• Kristin Johnston

Active Shooter Situation: What To Do

Imagine you are out doing something you love with your friends and family: seeing a new movie, shopping at the mall, hitting the club, going on a vacation, enjoying a concert. Most of us do these things on a regular basis if we are lucky to have that free time, but if you look at what seems to be a general list above, you may notice they all have something in common. These were all seemingly normal, routine things that people were doing when their lives ended: the Aurora movie theater shooting, multiple mall shootings, the Orlando massacres at Pulse night club, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, and most recently: last night's shooting in Las Vegas. News outlets are reporting over 50 lives were taken with another 500+ injured in the attack.

We all think what we would do in these different situations - run. Take cover. Lay on top of your loved ones to protect them. Some people even think of being the hero in this situation and somehow taking down the shooter themselves. We all have these fight or flight notions, but as many of us have (thankfully) never been in that situation, it is hard to say what we would really do. Would we do any of the above or would we completely freeze in the moment?

Think of adding another element to an already high stress, horrifying situation: you have your kids with you, maybe one or two are even in a stroller. Do you run with the stroller in the midst of everyone else running and stampeding to a safe zone? Do you quickly take them out and run carrying them to safety? What if your kids aren't in strollers, how do you make sure they run with you as fast as you can? What is the best option to get you and your family safe?

Luckily, I made a few connections over the last few years and they have been able to provide me with great insight and advice for what to do during an active shooter situation.

David Lambert is the Director of Security for a Banner Health Hospital in Arizona, and he created a presentation on how to stay safe if an active shooter enters a building you are in. First, lets take a look at some statistics on these active shooter situations:


  • Active shooter incidents often occur in small and medium sized communities

  • The average active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes with 37% lasting less than 5 minutes

  • Overwhelmingly,theoffenderisasingleshooter(98%)

  • 97% of time it is a male and 40% of the time they kill


  • 2% of the shooters bring IEDs as an additional weapon

  • In 10% of the cases, the shooter stops and walks away and 20% of the time the shooter goes mobile

  • 43% of the time, the crime is over before the police arrive

  • An officer arrives on scene 57% of the time while the shooting is still underway

His basic safety principles are run, hide, or fight.

Run: Your best chance of being safe in this situation is to get as far as possible from the shooter. The issue here is that many times when people hear gunshots, they don't think "gunshots." They think fireworks. Even I am guilty of this - I live in a "safe" neighborhood, in a nice part of town, and one morning around 4am when I was up with my newborn baby, I heard it - POP POP POP - and woke up my husband. "I think I just heard gunshots! No, it was probably fireworks - who would be shooting off fireworks right now?" Only after a few minutes did I realize that it was not fireworks and in fact yes, gunshots, close enough to me that I heard it clear as a bell. WHEN YOU HEAR THOSE SOUNDS - don't second guess yourself - RUN! You may feel silly if you find out that the noises were fireworks, but what if it wasn't? You would hopefully be alive due to your flight instinct.

Hide: If you are confined to a building, cannot run to escape, and the shooter is still at-large, the next best thing you can do for yourself is to hide. Lambert recommends these next steps:

  • Lock the door

  • Barricade the door with heavy furniture

  • Be out of view

  • Do not trap or restrict your options for movement

  • Silence your cell phone - this is SO important!

  •  Turn off all sources of noise - cell phones, beeping watches or fitness trackers, pagers, tablets, computers, walkie-talkies, children's toys, anything with a battery that may give away your location.

  • Hide behind large items

  •  Remain quiet

  • Remain calm

Fight. If you cannot escape and are trapped with the shooter, you can fight. This will be the fight for your life. This is the least ideal place to find yourself, but you can fight with your body, act as aggressively as possible by throwing items at the shooter, and use anything you can as a weapon. The most important thing here is that you commit to this 100% of your entire being.

Rachel Norman from A Mother Far From Home created the graphic below as a quick image to review with helpful tips that are similar to those listed above.

These are general tips that anyone can use in this type of situation, but what are some good things for parents to do to keep their family safe? The most important thing you can do is have a plan and figure out what works for you and your family. Practice the plan - if you are wearing your baby in a carrier most of the time, can you easily run in it if you need to and keep your baby secure? If you have a stroller, if your plan is to run with it be aware of where you are running and that you are not running through narrow walkways. If you can move faster through a crowded area by removing your child from the stroller and running, then take some time every once in a while to practice quickly unbuckling your kid and scooping him or her up in to your arms. If your kids are older, can you run with them holding their hands? "Failure to plan is planning to fail" and in a high-stress and dangerous situation you have to have a plan of action.

Danny Stephens is another friend who is also a detective with the Atlanta Police Department. He has created a series of videos for parents to help them understand what to do in many situations to keep their families safe in the home and out in public. His videos are available via an app called BOLO Safety.

Thank you for reading, and I pray that none of you ever need to use this knowledge, but with the world we live in, you can't ever be too prepared.

Please contact me if you have any questions you would like for me to pass along to either David Lambert or Danny Stephens regarding the information provided in this post!

Much love and stay safe friends,


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