you’re standing there, you’ll be the first person he sees.

Stand to the side or behind something, and be ready to fight for your life.

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