Active Shooters in the Office

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

The media does an excellent (and maybe too good of a job) at covering active shooter situations in schools. When we think of active shooter situations, we tend to think of them occurring in schools. However, in the 160 active shooter incidents surveyed by the FBI between 2000 and 2013, only about 24% of active shooter incidents occurred in schools. Now, this is not to say that school active shootings are not an issue, and this is in no way meant to downplay the importance of this issue. However, it seems that we may be overlooking something important. While school shootings ranked second in frequency, almost 46% of shootings happen in office buildings and businesses, making businesses the top-ranking location for active shooter situations. That being said, have you ever even given that statistic thought. Have you ever gone to work, sat down at your desk, and taken just five minutes to think through what you would do if there was an active shooter? I challenge you to make survivalist thinking part of the visit no matter where you go. When you walk into a restaurant, a grocery store, walk in a parking lot, or your office, be thinking about the entrances, the exits, the rooms with the thickest walls, the room with the biggest/most accessible windows. Preparing yourself is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself, your family, and your coworkers; and it takes no more than five to ten minutes of active thinking.

So, on that note, let us venture into the world of the office and survive. What should you do if an active shooter comes into the building. By now, the answer should be an automatic impulse. Run, Hide, Fight. The answer is always the same three steps. The only difference is the location.

RUN. Sit down at your desk. Give yourself a minute or so to look around the room. Now close your eyes. How many exits are there? Where are they? What is on the other side of the door? Is it an actual exit or a closet? Now imagine the shooter coming through each door and based on his location in relation to you, decide which exit you will use. You may not feel it now, but if you do this exercise once a week or so, if an active shooting does happen in your workspace, you will be glad you took that time to prepare. The response will be instinctive. Now, do this same exercise in the office bathroom. Is it a single stall or a multiple stall restroom? Does the door lock from the inside? Does it swing in or out? How close is it to the exits? Do this in the breakroom, the elevator, the stairwell, the conference room. How well you prepare yourself is directly correlated to how hard you are as a target.

HIDE. Hide should be actively pondered in much the same way as Run. Sit at your desk, in the breakroom, in the bathroom, in the conference room, in the elevator. Is your current location a good place to hide? Now, to clarify, hiding is not huddling in a corner and hoping the shooter does not find you. In fact, once he does, that makes his job that much easier. When we say hiding, we are referring to active hiding. This involves knowing your surroundings, how thick the walls are, how many people can fit into the space, which direction the door opens. This is about creating levels of resistance between yourself and the shooter and potentially having to take the next step in your defense.

FIGHT. Fight, as always, is a last resort; but it is a much better option than dying. Therefore, the more unfair and aggressively you can fight, the better. Here is a challenge. Go to each of the aforementioned places in the office and find five things you can use to defend yourself. Think outside the box. This is not necessarily a gun, though a gun is an excellent option to have until law enforcement arrives. This is a stapler, a fire extinguisher, a pair of scissors, a can of soup, and a hole punch or coffee mug. These are the everyday heavy objects that, when thrown at an active shooter, will throw him off-guard. Believe it or not, you have weapons the active shooter does not have, and you need to use them. You have the element of surprise on your side. Also, keep in mind, when carrying a gun, the shooter only has one free hand, so he is, in a way, crippled. Now imagine if 10 cans of Progresso soup came flying at your head the moment you entered a room. Would you not be surprised? The shooter has two options. 1) He can drop the gun and hold both hands up to protect himself, which makes him vulnerable for people to rush him. 2) He can continue holding the gun and defend himself with his leftover hand, making him vulnerable to a well-placed can of soup in the head. Either way, you and your team have the advantage.

Active shooter situations are scary, but you should not approach preparation out of fear. Fear is a paralyzing force; instead, empower yourself. Think like a survivor, not a victim. Think outside of the box and ahead of time so that if an active shooter situation ever does happen, you are a powerhouse of survival instinct. You will be glad you prepared, and so will the people around you.

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