Things That Civilians Can Do to Respond in Active Shooter Events

Ocean View Police Department
Chief of Police – Ken McLaughlin

Today active shooter events are more prevalent than in the 60’s when more guns existed and were more readily available to the public.  Shooters are using high capacity magazines and automatic weapons in night clubs, schools, concerts, restaurants, churches and anywhere there are large groups or people, creating a rich MASS MURDER target.   The criminals are predominantly white males and usually have anger issues.  They are resigned to dying themselves and are determined to kill as many people as they possibly can before they are stopped.

To date there have been 220 Mass Shootings, the first in 1966 (Texas Tower).  The reason is NOT the number of guns in circulation, but more of a MENTAL HEALTH problem.  The government has shut down mental health facilities across the country and the funding has been drastically reduced.  The jails are full of mentally challenged individuals, who are not criminals, being released back into our society to do possible harm.  There is nowhere for them to go for treatment and the police cannot arrest them for a crime they MAY commit.   Police are working closely with EMT trained personnel and have changed the way they respond to all 911 Emergency Calls, no longer waiting for the SWAT team or EMT to arrive.  Time is of the essence to STOP THE KILLING AND STOP THE DYING.

The actual FIRST RESPONDERS are the PUBLIC, who are first on the scene as these events unfold.  I want to touch on some very important actions that can be taken to reduce the number of casualties during an active shooter event.  These tips for action are drawn from previous events by analyzing videos, the 911 calls and any available witness information.  What people did right or did wrong in a matter of seconds, can make the difference between life and death in every instance.  Everyone has a duty to be prepared if they are ever in a situation that calls for quick and accurate thinking.  we all have a RIGHT to defend our lives!

Statistics show the main targets for shooters in this order:
1.Commerce        2.Education      3.Outdoors       4.Other

Basically you have three fast choices:

Avoid means to walk or run away from the shooter. Look for a secondary exit.

Deny means shut the door, lock the door and turn out the lights, stay out of sight.  Barricade the door: the heavier, the better, the more the better, use doorstops, tie a belt around the top of the door arm or knob and pull it toward you so he cannot get access to the inside.

Defend means do not fight fair.   Use anything to scramble the shooter’s brain.  Throw chairs, books, bottles, rush the shooter, hit, beat, grab the gun, fight for your life!


You are not helpless,  What you do matters.   Be AWARE of your surroundings.  Don’t deny unusual sounds like a popping noise or bullet shells hitting the ground.  They may not be fireworks or something dropping on a floor but gun shots!   Look for abnormal behavior in persons, leave ASAP, call 911.   Sit facing a door wherever you are and look for the kitchen door exit, or windows to break, or other exit signs.  Practice and have a script in your mind of a possible scenario so you are not caught off guard.

Fight                                    Flight                           Freeze

To overcome lizard brain the first rule is to:

REMAIN CALM:  be the person who is giving orders to others and thinking straight

COMBAT BREATHING:  inhale, hold 3 seconds, exhale

SHIFT EMOTIONS:  go from scared to mad

STAY FIT:  being able to run or help others will save lives.

WHEN THE POLICE ARRIVE, they have three duties to perform:

  1. STOP THE KILLING Police have TO TAKE OUT THE SHOOTER and have conflicting information and are confused as to how many shooters there are and are not sure, given the various descriptions, who the killer is. In order to NOT be mistaken for the “bad guy,” it is important to:
  • follow commands
  • show your palms – EMPTY HANDS!!
  • do not move
  • stop the bleeding with tourniquets.
  • EMS may be delayed
  • take injured to the nearest hospital

Remember:  “It takes a good person with a gun to stop a bad person with a gun.”