Read on ...
This is a rather lengthy email, so I'm going to start with some really good info from the Navy about dealing with an active shooter (it's from a business card that's being handed out):
1) Provide Security/911 with essential information:
-number of shooters;
-shooter's location and direction of movement;
-type of weapons or explosives;
-number of people at your location.
2) If an escape path is available, attempt to evacuate the premises:
-evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow;
-leave belongings behind;
-help others escape if possible;
-do not attempt to move injured people.
3) If you can't evacuate, prepare to shelter in place:
-lock doors and windows;
-barricade access to your space with furniture;
-if feasible, report your location and identify people present;
-if you cannot speak, leave the line open for dispatcher to listen;
-turn off lights, radios, TV, pager, etc.;
-make your space seem unoccupied and remain quiet;
-stay put until authorities tell you to move.
4) When law enforcement arrives:
-remain calm and follow the officers' instructions;
-put down any items in your hands;
-keep your hands visible;
-avoid making quick movements toward officers.
5) If escape or shelter in place is not possible and your life is in imminent danger, take action:
-as a last resort, take action to incapacitate the active shooter;
-act with the maximum amount of physical aggression possible;
-throw items at the active shooter to distract and injure him;
-commit to your actions.
This card just came out in the last few days after I had written most of this email. I thought I'd put it up here in the front as it's a really good summary of the stuff that I'll be going into (not necessarily in this order). Also, it's a good list to print out and xerox off for all your friends and co-workers as it does lay out what you need to do in an active shooter scenario (escape if you can, hide if you can't, but be prepared to defend yourself with whatever is at hand).
So with this latest madman who decides that he must take his pain out on the world around him, it naturally raises the question of "what can I do if caught in that particular situation?" This is a very good exercise of common sense, not unlike fire drills where you wargame how to escape the house or your workplace, how to escape a car going underwater, or locating the closest exit when in a plane or unfamiliar surroundings. Is there a high probability of being involved in any of these things? Of course not, we live in a very, very safe country (you're about 100 times more likely to be hit by lightning than be involved in a mass shooting). However, it is prudent to think about it.
The first problem is that we're dealing with a person armed with a firearm. If you're facing someone with a gun, the first thing you need to realize is that distance and movement (preferably perpendicular to the bore of the gun) makes you a much harder target to hit. The more distance you can get from the shooter, the better off you are. Likewise, movement that forces him to track (even zig-zagging away) makes you a much more difficult target to hit. Ideally, as soon as you hear gunfire, you should get as far away from it as you can and look for cover if you can find it, concealment if you can't.
So what's the difference between cover and concealment? Cover stops bullets whereas concealment will not. Drywall and interior doors are concealment. Refrigerators are concealment. Pretty much anything in an office environment is concealment (except, possibly, for a coke machine or stack of 5 gallon water bottles as a sufficient thickness of fluid will stop bullets). Probably the only thing in a house that would be cover is a big safe or concrete/cinderblock walls. Once you get outdoors, things change. Fire hydrants, engine blocks of cars, car wheels, medium sized trees all will provide cover. In fact, check this video out:
Note how he used the tree as cover and at close range! Also, he only had minor injuries! The key takeaway from the video is that you need to keep the cover between the shooter and your vital organs. Also, if you step away from the cover, you magnify its usefulness. This is something that you can try with a tree. If you're close up to it, you can't peek around as easily. If you step back 6 feet or so, you can expose a small sliver of your head to see what's going on and then move to keep your heart and lungs behind the tree. If you swap places with a person, you can see what a small target you've made yourself, and how little you have to move to keep the tree between yourself and the bad guy.
This is kind of grisly, but you need to think about this beforehand. With gunshots, you are killed in one of two ways: rapid loss of blood pressure due to the holes or trauma to the brain/spine. Even if you're hit, so long as it's not your heart or a major blood vessel, you'll live. If you're hit in the heart, you still have 25-30 seconds of fight left in you before you'll black out. A head/neck shot, it's over instantly.
However, successfully doing a head shot is really hard (as thanks to evolution, we have nice thick skulls). Unless you're at point-blank range, a shot to the head won't penetrate the skull unless it hits the temple, your eyes/sinus cavity, or your spinal column. One of the folks who survived the Navy Yard shooting was hit in the head, but thankfully the bullet bounced off. Guns are not death rays, and have to hit a vital spot to put someone down. 80% of the people shot in the US who receive prompt medical attention survive. So your odds are, even if you're hit, you're going to live if you can get medical attention.
So how do you survive to that point? There are basically 4 options you have with the gunman.
1) Run like hell and get away from the situation;
2) Go to cover/concealment and have a plan of attack;
3) Hide and wait for the good guys to show up;
4) Do nothing at all.
