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May 24, 2018

How to survive: Active shooter situation

Run-Hide-Fight and other strategies to increase your odds of survival

There have been 152 public mass shootings in the United States since August 1, 1966, when a University of Texas student opened fire from a clock tower observation deck, killing 17 people.

Nearly one-third of them have occurred in the last 10 years.

And nine of them came during the last calendar year, including the deadliest, modern-day mass shooting on American soil: 58 people dead and 851 others wounded when a 64-year-old, heavily-armed gunman in a hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip shoots down onto the crowd at a night-time, outdoor music festival in October 2017.

Those mass shooting figures are according to a recent Washington Post analysis, which defined such an event as any shooting that left at least four people dead – not counting gang disputes, robberies gone awry and slayings in private homes.

The shootings have sparked endless debates about gun control in this country, but little legislation has resulted. And there are no indications that mass shootings will cease anytime soon. 

So how can you protect yourself if you someone starts shooting while you are shopping at a mall or sitting in a classroom or singing along at a concert?

We asked security experts how to survive an active shooter situation. Here is their advice:

• Active shooter cases tend to be unpredictable and evolve quickly. In many cases, there is no pattern or method to the way a shooter selects victims. It typically falls to law enforcement officers to stop the shooting and mitigate harm.

• Be aware of your environment and any potential dangers. Know where the two nearests exits are in any facility you enter.

• Determine the most reasonable way to respond to an active shooter situation – running, hiding or fighting.

Run: If there is a viable escape path, attempt to evacuate. Have an escape plan in mind, leave your belongings behind and keep your hands visible. If possible, help others escape, but do not attempt to move wounded individuals. Prevent any individuals from entering an area where the shooter might be located. Follow the instructions of any police officers you encounter.

RELATED: Out and about now, local survivor of Vegas massacre always has escape plan

Hide: If you cannot evacuate, find a place to hide where the shooter is unlikely to find you. Stay out of the shooter's view. If you are in an office or classroom, lock the door. Barricade the entrance with heavy furniture to prevent the shooter from entering. If the shooter is nearby, silence your phones and any other sources of noise, hide behind large items and stay quiet.

• If you cannot evacuate or hide, remain calm. Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the shooter's location. If it is unsafe to speak, keep the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen.

• When calling 911, inform the operator, if you can, of the number of shooters, their location, physical description and the number and type of weapons they are carrying. Also note the number of potential victims.

  • Philadelphia residents can receive free emergency alerts by joining the city's "ReadyPhiladelphia" mass notification system. Sign up by visiting or texting READYPHILA to 888-777. 

Fight: Only when your life is in immediate danger should you try to disrupt or take down the shooter. In doing so, act as aggressively as possible, yelling and throwing items at the shooter. Fully commit to your actions.

• Once law enforcement arrives, remain calm and follow instructions. Put down anything in your hands and raise them upward, with fingers spread apart. Avoid making quick movements toward officers, pointing or yelling. 

• Be aware that police may arrive wearing SWAT gear – bulletproof vests and kevlar helmets – and armed with rifles, shotguns or handguns. They also may shout commands or push individuals to the ground to protect their safety.

• The first officers on an active scene will not stop to assist injured people as the priority is to stop the shooter. Rescue teams will follow the initial officers, ready to treat and prepare injured victims for transport to a hospital.

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security