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Keven Moore: Surviving an active shooter not about being fearless; it’s about swift, definitive decisions

Following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Americans are once again reminded of how vulnerable we all are. As the authorities try zero in on the motives behind the shooting, there are lessons that can be learned – lessons that could better prepare you for an active shooter situation.

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The Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s), and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Most incidents occur at locations in which the killers find little obstruction while mounting their attack, known as soft targets with limited security measures to protect the public of place of work.”

When faced with an active shooter situation, many people freeze or panic and make wrong decisions, or they simply may fail to make any decisions at all, rendering them victims-in-waiting. Have you ever wondered why when some people are faced with death they seem to have the resolve to survive? While others freeze in their tracks, as if they didn’t have a choice? The art of survival is not about being fearless, it’s about making a definitive and swift decision to live, doing whatever it takes to achieve that end result.

Here are some tips from the FBI on surviving an active shooter event:

‣ Be aware of your environment and always take note of the two nearest exits.
‣ Quickly evacuate if there is an accessible escape path and then leave the premise.
‣ Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow, and leave your belongings behind.
‣ Remember to help others, such as those with handicaps or injuries, to escape.
‣ Customers and clients are likely to follow the lead of employees and managers during an active shooter situation, so remember to direct them to safety.
‣ Warn and prevent other individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
‣ If evacuation is not possible, hiding out is the next option, so find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.
‣ Your hiding place should be out of the active shooter’s view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door).
‣ Hide behind large objects such as a file cabinet, printers, furniture, to shield you from harm.
‣ If you are in an office and unable to escape, stay there and secure the door.
‣ If you are in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door.
‣ To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place, lock the door or blockade the door with heavy furniture.
‣ If the active shooter is nearby, remember to silence your cell phone and/or pager; turn off any source of noise and remain quiet.
‣ Quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life.
‣ Dial 9-1-1, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location and if you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.
‣ As a last resort, take action against the active shooter in an attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by acting as violently and aggressively as possible against him/her.
‣ Locate improvised weapons such as a chair, fire extinguisher, lamp, letter opener, and defend yourself by hitting him/her or throwing items at the active shooter.
‣ If you are forced to neutralize an active shooter, remember to commit entirely to your defensive actions and don’t stop; your life will depend on it.
‣ If you are forced to neutralize the active shooter, remember that there is safety in numbers and solicit as may people to assist.

It’s important to know that the first responding officers to arrive on scene will not stop to help injured people, because it is their job to find the active shooter to neutralize the threat. So remain calm and quiet, follow their instructions and wait for additional responders and emergency medical personnel.

If you have picked up an improvised weapon, set it down and keep your hands where the police officer can see them. Remain quiet and don’t’ draw unnecessary attention toward you and the police officer. Avoid making quick movements toward officers. Likewise, avoid pointing, and don’t stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating. Just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premise.

If asked, provide useful information such as the location of the active shooter, number of shooters, physical description of shooter, and number and type of weapons held by the shooters. If there are other victims or other known people hiding then share that information as well.

Remember it’s human nature to experience fear; it is also natural to experience anxiety in these situations. But fear and anxiety can be paralyzing when we face dangerous situations. Those who survive take on a survival mode mentality. Charles Darwin once said that “It’s is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” In an active shooter environment, the survivors don’t become paralyzed with fear, they are the ones where their fire within, burns brighter than the fire around them.

Be safe, my friends.


Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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