Personally, even if I was armed, I'd be trying to get distance and move to cover (doubly so if I'm unarmed). Options 3 and 4 are what most people do, and there's nothing cowardly or shameful about it. We do not expect a mass shooting to happen to us (or, for that matter, an armed confrontation of any sort). Most of the kids that died at Virginia Tech were in the front rows and that asshole just put the gun up to their heads and shot. The same thing occurred at Luby's and Columbine. The same thing happens in combat. It's a natural reaction that probably came up through evolution as animals will do the same thing when a predator is near (namely, try to be still and hide). Unfortunately, this also puts your fate in the shooter's hand, which is not going to end well as they've already demonstrated that there is something very, very broken in their mind if they can kill indiscriminately at will.
Sandy Hook was different, as some of those hero teachers and a principal tried to confront that bastard and weren't able to stop him. They tried to act, but failed because they gunman has the ability to use his physical strength and the ability granted by the gun to use that force to strike at distance. Running at him without a plan or standing in front of people you're trying to protect will not work out well as you are outmatched in every category and you're dealing with a crazy person. If you're going to choose to engage, you need to make it as unfair for the gunman as possible as he holds all the cards. How do you do this?
1) Get a weapon and plan your attack;
2) Use concealment and surprise to force him to react to your actions;
3) Yell for help and encourage others to follow your lead when you attack;
4) Continue the attack until he is no longer a threat.
1) Get a weapon:
This can be absolutely anything. A laptop computer? Your phone? A pencil? Scissors? Books? Brooms? All fine weapons. What you want is any kind of force multiplier or something you can use as a distraction. The human mind is programmed to automatically track and protect our heads (get some nerf balls and see if you can ignore them if someone throws one at your head unexpectedly). The natural reaction is to duck or raise your hands to protect your head. Ideally, you'd want to attack immediately after a distraction, but even pelting them with stuff as you're closing the distance is going to help. Anything that's not nailed down should be going in their direction. This will overload their senses and will significantly degrade their ability to shoot accurately.
Depending on what kind of contact weapon you have, you have three attacks- crushing, stabbing, and slashing. A crushing attack would be something like a piece of 2x4, a mop handle, a beefy external hard drive, etc. Attacking the weapon (esp. the hands) would be a good idea, as would be the knees if you chose to ambush from under a table (hit the knee perpendicularly on the side if possible to maximize your chances of dislocating it). Stabbing attacks are going to be what you'd use with a pen, scissors, etc. Aim for anywhere that's not armored, and be dirty when you get in range. Eyes, ears, groin, thigh are good places. If you have a slashing weapon (a halfway sharp kitchen knife), then you're going to aim for the inside of the thighs (femoral artery), the stomach if not armored, the brachial artery (under the arm), and carotid/jugular in the neck.
A possible plan would be "Ok, I've got this softball trophy, so I can hide in the corner and then throw it at his head with my weak hand as he enters or passes by my door. As soon as I throw the ball to distract, the attack commences with my scissors until one of us is down."
The time to wargame and plan is now. You will not be able to formulate a thought out plan when there's lead in the air and fear has set in. If you have a plan, you can go into execution, and doing something, even in hindsight being wrong, is ALWAYS better than nothing.
2) Concealment and action/reaction
Fun fact: You cannot reliably beat someone by reacting to them when the decisions are at a reaction level. Think about playing hot hands (you know, dumb junior high game where you put you and your friend put your hands over each others, one person has theirs facing up while the other's are facing down. The person who has their hands up has to flip their hands over and slap the back of the other person's hand until they miss, and then the roles are reversed). Is it easier to be the slapper or the slap-ee? Even though you have a much more complicated action slapping, you can generally nail the other person most of the time. If you really want to do this, change it to where you have to have your hands fairly close together and try quickly touching the other person's palms while they try to pull out of the way. That's almost impossible.
In self-defense, the aggressor is making the decisions to use force. That's just the way it is-you can't preemptively attack someone in civilian life. You are almost always going to be reacting to someone else's life-threatening action, and that has to change if you want to beat them. The way you force that change is through your actions. By throwing something at their head, their concentration is broken and now they're having to react to you. Similarly, by zigging and zagging, you're forcing them to change how they're aiming based on your movements. Half of the battle is getting ahead. You can also get ahead through stealth, i.e. hiding. Another fun fact: How often do people engage people above them? Almost never! Where is a gunman going to be looking for victims? Probably on the same plane as himself or below (like under a desk). People RARELY look up for other people, so try getting up on top of that sturdy file cabinet by the door and ambush him from there.
What if you choose to hide at ground level by the door? Which side should you hide on? If you're on the side opposite the hinges, that's where the gun is going to be coming through. You could grab the gun with one hand and start fighting there. Another option is go on the hinge side. The door will conceal you as he enters and you can use the door as a weapon by slamming it into him and then continue the attack with whatever you have at hand.
3) Yell and scream about it:
Here's the deal. 10% of people will never do anything in a disaster situation. 10% of people will be leaders. 80% will need help in figuring out what to do. Think about what happened on flight 93 on 9/11. Once it was determined that the plane would be crashed into a building and they'd be dead anyway, they chose to go down fighting. Some of them were just too scared to get with the program, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. Some people just naturally won't fight or their minds shut down in those situations. 10% of them, the leaders, figured out how they'd attack and they got the other 80% to rise up and follow them as they executed their plan.
