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        News — law enforcement

        Run. Hide. Fight: The FBI’s guide to surviving a mass shooting

        Run. Hide. Fight: The FBI’s guide to surviving a mass shooting

        Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions and views of bulletsafe.com

        This article was previously published on gunlove.com and has been updated as of January 24,2023.

        In the early weeks of January 2023, three separate mass shootings rocked the state of California within 44 hours, but those are only the ones that received media attention. In reality, there have already been 47 mass shootings this year, and it's only January.

        As of this writing, there have been 5,182 mass shootings in the United States since 2013, with 549 in 2022 alone. More than five thousand people have been killed in a mass shooting, while only about 200 people have died from lightning strikes within the same time frame. According to the mass shooting tracker website, an average of 1.96 shootings happen every day. In these uncertain times, when it’s literally more likely to die from a mass shooting than from a lightning strike, it should be the responsibility of the average American to prepare for the worst.

        The very fact tragedies like this happen so often should be a wakeup call to everyone. Nothing stops a bad guy with a gun better than a good guy with a gun, but the problem seems to be there aren’t enough good guys willing to carry guns.

        To survive a mass shooting and save the lives of the innocents around you, a firearm by your side is the best insurance policy. Based on a study of the police response times of the ten most populated US cities, it takes the police an average of 8.6 minutes to arrive at the scene of an active shooting, while it takes mere seconds for a well-trained shooter to draw his or her weapon and neutralize a target. A mass shooter is usually either inexperienced, drug-addled, overconfident or all three. A well-trained good guy with adrenaline pumping through his veins will be able to end a threat well before a police officer arrives on the scene. Within the first five minutes of a mass shooting, everyone in the area will run for cover. It usually takes five minutes for someone to remember to call 911, and by the time first responders arrive, the incident will have been well over.

        If, for some reason, you find yourself at an establishment which does not allow you to bring in your firearm, and in the event you choose to follow the establishment’s guidelines (unlike Elisjsha Dicken, hero of the Greenwood Park Mall shooting), you may find yourself at a distinct disadvantage in case a raging lunatic bursts through the doors and starts blasting away.

        Fortunately, the FBI has a detailed step-by-step plan to survive such an event. Simply called “Run. Hide. Fight,” this plan is designed to help the average unarmed bystander avoid the carnage of a mass shooting.

        Run

        If you are completely outmatched in a fight, the most obvious thing to do is run. There is no shame in running if the alternative is death. You don’t necessarily need to find marked escape exits – these are designed for fires and natural disasters. The threat here is mobile and can go wherever you go. The nearest exit is always your best option. Windows that exit to street level (for example, those in a classroom) are probably a quicker escape path than the main exit.

        Begin running as soon as you hear gunfire and feel threatened. Do not attempt to reason with the shooter. Yelling at him to stop will do nothing but make yourself a target. Criminals are rarely – if ever – deterred by words alone, and attempting to negotiate with a man who sees you as nothing but a target is a bad idea. Do not wait for everyone around you to react. If you are carrying anything, drop it. You will run faster if you are unhindered by a shopping bag or a backpack. Help others escape if possible. If you end up making a wrong turn into a room without a backdoor, do your best to barricade it.

        Hide

        A mass shooter can shoot at locks and hinges, so it may be best to rely on improvised barricades. The old “chair under the doorknob” barricade only works if the door opens outwards and not towards you. It’s important to note that the backrest should be between the door and the door frame. Piling heavy objects up against a door can be unsuccessful against a door that opens inwards unless the heavy objects form a solid block to the other end of the room.

        barricade made of chairs to stop mass shooter.

        It should also go without saying that you should remain as quiet as possible. Phones should be completely silent – vibration should be off. If possible, hide behind objects you were not able to use for your barricade. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view and provide sufficient protection just in case the mass shooter gets through.

        That said, not many types of household furniture will stop a bullet. A 9mm hollow point round will go through more than a dozen layers of dry wall, which means a shooter blasting away at the poor unfortunates in the room next to yours could still injure you. If you think the steel door between you and the shooter is enough to stop a bullet, know that most steel doors are less than an inch thick and will likely be penetrated. An office cubicle offers concealment rather than cover, and just like walls, bullets will pass through multiple cubicles before stopping. Turning over a table to use as cover like they do in Hollywood will not provide protection from even smaller calibers like 9mm rounds. However, a .223 or 5.56x45mm round can be stopped by a cinder block or a sturdy wall made of cement or brick. It’s a good practice to lie as flat as you can on the ground, since the shooter will most likely be shooting from a standing position and his shots will land above the waist level.

        Once you believe your room is secure enough, turn off all the lights and hope the shooter will believe the room is empty.

        Fight

        When all else fails and you have nowhere to go, be prepared to fight.

        If your room is completely dark, you have the advantage. Set up an ambush position in the blind spot of an inward facing door to attack the mass shooter as soon as he steps into the room. If you have others with you, attack him from multiple directions. He can only shoot at one target before someone else gets to him.

        If your state allows it, try your best to always carry a blade with you. They aren’t typically limited in the same ways firearms are, and usually prove very handy in everyday situations, even more so in a life-or-death scenario like this. In a pinch, you can also use a fire extinguisher to distract the mass shooter by both spraying him with it or hitting him over the head.

