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Workplace active shooter: Run, hide, fight

By Lynne Curry

It’s not your imagination. There are more incidents of violence across our country than ever before.

It doesn’t matter where you live. Nor that you don’t believe it could happen in your town, your workplace or at your kids’ school.

You’ve seen the news reports. The violence in workplaces including healthcare settings, schools, restaurants, train stations, malls, and churches. Innocence can’t save you. It might get you killed.

Would you know what to do if  someone started shooting? Knowing what to do could keep you alive.

Suppose you hear something odd. At first, you think it’s a car backfiring. Then you hear the same sound again and again. Gunshots, repeated in rapid succession.

Fear grips you. You hear others screaming. You struggle to catch a breath. You haven’t seen a shooter or shooters, but the tight feeling in your gut tells you that you have to act. Fast. You can’t afford panic.

According to the FBI reports, 60 percent of active shooting events end within 10 to 15 minutes, and before police arrive. This means those of us trained to call 911 if we face an out-of-control individual—whether an angry customer, disgruntled ex-employee or teenager hoping for video glory—need to prepare ourselves with new mental and physical skills and strategies.

I’ve been lucky. For years my management consulting team included a former SWAT team leader, and two former police officers. They taught me a lot. I’ve learned survival in an active shooter incident depends on having a plan.

The advice from security experts? Run, hide, fight.


If you have an escape route, get out the moment you sense something going down.

Inventory the nearest exits in your workplace or other places you frequent for the same reasons that you do on a plane. In an emergency, you need to get out fast, without hesitation or indecision. If you can, help others escape with you. When you’re safely out, call 911, and keep others from heading toward danger.


If you can’t escape, hide behind something that gives you protection if the shooter fires in your direction. Act quietly and quickly. Turn off the lights. Lock and barricade the doors. Turn off your cellphone ringer but dial 911 if you can do so without noise so the dispatcher can listen and send help.


What if you can’t escape or hide? Your ability to survive depends on incapacitating the shooter. Improvise weapons. Throw whatever you can find to hit or at least distract the shooter.

If you’re with others, spread out so you don’t provide the shooter an easy target.

Work with others to rush the shooter. Fight aggression with aggression and commit to taking the shooter down.

When help arrives

When the first responders arrive, get out of their way.

Keep your hands visible with your fingers spread so they know you’re not a shooter. If they’re chasing an active shooter, don’t expect them to stop and help you. Instead, evacuate in the direction from which the officers are entering.

Be prepared

If you’re an employer, hold security drills for your staff and teach them to adopt a survival mind set. (The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have excellent resources.)

Finally, we can grieve the sense of security we’ve lost or develop a new one. Many are stuck in grief’s first stage, that of shock or denial, thinking, “It can’t happen here.” Why not? What was different about the churches, schools, movie houses, restaurants, malls and train stations where unexpected violence occurred? Nothing, except with a gun an agenda chose aggression.

If violence struck your workplace, church or where you eat dinner, would you have a plan? It’s not too late. Create one now.









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