Run, hide, fight: surviving an active shooter event

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A growing incidence of mass shooting violence in today’s towns, businesses, and school campuses has created a need for training on how to handle violent or threatening situations. On July 2, Lieutenant Thomas Shopay of the Hawaii Police Department presented an in-depth presentation at the Waimea Community Center for about 20 people on how community members can respond in the case of an active shooter emergency.

Shopay describes an active shooter as “an individual engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” Local police want community members to prepare for the possibility of such an event and to realize that it could happen here on the island.

“An active shooter event is a low probability,” said Shopay. “And while it’s probably not going to happen — if it does, there is a big loss for our community. If one person loses their life, that’s very significant. If multiple people lose their lives, it’s even more significant.”

Shopay discussed the importance of community members having vital information on what to do in case an active shooter event occurs. He explained that in emergencies, people experience a fight or flight response, but by training properly for these situations, casualties can be greatly reduced.

“It’s important to know what to do for that 30 minutes when the police aren’t there yet and bad stuff is still happening,” said Shopay. He explained how active shooter situations often are over within 10 to 15 minutes before any law enforcement can arrive. Therefore, individuals need to be prepared to react effectively.

Shopay described a three step process that allows individuals to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect their lives: run, hide, fight.

The first option is to run. Some people’s first instinct may be to freeze and hide, but if possible, always try to escape. Encourage others to leave with you, but don’t let them slow you down with indecision.

“Once your clear, call 911 and start that police response process,” said Shopay. “You need to get an officer there, but first you need to make sure you’re out of their safely.”

If you can’t get out safely, the second option is to find a place to hide.

“Hiding means putting as many things between where you are, and where the shooter can move,” said Shopay. “Get in a room and lock the door. If you can’t lock the door, put whatever is available to you in front of the door – a chair, a table. Slow that person’s access to you down as much as possible.”

The more weight and objects, the greater the distraction to the shooter who is trying to get in. This not only makes it more difficult for him to shoot his targets, but also gives police more time to respond. It’s also important to turn out the lights and silence cell phones.

As a last resort, if your life is at risk, act with aggression and fight. Improvise weapons and disarm the shooter. Commit to taking the shooter down no matter what.

“You can close your eyes and hope it all goes away, but that’s probably not the best thing to do,” said Shopay. “Start looking around for things you can use as weapons. Be creative — fire extinguishers, chairs, computers, whatever you can find.”

Whatever you do, do something. Your actions can make a difference for your safety and survival. Be aware and be prepared. If faced with an active shooter, remember the three key things you need to increase your chances of survival: run, hide, fight.

For more information on how to respond to an active shooter situation, visit www.dhs.govactiveshooter.