        If you do have a knife, keep in mind the mass shooter may be armored. Target your assailant’s hands so he drops his weapon; alternatively go for the eyes to blind, the groin to incapacitate or the throat to kill. This is a mass shooter – no sitting jury would ever rule against you. Fight dirty, your life is on the line. The human body is not limited to punching and kicking. Choke or bite your assailant if you can.

        When the chaos is over and the police arrive, be sure to put your hands up and follow all instructions. It can still go very badly for you if you don’t. As a historical example: in 1976 during Operation Entebbe, Israeli commandos rescued their countrymen being held hostage by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The commandos entered the room where the hostages were being held and ordered everyone to get down. One hostage, Jean-Jacques Mimouni, leapt for joy when he saw his rescuers and was immediately shot dead, having been mistaken for a hostage taker.

        With this in mind, keep your hands visible at all times, discard any weapons you might have with you, and know that help for the injured is on the way. Alert the authorities to any casualties or people who you know are missing from your group and follow their instructions to evacuate from the active crime scene.

        Now that you know what to do in the event of a mass shooting in your area, hopefully you will be better prepared for it should it ever happen to you. However, the best policy, in this author’s opinion, is to be armed and ready to return fire at a moment’s notice.

        For additional resources, visit the FBI’s active shooter page here.

        When armor fails (and how to prevent it)

        Body Armor

        November 7, 2018. A mass shooter had just opened fire on a crowd of partygoers at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Screaming patrons running out of the bar caught the attention of a nearby pair of California Highway Patrol officers and Sergeant Ron Helus from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. The three men rushed to the scene and made entry into the dark bar, filled with smoke from smoke grenades the shooter had thrown during the beginning of his massacre. The shooter, who was taking cover inside the front office, had been watching the men through security cameras and decided to engage Sergeant Helus, shooting him five times in the chest. One of the Highway Patrol officers, confused and disoriented by the smoke, fired his rifle in the general direction of the shooter, but instead struck Helus in the back. The bullet pierced Helus’s heart and killed him.

        Now, Sergeant Helus was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time, but it had been expired for 14 years. Not only that, but it was a soft armor vest that was never meant to take rifle fire. In the after action report of the incident, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department recognized the need to track the expiration dates of their body armor and notify personnel when necessary. They also saw that officers needed additional protection to meet rifle threats in the form of a tactical vest which could be worn over their soft armor. Because of this unfortunate tragedy, every deputy in Ventura County now has access to plate carriers stored away in their vehicles reserved for extremely dangerous situations.

        Now, if you’re a civilian, what does this mean to you? First, you should know most soft armor is not guaranteed to protect you against rifle fire, and every precaution should be taken to ensure you have adequate threat protection. Second, body armor expires, and it would behoove the responsible body armor owner to keep track of his vest’s expiration date. Think of body armor like a fire extinguisher. The little red tank is always there, sitting quietly in its glass case in the corner. You hope you’ll never have to use it, but if your house catches fire fifteen years after you buy it, and you reach for your fire extinguisher only to watch in horror as it fizzles out, this is not exactly the most ideal situation. In the same way, body armor usually lasts about five years, which is the same length of time as BulletSafe’s warranty. You’ll think it’ll work until it won’t, and the moment it stops working is when you’ll need it most.

        With this in mind, it is genuinely unwise to buy used bulletproof vests from places like police and military surplus stores. If a seller states the vest is older than five years and you intend to use it for something other than a costume, do not buy the vest. Some people buy used vests for economic reasons, but BulletSafe remains committed to selling body armor at affordable costs. As of this writing, BulletSafe vests are still only $299.97, a much more affordable price than some individuals are charging for police surplus.

        Not only do bulletproof vests expire, but they can also be damaged outside of regular wear and tear. Generally, it’s best to store your vest in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. The aramid fibers used to construct BulletSafe vests loosen with heat and humidity. Vests expire rapidly with daily use, but in some situations, the vest should be replaced immediately.

        For example, if your bulletproof vest is ever immersed in water for an extended period of time, say, in a washing machine, the cohesion of the aramid fibers is jeopardized. While NIJ standard 0101.06 requires a bulletproof vest to be put into water for 30 minutes before testing, this does not mean that a wet NIJ certified vest should be relied upon for safety. A paper published in the Textile Research Journal concluded that aramid fabric loses its tensile strength after being sprayed with water for only three minutes. In the test, a 9x18mm Makarov round was fired at both wet and dry vests. 20 wet layers of aramid fiber failed to stop the round from punching through, but 14 dry layers of the same material were sufficient enough to prevent penetration.

        Lastly, you should also consider disposing of your vest after it’s been compromised in any way. If a vest is shot, stabbed, or otherwise broken, this does not mean the vest is still safe. Any damage from shots or stabs in the armor play havoc on the resistance of the ballistic fibers by unraveling them. Once a vest is shot or otherwise damaged it should immediately be replaced.

        If you’re a BulletSafe customer and one of our vests happened to save your life, we will gladly replace the vest free of charge as long as a police report is provided.

        Did you know bulletproof vests could expire? How have you been taking care of your own armor? Tell us in the comments below.

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