Not long ago my family and I were hiking in the national forest, a short drive from Colorado Springs. As we hiked, we could hear some locals practicing their firearm marksmanship skills, which was not unusual, until my wife noticed that the gun shots sounded like they were “zzzzrrrrp” shooting in our direction. That whizzing sound in movies is a real thing and it is scary … especially when “zzzrbam” … a three-inch tree exploded about eight feet from my head!
Someone across the valley was shooting blindly into the trees, and I was now hollering loudly to get their attention. From that point forward, everything was an automatic response based on similar scenarios I had rehearsed in my head. With no time to think, and nothing to hide behind except one to four-inch diameter trees, I had to figure out quickly how to keep my family safe as we were still 1,000 feet from the top of the hill. My wife was scared, the kids were scared and bewildered, and four out of five of us were almost frozen in place.
No one really knows how they will react to an active shooter, but pre-planning and rehearsing gives us a better chance of doing the right thing and provides a better chance of survival. In the presence of an active shooter, there are three key options: Run; Hide; and Act.
When there is an accessible escape path, it is wise to increase the distance between you and danger. Some recommendations:
- Plan your route
- Break, and escape, through a window if needed
- Don’t be afraid to go alone
- Help others escape if possible
- Don’t take personal belongings
- Do not attempt to move wounded people
- Call 911 when you are safe
When evacuation is not possible, find a place where the active shooter is unlikely to find you. Some recommendations:
- Choose a location out of the shooter’s sight
- Provide protection (solid objects) to avoid injury from ammunition
- If possible, don’t trap yourself by not having an escape route
- To prevent the shooter from entering your hiding place, lock and block the door
- Silence your cell phone and remain quiet
- Call 911, if possible. If you can’t speak, leave the line open so the dispatcher can listen
When the prior options are unavailable or insufficient, attempt to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter:
- Throw something! Anything! (chairs, books, staplers, chalk, shoes, etc.)
- Attack, tackle, yell, fight!
When the police arrive, they usually arrive in multiples and may have a hard time distinguishing which person is the actual threat. Remain calm, follow instructions, empty your hands and raise them with fingers apart. Move slowly and gently tell the officer what you will do before doing it.
Most importantly, think through the scenario in advance so you can react well. At your place of work or worship, it may be a good idea to have a preparedness discussion with the person in charge of security or the head of the organization. There is more good information at dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf and ready.gov/active-shooter.
For my family and me, running and hiding were not viable options. Fortunately, I was carrying a handgun. In the national forest, it is always loaded the same way … the last two shots are specifically designed for bear. Since yelling did not stop the threat, I fired back two shots in a safe direction (away from the road and trail) a little east of the shots being fired in my direction. And the shooting stopped. My family continued our hike. A few minutes later, someone yelled up the hill, “Hey, what are you doing up there?” To which I replied, “Hiking with my family, what are you doing down there?” I never received an answer. We finished our hike up and over the ridge and stopped to rest in the safety of some huge boulders.
Merriam Insurance recommends you be prepared for the unexpected. Contact us today to learn how we can help.