Think Outside the Box

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Sometimes, I feel like I have beaten the active shooter horse to death; but, then I read a strange case like the 2008 Wendy’s shooting in West Palm Beach, Florida. At first glance, this is no special case. A 60-year-old man walked into the restaurant around lunch time and shot a fire fighter from behind. As he turned to continue shooting, customers began to realize what was going on. He shot a few more people, wounding them. When he stopped to reload, many of the customers fled the restaurant. Eventually, the shooter turned the gun on himself and committed suicide before police arrived. As I said, nothing special, though I do applaud the customers for running when they could.

What further research revealed however, was one customer’s creativity. When the shooting began, one customer, who immediately recognized what was going on, assessed his situation. Realizing that he was in no position to access a door without being shot, he dropped to the floor and played dead. He reported that as he heard the shooter reload the gun, he thought for sure he was going to die. But, he stayed down, and as a result of his quick, creative thinking, he survived.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a fool-proof method of surviving an active shooter situation. Anything could have gone wrong. The shooter could have shot him “again” to make sure he was dead. A stray bullet could have hit him. The shooter may have realized that he had not actually shot this particular victim and finished the job. However, in this situation, the survivor took a calculated risk and survived.

There are times this type of creativity may be necessary. There are other active shooter situations in which a survivor has done something creative to survive. A victim in an office shooting hung her coat over her chair and hid under her desk. She alone survived in the office. This guy assessed his situation and quickly took a calculated risk. He survived. However, rather than teach various unique and creative strategies for surviving an active shooter, this teaches us to think outside of the box. The Wendy’s survivor knew what he was supposed to do: run, hide, fight; but when he realized that would not be a viable option, he did not freeze. He acted quickly.

Thinking outside the box and not getting frozen by fear is something that must be practiced. Here is a challenge. Walk into any building and think of ten ways to survive. As an example, let’s use Walmart.

1. Find the doors. You can use these to run.

2. Find the rest rooms (if they have doors). You can use these to hide.

3. Find the canned food aisle. Throwing cans of corn at a shooter’s head can be a great way to fight back.

Those are the basic run, hide, fight options. Now think of 7 more.

4. Run to the opposite end of the store. Shooting events normally last no longer than 10 minutes, so you are really battling for time.

5. Office rooms and the Walmart banks typically have locked rooms. If they have doors but don’t lock, barricade them.

6. Fire hydrant. Spray the shooter in the face and hit him over the head with it. You will win that fight.

7. Windows. Walmarts are typically limited in windows, but if yours has windows use them. There is plenty of heavy window-breaking equipment available.

8. If your Walmart has an auto-center, it may be possible to slip out that door if the front is blocked.

9. Hide strategically in a section with heavy tools and equipment. Sports, automotive, tools, paint, canned food.

10. Jump behind one of the counters: deli, bakery, customer service, etc.

There are numerous other options in Walmart. You won’t need all these options, but the trick is to train your brain to think through an unnecessary number of options so that when the time comes, you will be prepared. Think outside the box, and you can buy time; and in an active shooter situation, time is life.

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