Public Shooter Situations: Do’s and Don’ts | In a Heartbeat

Public Shooter Situations: Do’s and Don’ts

In the event of an active shooting situation, there are some things that could make matters worse, such as freezing in cluelessness, but if you, your employees, faculty and students, or church members are well-informed and properly trained, you can tap into that stored information. What should you do and what should you avoid? Here’s an extensive list of do’s and don’ts in case of a public shooter crisis.

Before anything happens…

Safety begins with awareness and vigilance of your surroundings. Always observe and be alert. Recognizing danger before it happens can give you a headstart to safety.

DO know the warning signs
If you look closely enough, you might be able to notice slight changes in the behavior of those around you. It is often the case that in the lead up to an act of violence, there are minor or gradual signs of change that build towards an outburst of violence. Watch out for the following:

  • Increased use of alcohol
  • Substance use
  • Unusual increase of missed school or work with unexplainable reasons
  • Drastic change to appearance and hygiene
  • Suddenly becoming aloof or withdrawn
  • Repeat violations of policies
  • Severe mood swings, unstable emotional responses, and overreaction to matters at work, at home, school, the government, etc
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage even without provocation
  • Paranoia
  • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace
  • Previous incidents of violence
  • Empathy with individuals committing violence
  • In students, keep an eye out for decline in grades, abrupt disinterest to things he used to enjoy, sleep disruptions, eating problems, evasiveness, chronic lying

DO know your way around
Familiarize yourself with the routes, exits, entrances, potential hiding places, and safe spots in your workplace, church, home, or other places you usually go to. There are many ways you can protect yourself against active violence in advance. You can learn more about what you can do in our blog post about effective responses to active violence.

During the incident…

Let’s say it’s there, it’s really happening. Your brain and body will enact a fight, flight, or freeze response. Understanding these potential responses, as well as some ideal steps in the case of violence will help you to survive this threat.

DO escape
The simplest thing you can do to save yourself from harm is to run away. This is why it is important to know where exits are beforehand. If you can, escape the premises even if others disagree or do not follow. Once you are safe, call 911 and prevent others from entering the dangerous area.

DO shield yourself
If you missed your chance to escape or the circumstances don’t allow it, the next best thing you can do is to take shelter. Stay out of the active shooter’s sight by hiding in a room. Lock the door, barricade it with heavy objects to keep it harder to open from the outside, and keep quiet.

DON’T pull the fire alarm
The noise will only create panic and add confusion. It may cause people to move in groups which attracts the active shooter’s attention.

DO fight back
If it gets to the point where you have to face the perpetrator, gather your courage and attempt to subdue the threat. Taking part in a violence response course is the best way to learn about fighting back in the safest and most efficient way.

When law enforcement arrives…

Although police officers don’t have magical powers to instantaneously deal with the threat of an active shooter, they are trained and have the best protection in order to minimize the danger of the situation. When law enforcement arrives, you must help them identify the correct person as the perpetrator.

DO appear harmless
Put down any items that you were holding, keep your hands over your head, and spread your fingers to show you are empty handed.

DON’T obstruct officers
Don’t do anything unless told by the officers, including approaching them or talking to them. Follow instructions as carefully as possible to increase your own and those around you’s chances of survival.

Sign Up for a SAVE class

These do’s and don’ts give you some guidance on what to do in a violent emergency, but the knowledge of how to apply them is another story. With IAHB’s new Surviving Active Violence & Emergencies (SAVE) program, your organization can learn how to detect and deflect active violence in realistic everyday scenarios. Please contact us at to learn more about our group SAVE classes.

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