What I Learned About Surviving an Active Threat/Shooter Situation

I usually avoid thinking about the rising number of crazy people attacking random strangers in public places. I prefer to think that it will never happen to me or my family.  But when I was offered the chance to go and hear a trained law enforcement officer speak on the topic at our homeschool co-op orientation, I decided to go. The last attack was just too close to home. I sat down to listen to the talk with an open mind, but really not expecting to learn much. But, I did learn and I want to share it because I know a lot of people are like me, head in the sand, fingers in ears, la la la la, about the issue.

The officer showed us a movie that included a reenactment of a shooter. The scenes including people in an office building screaming and running and being shot by a madman and that made me feel triggered and I wasn’t sure I could watch the last scene where the people in the office had to prepare to fight the shooter, but I did. I used self-talk to get through it and I was okay when the movie was over. These issues are not pleasant to think about and can cause much anxiety, but I think the cop was right in that we will be able to respond more quickly if we are mentally prepared. He said that these presentations are available free in most communities. Just ask.

Here are the main take-aways.

  • You must think about this and make a plan before it happens in order to be able to respond quickly.
  • You must prepare yourself mentally by visualizing the experience and if possible, practicing your plan.
  • You must ask yourself what it is that will give you enough motivation to stay calm and really fight to save yourself and remember that. It will probably be that you want to stay alive, but why? For your loved ones?
  • Learn the three possible responses and be ready to act quickly depending on which one is safest.
  • The three possible responses are RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
  • If you can, RUN. If you hear gunshots, but don’t see the shooter, RUN away from the sound as fast as you can,and if possible bring others with you.
  • If the sound is too close or you’re not sure which direction it’s coming from and you feel that you can safely hide, then do it. If possible, LOCK DOORS. COVER WINDOWS WITH SOMETHING. TURN OFF LIGHTS. BE VERY QUIET. BARRICADE THE DOOR. Tie a belt around the automatic door closer if possible. Get away from the doors . Get behind hard things to protect from bullets coming through walls.
  • If the shooter is close or coming your way, look around for something HEAVY or SHARP or anything you can throw at him( coffee, chair, vase) , stab him with (pen), spray at him ( fire extinguisher, hose). Stand beside the door if he can’t see you there and try to get a jump on him if possible. Be prepared to FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE. Poke him in the eyes, whatever. You must be mentally able to try to hurt him as bad as you can.
  • Do not attempt to talk the shooter out of his actions. He is not there to talk.
  • BE CALM AND QUIET. If a door is locked, he is likely to move on to the next door. NO SCREAMING. If someone is being loud, calm them with touch and by looking into their eyes and talking quietly.
  • Help the ones who are not able to respond.

Here are some other points to remember that may be even more helpful.

  • When you go to a public place, NOTE THE EXITS. It only takes a few seconds to look around.
  • At work, such as in an office building, KNOW THE EXITS and FLOOR PLAN.
  • Your building should have a floor plan printed out and posted by the door for first responders.
  • If you see a suspicious-acting person, call the police and report it and let them find out the details. A person with many guns was reported and caught in Austin last week in a city park.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when you are shopping or walking in public places.  Keep one headphone out and the sound low and no staring at your phone while walking.
  • Do not be paranoid, just alert and cautious. Sadly, this is the world we now live in.

And lastly, a few things about the police response.

  • Come out of the building with your hands empty and raised.
  • You could be detained, handcuffed, interviewed even if you are not the shooter, but you will be released.
  • The first responders are there primarily to stop the shooter from killing anyone else. They will not stop to give aid to victims. Wait for other responders.

Lastly, I would like to add my two cents. A lot of these incidents are stopped quickly when someone on the scene is armed, whether a security person or citizen. Let’s try to do more of that. Defend yourself.

white sedan on road
Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Pexels.com


  1. Excellent post. I love it. Yes, we have to think about these things, be aware, and be prepared. I work in a rural government office, so it’s possible that we could be targets. We discuss this every once in a while and have a plan. Thanks for this information.

  2. These are great tips. Such a bummer that this is our reality. Gilroy hit close to home for us. I now find myself looking at exits and hiding spots everywhere. Just did it at Target today. ☹️.

  3. Good post. You are lucky being in Texas, you can buy and carry a firearm much easier than in, for instance, New York State.

  4. Since the events that unfolded in El Paso in the last month, our University has had four active shooter training’s. On July 3rd we were placed on lock-down because our university is right next door to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, our buildings are not 100 yards from each other. But that day some woman barricaded herself inside with two case workers and held them at gunpoint because her food stamp benefits were reduced.

    This began at about 10am, and it ended (sadly) around 5:30 or so when the woman, after speaking with hostage SWAT negotiators agreed to come out and let everyone else in the building go. She walked out and pointed a gun at SWAT officers and they shot her, she died two hours later at UMC. The “gun” she was carrying was a pellet gun, this made me angry because her husband went on local news to say that the police shot her and that they should have known/seen it wasn’t a real gun.

    How in God’s name can someone decipher from fifteen to twenty feet away whether it’s a real or toy gun!?!? First of all she should have thought about her decision about this, second our men in Blue will NOT take that chance and I stand by them because they are the first ones in to protect us from people like this woman. We had to take a second active shooter training because of this.

    Thanks for posting PK 🙂

  5. This is a great post with some great information. I second you, please consider getting the proper permits needed for your state (if required) to carry. This often is the difference between life and death for yourself and others. God Bless!

      • In general, I do not believe in living in fear, which I think this type of training promotes. Also, these trainings and active-shooter drills are actually a part of school systems now, which I believe will increase an already growing rate of children’s anxiety, depression, and sense of hopelessness. I understand that we live in a different time, where mass shootings are common, I suppose I believe there’s another way to combat this (e.g., tending to our mental health issues, creating gun control laws that we as a nation can agree to, etc.).

        I know that what you wrote didn’t touch on these; however, this is what I was thinking as I read it.

      • I agree that drills are harmful to children. The info might be helpful to adults . But even some adults will be harmed by it . I agree that it’s not doing anything to prevent the recurrence. Thanks for the input . 😊

  6. Wow, a lot of helpful stuff here. As with just about anything, everyone will react differently. I like what they say on airplanes when explaining the emergency equipment, “In the unlikely event …” Statistically it probably won’t happen to you, but in the unlikely event that it does, I think it would help to know our options.

    PS This morning I got some stunning news that took my breath away and left me feeling weak and dizzy. How quickly our world can be turned upside down… It was hard to think straight, even to pray coherently. But my faith was there, and I am comforted by Romans 8:26, standing on Psalm 91, and coming into the “peace that passes understanding.” I don’t know what people do without knowing the Lord… He is the one that will get us through the coming days.

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