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antiterrorIn July 2011, Anders Breivik went on the rampage in Norway, murdering 77 people as he did so. A year later, James Holmes walked into a crowded cinema in Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people.

Neither were Islamist terrorists. However, In November 2008 10 marauding gunmen in Mumbai killed 166 civilians, in circumstances very similar to Paris this November. They were members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, an Islamic militant organization.

pak-terroristIt follows that not all mass shootings are carried out by those following a perverted interpretation of Islam, yet most fear Islamist terrorists, why? We created their hatred toward us, and for good reason. Now they appear to have more devoted followers than anyone else, the capacity to kill vast numbers of innocent people and are happy to die as suicide bombers: Martyrs to their evil cause.

Many survivors of the Paris attacks have said that they mistook the first gunshots for fireworks. This is not uncommon as it provides the nearest memory reference point to try and make sense of what’s happening. Also, only about 25% % of people immediately react in a way that helps them survive, leaving 75% bewildered, most often looking to other people to act first, so any guidance on what to do is bound to be useful.

Various options exist depending on the nature and occupancy of the site, these include;

Use of fire alarms should be avoided to reduce incorrect response to an incident.

Be vigilant. Be alert, not alarmed

Although unlikely, a shooting can happen at any school or workplace. It pays to be prepared and know in advance what creates the best chance for survival. Running should always be your first priority, but be ready to hide or fight for your life if there is no safe escape route.

Know the escape routes. Prepare in advance by identifying all exits from the rooms where you spend the most time. This includes emergency exits, fire escapes, and windows. Ideally, plan at least two escape routes out of the school or workplace, in case the shooter is blocking one of them. Don’t rule out second story windows, or windows that you would have to break. You can survive cuts from broken glass, or a broken leg from a fall. 98% of shooters act alone. If you can avoid the area where you hear gunfire, you are usually safe.

‘Stay Safe’ principles (Run, Hide,Tell).

Run away whenever possible. Your best chance to survive the shooting is to get out of the area as fast as possible. Only rule this out if the only escape routes would put you in sight of the shooter.

React immediately! Don’t freeze up or waste time debating your options. Find an escape route, and start running. If you hear gunshots in the distance, you can likely get out of the area before the shooter arrives. If you have shoes that prevent you from running, take them off.


  • Escape if you can.
  • Consider the safest options.
  • Is there a safe route? RUN if not HIDE, or FIGHT.
  • Can you get there without exposing yourself to greater danger?
  • Insist others leave with you.
  • Leave belongings behind.


If you can’t RUN, HIDE.

  • Find cover from gunfire.
  • If you can see the attacker, they may be able to see you.
  • Cover from view does not mean you are safe; bullets go through glass, brick, wood and metal.
  • Find cover from gunfire e.g. substantial brickwork / heavy reinforced walls.
  • Be aware of your exits.
  • Try not to get trapped.
  • Be quiet, silence your phone.
  • Lock / barricade yourself in.
  • Move away from the door.

Grab any weapons you can find. Look around the room where you’re hiding and find anything that you can use as a weapon. It can be a stapler or sharp scissors you find in the teacher’s desk, the hot coffee in the kitchen of your office, beakers or dangerous acids (such as sulphuric) in a science room, or anything that is sharp, heavy, made of glass, or which can be used as a weapon. Hold on to these weapons in the event that the shooter enters the room where you are.

  • Even small thrown objects can delay a gunman if a large group of people work together. While this is obviously a last resort, anyone who can’t find a weapon should grab something to throw.

play deadPlay dead as a last resort. People have survived mass shootings by playing dead in areas where shots have been fired. However, some shooters area aware of this tactic and will target bodies. The only time you should try this is when both running and hiding are impossible.


Almost any room in an office building, store, church, or factory will have something in it you can use for protection: a fire extinguisher (for spraying or head-bashing or both); chairs; tools; desk objects; or even heavy books.  Brave and heroic people have done extraordinary things when faced with real chance-of-death events involving a shooter who has breached the safe room.  Many people who did not see themselves as capable of protecting themselves or others with force have done so when called upon and saved lives.

The Run-Hide-Fight video is one of many training responses from agencies in the US government tasked with keeping employees safe, including OSHA, the Department of Labor, and the FBI, who often investigate workplace, school, and college and university shootings as part of the response and reporting work done by their Behavior Analysis Unit 2.

We learn our lessons about how to stop active shooters in our schools and workplaces mostly the hard way.  The usual police tactical response right up until the 1999 Columbine High School shootings was to surround the building and wait for the arrival of the SWAT team.  That approach failed that day as officers on the perimeter had to hear the anguished screams from kids and students inside while they waited helplessly outside.  From that day forward, law enforcement said, “No more!” and altered their tactics and training.

When these incidents happen today, officers and deputies arrive quickly, grab their long rifles, form a fast entry plan, and go inside in teams of two to six, with the intent of engaging and stopping the shooter.


  • Call the emergency number – 911 in North America, 999 in the UK, 112 in EU.

Give some simple actions to consider at an incident and the information that armed officers may need in the event of a firearms and weapons attack.

What do the police need to know?

  • Location – Where are the suspects?
  • Direction – Where did you last see the suspects?
  • Descriptions – Describe the attacker, numbers, features, clothing, weapons etc.
  • Further information – Casualties, type of injury, building information, entrances, exits, hostages etc.
  • Stop other people entering the building if it is safe to do so.

Police Response

  • Follow officers’ instructions.
  • Remain calm.
  • Can you move to a safer area?
  • Avoid sudden movements that may be considered a threat.
  • Keep your hands in view.

Officers may:

  • Point guns at you.
  • Treat you firmly.
  • Question you.
  • Be unable to distinguish you from the attacker.
  • Officers will evacuate you when it is safe to do so.


How to achieve dynamic lockdown

  • In your planning you should identify all access and egress points in both public and private areas of the site. Remember, access points may be more than just doors and gates.
  • Identify how to quickly and physically secure access/egress points
    Identify how your site can be sectored to allow specific areas to be locked down
  • Staff roles and responsibilities should be included in the plans.
    Staff must be trained to act effectively and made aware of their responsibilities
  • Stopping people leaving or entering the site – direct people away from danger
  • Ability to disable lifts without returning them to the ground floor should be considered
  • Processes need to be flexible enough to cope with and compliment invacuation and evacuation


You must STAY SAFE

  • What are your plans if there were an incident?
  • What are the local plans? e.g. personal emergency evacuation plan.




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