On November 20, 2021, word spread regarding an active shooter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, alarming and confusing travelers. While it was thankfully a false alarm – someone accidentally discharged a weapon, although no one was shot. However, fears of an active shooter at the busiest airport in the world prompted widespread panic.
While the threat of a mass shooting event is real, there are steps everyone can take to prepare themselves and protect others. If you find yourself in a situation where an active shooter is present, knowing what to do can help save your life and the lives of others. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends that, in an active shooter event, you do the following:
Evacuate – If Possible [RUN]
Wherever you are, at home, at work or at play, you should always be aware of and take note of your surroundings and any potential dangers. Try to have at least two escape routes and plans in mind. If you must flee due to the presence of an active shooter, do so, regardless of whether others follow you. Leave your belongings behind, try to help others escape if you can, and attempt to prevent more people from entering the area.
Stay Out of Sight [HIDE]
If you cannot evacuate, find a place to hide out of the active shooter’s view to reduce the chances that they will see you. If shots are fired in your direction, try to move to an area that offers protection but does not limit your movement options. If you can get behind a locked door, blockade it with something heavy, if possible. Silence your phone, turn off any other sources of noise, and remain as quiet as you can.
Disrupt or Disable [FIGHT]
As a last resort, and only if your life is in immediate danger, you can try to disrupt or disable the shooter by yelling loudly, acting aggressively, throwing items, or improvising weapons. At this point, there is no turning back, and you must commit to acting against the shooter.
Once you feel secure, help those wounded get to safety and provide immediate care as needed, if you can do so. But remember: Take care of yourself before you attempt to help anyone else.
When law enforcement arrives, stay calm and heed their instructions. Avoid making any quick movements and move in the direction from which the officers enter the premises – without stopping or asking the officers for help or guidance. If you can, give law enforcement a description of the shooter(s), their location, the number and type of weapons being held, and the number of potential victims.
After the first officers arrive, rescue teams of additional officers and emergency medical personnel will likely arrive next. Once you have reached a safe location, law enforcement will typically hold you in that area until the situation is under control and all witnesses have been identified. Don’t leave until the authorities instruct you to do so.
RUN – HIDE – FIGHT are the best practices for those of us NOT in law enforcement, first responder or security. Knowing what to do if you’re involved in an active shooter situation can save your life and the lives of others. You can learn about what constitutes an active shooter event and about some lawsuits involving the foreseeability of active shooter events and holding those charged with a responsibility to keep a premises safe in Part 1 of this blog series. If you or a loved one have been injured in a tragic shooting event or have questions, please contact Mel Hewitt at Isenberg & Hewitt.