This attitude is something you can think about now. You're facing essentially the same fate as flight 93 if a mass shooter is coming your way. Worst case scenario is that you're dead, but did you do something to help save lives or allowed him to take your life without a fight? Personally, I'm going to take the option to fight even with bad odds as the only other choice is leaving my fate up to the gunman who already has demonstrated that he will kill at will. On top of that, there's a fair chance that if you can rally the troops to join in the attack, your chances of success go way up (like what happened with the Gabby Giffords shooting when they took the initiative at a reload to take the gunman out)!
If you're caught out in the open (like a cafeteria), as soon as you realize there's a shooter in the room, grab whatever is around and scream for people to throw stuff at him. Most people will never have considered what they're going to do and need to see an example and be given guidance as to what to do. By yourself throwing stuff probably will make you a target, but if you have two or three people with you pelting him with everything that's not nailed down, he won't be able to fire effectively and you and your friends can dogpile him and take him out. People will get hurt, but it's going to be a hell of a lot less than if nothing is done at all. You can do this now with the people you eat with and interact with regularly. Just bring it up and tell them what you're going to do. The seed is now planted with them and if, God forbid, you're involved in a shooting with them, there's a common plan of action already formed that just needs to be executed. It's your job to remind them through leadership and being loud.
4) Attack until it's finished.
Someone is going to die in a mass shooting. Best case it's just the shooter, but since they get to start the attack, he's going to get some people. They will not stop until they're brought down by force, and you can't stop fighting until they're neutralized.
There's going to blood. You will be covered in it by the time you're done. It'll be slippery and will smell like iron.
The gunman might beg for mercy. As long as he remains a threat (gun in his hands, weapons on his body), you must not stop. This isn't the movies, and just stabbing him in the chest once won't stop him. All the bashing, slashing, biting, and stabbing all must continue until he no longer poses a threat. Maybe the best you could do is gouging his eyes (which is a great idea as a gunman without sight is far less dangerous) before you get hit.
It's going to be the worst horror show you've ever seen. People will be horribly wounded around you. You might break his skull open and pummel his brain before he surrenders his weapon and stops attacking.
Your last breaths could be drawn as you watch him continuing his murderous rampage as you failed to stop him.
Some lawyer could decide to sue you for wrongful death as you continued your attack after he went to the ground. Not likely, but it has happened. Some asshole attorney could decide to charge you with manslaughter or second degree murder as you kept attacking after he no longer posed a threat. This is extremely unlikely with a mass shooter, but it is a risk as you're going into a primal rage and your only goal is to take the SOB out. Don't let that stop you. You _must_ continue the attack until you no longer feel that there's a risk of great bodily harm or death. The shooter started the fight, and you're going to have the resolve to finish it, even it means killing him.
I know this is horrible stuff, but think about it now. The time to be horrified of your actions is after you stop your attacker. Brace yourself now for what you're about to do. The goal you have is to take this worthless SOB out, and all you have is a pair of scissors. How are you going to hold them to stab the best? What would it be like to try and stab someone with them? What would their reaction be and what damage would it do to them if you stabbed them in the neck?
Absolutely grizzly, but it's part of what you'll encounter. These things can't distract you when you're attacking. You have a man, so he's naturally stronger, and he's armed with superior weapons. You're forced to be more savage than him, so prepare yourself to go into a primal kind of rage. Adrenaline will help, but pull no punches or strikes. Every one of your attacks must be launched as hard as you can as they may be your last.
This is the warrior mindset that you have to adopt if you choose to go this route. The gunman has left you with no alternatives and it's either fight or die. Be ready to be the most bloodthirsty savage imaginable and don't stop attacking until the threat is neutralized.
In summary, here's what to do:
1) Plan out what you're going to do now. Make a note of likely kill zones (areas where the shooter can inflict maximum damage from one location, like a ledge overlooking a cafeteria) and choke points (like doorways).
2) Figure out routes of escape if a shooter appeared at various places. Look around for concealment and cover along those routes in case a new shooter appears while escaping.
3) If you're trapped and sheltering in place, think about where you'd hide, what you can do to barricade yourself in, and how to defend your space.
4) Figure out what everyday items could be used as weapons and how you'd use them in an attack.
5) Remember, if you have no choice but to attack, your only goal is to take them out by any means necessary. Use strategy and savagery to eliminate the threat.
Finally, when the cops show up, drop anything in your hands and don't do anything that could get you shot. They're every bit as scared as you are and are trying to take out the threat (probably more so as they're going into danger and not just looking for a way to escape). Follow their instructions, keep your hands up, and don't make any sudden movements.
Hope that helps, and feel free to get in touch with me if you want to talk more.
Dr. Bochepus (nama samaran)