When Run, Hide, Fight Won't Work

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

What to do if there is a Shooting in a Public Venue

On October 1, 2017, 58 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in what has been dubbed “The deadliest mass shooting of modern American history.” The Las Vegas shooting was an American tragedy, but is there anything we can learn from it? We have discussed how to respond to an active shooter in three steps: Run, Hide, and Fight. However, in a situation like Las Vegas, that does not necessarily work. The limited access points to the outdoor venue prevent running, instead creating an even more dangerous bottlenecking situation that allows the shooter to pick off dozens of people from his position of relative safety. The open space provides nowhere to hide, and the position of the shooter makes it impossible to fight him. What should you do in an open environment?

Sadly, there is not much you can do. Most of what you can do falls into the time you spend preparing and getting situated in the first place. It really starts with situational awareness. If you are the event coordinator, there are multiple things you can do to help prevent the shooting before it even happens. Make security planning a priority, appoint someone to be in charge of safety, consult with the local police and fire departments, conduct a risk assessment, and sweep for bombs in the area. One of the biggest problems with public venues is that the entrances and exits are limited, resulting in hundreds of people rushing a limited exit and getting stuck. It is safer to have multiple exits, and emergency evacuation procedures established with your security team before the event.

If you are one of the potential thousands of eventgoers, there are a few preparatory steps you can take before the event as well. This is a good time to engage in some situational awareness training. Scope out the venue when you arrive. Where are the entrances and exits? How many are there? How many people are there? Are there enough exits for the number of people in the venue? Ideally, find a seat or place to stand as close to an exit as possible. Be aware of suspicious persons or activities within the crowd. The damage may come from within or without. Be aware of the location of the venue in relation to the area around it. Is it surrounded by tall hotel buildings? Is it in an open field? The environment determines where the threat will come from.

If there is a shooting, dart for the exit. Get out and away from the entrance as quickly as possible. If you notice that others are piling up near the exits, help with crowd control so that others can get out of the venue. If you cannot run, try to hide. Take cover in a corner or shield yourself with something. Unfortunately, this is the best you can do to hide. If the shooter is within the crowd, fighting may be the best option. Tackle the shooter and toss the gun away. However, if the shooter is not in the crowd, as in Las Vegas, fighting may be impossible.

In a public venue, a shooting is likely to be detrimental. While there are some preventative awareness tactics you can use to prepare yourself, there are a limited number of effective response techniques. If you can get away from the venue, you are successful. Beyond that, all we can do is prepare and hope that we don’t actually need any of those preparations. Las Vegas was a tragedy we can never forget, but may that unfortunate event help to prepare us in the future.

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