Decision Making In The Face Of Danger


Public shootings have become commonplace in today's society. While most people see these tragedies as isolated events, the increase in gun violence makes threats to our safety a real concern. There have already been 17 school shootings in 2018, with several others occurring in other public places. Most recently, there was a shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee, seen as a random act of violence by a disturbed individual. This brings up the question everyone should wonder: what should you do in an active shooter situation?

Like the Waffle House tragedy, any individual with violent intent should not be treated as a rationally functioning person. Whether driven by anger, mental illness, or any other reason, active shooters are domestic terrorists without any thoughts about the consequences of their actions. The safety for yourself and your loved ones is what matters most. Unfortunately, every scenario is unique depending on the location and your surroundings. You never know how you will react until you're in that moment.

The first step towards safety happens before the threat of violence even happens. Upon entering a public place, you should have a plan. Analyze the closest exits and any obstacles in between. Locate any police officers or security personnel in case of any suspicious activity. Figure out the steps you will take if a dangerous situation happens to arise and over time this will become habitual. Just like the pre-flight airplane instructions, awareness is an important step in being prepared for any situation.

If you find yourself in one of these terrible situations, you should avoid the natural response, to not act. The fight or flight response usually causes you to freeze, leaving you as an easy, static target out in the open. If your planning works, figure out where you can go to have the best chance of survival. If you’re with loved ones, remember to keep them safe in addition to yourself. No matter what your plan is, do not stay still or you put yourself at an even greater risk.

Try your best to relax. It’s a natural response is to panic in times of crisis; however, as a leader, your temperament can positively affect those people around you. Just like fire drills in elementary school, calm, calculated processing can help you make rational decisions to help you get out safely.

The consensus steps of action during a shooting are a three-step process: run, hide, fight.

Running away is generally your best chance of survival in the face of danger. If you’re close to an exit, find your way there as quickly as possible. If you find yourself in an open square, run in the opposite direction of the danger to give yourself the best chance of survival. While everyone likes to think they could be a hero, police and other emergency responders are trained for these types of scenarios. It isn’t worth risking your safety when the opposition is firing a loaded weapon.

If running is not an option, hiding is the next best decision. Finding shelter or any obstruction between you and an active shooter will shield you from gunfire while also keeping you out of his/her line of sight. While temporarily hidden, you can quickly analyze the situation, hopefully finding a safe route to escape. You can also contact the police while hidden, shortening the time the shooter has to hurt anyone.

Unfortunately, the options to run or hide are not available in some scenarios, leaving you to fight. As stated earlier, the failure to act is the worst option available. In a life or death scenario, engaging a distracted shooter may be the best option to save yourself and others. Find a way to remove the weapon or temporarily disengage the shooter from attacking anyone. Distracting a shooter for even a couple of seconds will allow others to escape or allow time for assistance to completely remove the threat.

In the Waffle House tragedy, James Shaw Jr. decided to fight back against the shooter. He was able to take the gun out of the hands of the gunman and throw it behind the counter; with no weapon, the shooter’s plan was ruined, and the threat was immediately removed as the shooter ran away. Given no other choice, Shaw Jr. made the choice to act, saving numerous lives in addition to his own.

While having a plan of action in every scenario seems excessive, it is necessary in our society. This planning only takes a short period of time to create and could be the difference between survival and tragedy should you encounter an active shooter. Life is a precious gift; creating a plan is a simple way to stay one step ahead. Notice the exit signs. Find the safest place you could hide in an emergency. While it’s unlikely you will find yourself in a shooting, being prepared might be the difference between life and death.