As an emergency preparedness professional, it is my job to plan for what to do in an emergency. It is unfortunate that this article has to be written, however, the events at the Navy Yard on Sept. 16, 2013 and the most recent Kenyan Mall siege has made this topic very relevant, especially to those of us residing in the DC metro area.
It is no secret that our community has multiple targets that are appealing to terrorists, whether domestic or foreign, and it is in our best interest to equip ourselves with the knowledge of what to do if we or our children are confronted with an active shooter in the workplace, school, or other venue. Generally, these situations last less than 15 minutes, before the police arrive, so it is even more important to know when to flee and when to fight.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) along with a few other organizations, have released recommendations on how to get out alive. They are summarized here:
• Run – If you can, safely exit the building as quickly as possible. Runners have a higher survival rate than those who hide in active shooter situations according to one source.
• Hide – If you can’t run, then find someplace secure to hide. Turn off the lights, lock and barricade the door, and hide behind something as far away from the door as possible, which you think will give you protection from bullets. Remember to silence your cell phone.
• Attack – This is a last resort. If you find yourself face-to-face with an active shooter and have no other option of retreat, you have to fight for your life. Use anything available (e.g., scissors, chair, laptop) to attack the shooter and retreat as soon as possible. Yelling and acting as aggressively as possible is also recommended. This may disorient the shooter and allow more time to escape. If it is more than one person with you, attack the shooter together.
Call 911 or police authorities as soon as you can. If you are unable to talk for fear the shooter will hear you, leave the call connected so the dispatcher can hear what is happening. When law enforcement arrives, keep your hands high and visible. Remember, they don’t know which person the shooter may be.
It is important to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens. Identify at least two escape routes; windows can be broken and may be used as exits in emergencies. Also, update your emergency contact information, and promote a respectful workplace.
Remember, clients and subordinates are likely to follow the lead of management in an emergency. September is National Preparedness Month. More resources on how to prepare for other disasters and emergencies can be found here.