Updated: May 28
Are You Prepared for an Active Shooter or Other Critical Incident?
Mass shootings and terrorist attacks seem to be daily news lately. Firearms and explosives have long been the preferred choice of active shooters and terrorists, but new tactics and weapons have been added – vehicles and knives. Most recently in Nice, France and Berlin, Germany, trucks were used resulting in the deaths of 98 individuals and the wounding of 486 others. In Columbus, Ohio an attacker used a car to ram into a cluster of pedestrians and then used a large knife to slash several others before he was stopped. Knives have been used in many other attacks in England, Germany, Israel and even China with devastating results.
It is obvious these attackers had a plan before they undertook their “mission”. Planning on their part was done to help insure some level of success. Many CCW holders fail to have any plan at all except to use the gun to stop an attack. The problem here is that the solution to a problem like this will probably be a bit more complex than just having or producing a firearm. There are several things that must be taken into consideration.
In the event of an attack you must realize that First Responders will be arriving … eventually. Even with a short response time, there will be a period of time that you will be on your own. Depending on several factors, that time could be anywhere from 2-3 minutes to hours. Whether you survive or not may be directly dependent on how well you prepared yourself and your family. Instead of waiting for the First Responders to arrive, we, by default, become Immediate Responders – ordinary people who can save lives just by having a plan and some preparation.
A close friend who has literally written the book on preparedness planning, Paul Purcell, recently told me this:
“… I did an active shooter training for a small medical group and we were all sitting around the table and they asked, "What's the most important thing?" I immediately slapped the table loud and hard with both hands. There was a whole lot of gasping and pearl clutching, and I said, "That." "The hard part is reacting under stress." So I recommended classes and activities that would help them keep their head …”
There are a number of training courses you can attend that will help you develop the ability to react properly under the stress of a critical situation. Active shooter or terrorist attacks will no doubt be chaotic situations and generally, the simplest methods are best. Paul put together the following after the bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon.
“For bringing order out of chaos, which is the close cousin of keeping your head, I teach folks using the acronym S.C.O.R.E. (This) stands for Self, Companions, Others, Responders, and Evacuation. When the action starts, check yourself first, and then immediately include the companions you're with. From there, tend to others, either protecting them or providing first aid after the fact. Next, responders will be arriving (after you have played immediate responder) and they'll need to know triage info and Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)s will need intel. After that, the area's a crime scene or an unsafe environment and you'll need to at least get you and yours out of there, and maybe you'll need to help the responders with multiple victims.”
What follows are some guidelines that offer strategies that you can use to protect yourself and your family against an active shooter ambush or terror attack. Whole volumes have been written on how and what can be done to prepare for an active shooter or terrorist attack and the information given is generally very good. It is, however, often tedious to plow through and frequently not very valuable to the average citizen. These suggestions are merely that – suggestions and hopefully food for further thought.
1. Attackers Know Their Targets
The recent fights at the dozen or so malls across the U.S. is testament to the fact there is a need to be prepared everywhere you go. You must be environmentally and situationally aware at all times. Terrorists and active shooters know their targets and have possibly done surveillance or conducted a pre-attack ‘walk-through’ before the attack.
You should be as familiar as they are with the places you frequent on a regular basis. This includes the grocery store, mall, movie, your workplace, etc. Does this mean you should not go shopping, out for lunch or to a movie? No. But what we must do is not let these bastards keep us from doing what we want.
2. ALWAYS be Armed.
We should have learned this by now. The most reliable way to stop a terrorist or active shooter, is with a gun. You won’t negotiate a terrorist or an active shooter out of dying and you don't want to risk running up and trying to tackle him. They generally want to die.
Get your concealed carry license ... get the training ... and wear your gun daily! Again, you and I are going to be the immediate responders – the "sheepdogs" of society – and we need to protect the flock.
3. Targeting Options
Whether it's a terrorist or a "shooter" in a mall, we've seen these guys come in ready for war. It is also a good idea to assume that your target will probably either be wearing a bomb or, possibly, a bulletproof vest. What are your options to help insure an immediate cessation of the attacker’s actions?
Option 1 – Aim for the head
Considering the situation (innocent bystanders, on-going killing, etc.), missing is not a choice. One option is to crouch low while aiming at the head. The head is a hard target (small and moving) to hit in general. By crouching low and aiming up at an angle, you reduce your exposure while buffering your backstop. This however is not always an option.
Option 2 - Shoot at the pelvic area
There is some controversy about shooting the pelvic area. It is a large target and striking it may take away the attacker’s structure and mobility while you follow-up with subsequent shots. There are also large arteries in the pelvic region. Handgun calibers generally do not have the terminal ballistic power to shatter the pelvic bones but may result in enough damage to cause an interruption of activity allowing for follow-up shots.
While there are many other options, these are two of the more reliable ways to stop an attacker quickly.
4. Prepare Your Gear for an Ambush
Part of being an immediate responder isn't only being ready when the weatherman says a storm is coming. It's about being prepared for the ambush. The sudden, unexpected attack - the terrorist attack or the active shooter.
To be useful, your gear must be with you and instantly accessible. Carrying a concealed weapon isn’t just something you ‘do’, it is a lifestyle and there will always be compromises if you make the decision to go armed. There are the normal considerations – What gun should I carry? What kind of holster/belt? Ammunition? But what about your other equipment? Should you carry medical supplies? What about other use of force options such as OC (Pepper Spray), Kubotan©, edged weapon or a flashlight? What are my clothing options?
The answer to all these questions is “Yes” or “It depends”. But it’s all contingent on your daily routine and what your “mission” is. Regardless, whatever you decide to have with you, it should always be right there. Ready for anything.
5. Seek Medical Skills Training
I have always been a big believer in getting advanced medical skills training. From the Boy Scouts through Red Cross First Aid/CPR, there is good information readily available. However, we are up against a different threat and we need to be better prepared for it. We need to think about the time gap from when the incident begins or the injury occurs, to when significant medical aid may be available. We need to think in terms of minutes, not hours.
The 10-minute interval - the “platinum ten” - is the period during which emergency crews, upon their arrival at the scene, assess the situation and initiate treatment and transport of casualties.
The golden hour refers to a time period lasting one hour or less, following traumatic injury sustained by a casualty or medical emergency, during which there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death.
I strongly recommend some advanced level of training that may consist of taking any one of several courses to include EMT, TECC, TCCC, or B-CON. All these offer the necessary skills that you can use to save your life or the life of a loved one.
These recommendations, along with a solid plan and the proper mind-set, can potentially save your life or the life of your loved ones. Take nothing for granted – Good equipment and solid training can make the day!
BE SAFE • BE EFFECTIVE • BE READY