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Teaching Your Kids How to React to an Active Shooter

ActiveShooter
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There has been some time that has passed since the latest “mass” shooting, although the news yesterday of a recently fired UPS worker killing two of his co-workers and eventually himself, reminds us that life is sometimes deadly. As a prepper as well as a strong advocate of the rights guaranteed by our second amendment, one of the things that I prepare for is a situation where a nut is going around killing innocent people. This could be some terrorist, a mentally deranged person, someone under the influence of psychotropic drugs or like in Alabama, someone with a grudge who simply doesn’t care anymore. You could say all of these types of people have one thing in common regardless of their motivation; they simply want to kill people.

There has and will always be people who want to kill for one reason or another. To deny that is to deny human nature so arguing about methods to make innocent people safer while at the same time preventing them from protecting themselves is to remain willfully ignorant about the reality of this issue. Bad people will always be around in one shape or another and they will endeavor to do bad things no matter what the rules are. Period.

I for one strongly believe that the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This is exactly what the police do and when they engage some nutcase like this with lethal force, the killers always stop. Usually they kill themselves first, but they do stop killing others in most cases when they are confronted.

This isn’t a debate about guns though or the second amendment, it is a conversation about what I want to share with my children should they find themselves in a situation where some psycho with a gun (or a knife, or an axe, a machete, sharp stick, baseball bat, hedge clippers) is in a location where they are and the psycho starts trying to injure people. This isn’t what you who may be a concealed carry holder are to do in a situation with a psychopath; it is what the unarmed can do to get out of the situation and have a fighting chance at survival.

What do gunshots sound like?

Do your children know what gunshots sound like? Have you ever been outside and heard gunshots from a distance and wondered what was going on? If you live in some areas, gunshots outside are common but they can have completely different meanings depending on where you are. For example, if I was in downtown Chicago and I heard gunshots I would automatically assume someone with a gun was shooting people. Compare that with where I live which is vastly more rural than a big city. To hear gunshots out here probably means that someone is sighting in a new scope or is just practicing with a new handgun they purchased for self-defense.

The important thing is for your children to be able to recognize the sound of a gunshot wherever they are so they will be ready to act should they need to. Even out in the country people can go crazy so that gunshot you hear might mean that you will need to escape shortly. If nothing else, it should be something you pay attention to.

My children have all been to the range with me on multiple occasions and they have fired all of my weapons. They have been to indoor ranges and out in a pasture shooting at cans. They know what the sound of a gun is and this is a crucial point if your children are going to be prepared for this type of situation. It might even be their job to let a grownup know what that sound is. The range is a great place to introduce children to firearms in general but they also get to know the sounds a firearm makes. Even if you don’t like or believe in guns, that exposure could be something that saves their life.

Know your surroundings

This is probably the hardest thing for children to learn to pay attention to unless they are in a very familiar environment but knowing where the exits are and how to get out of a building in more than one way is important. If an active shooter is in the building you are in, do you know how to get out? If the shooter is between you and one exit, do you have a backup or alternate exit to go to? In a life or death scenario (and assuming you aren’t in a high-rise) would you bust out a window and go out that way?

Panic is probably the hardest to overcome in a situation where there is someone shooting people and coming your way, but having some conversations about where they would go and what they would do if faced with certain obstacles helps kids to think about this potential situation before they are faced with it. Just the exercise of talking through what they would do gives kids some perspective they can draw on in a crisis situation. I tell my kids to do whatever it takes to get out of the building. If that means busting a window, I’ll pay for it. If they have to steal a car I will bail them out of jail. Whatever it takes to stay alive and they have to know you are going to back them up when that happens.

Run – Get Out! Hide only as a last resort

As a Dad I would chase my kids around the house. I still do sometimes, but it isn’t anywhere near as fun. My youngest child would always run some distance but when I got close she would hit the ground and curl up waiting for me to tickle her. I would always try to get her to keep running because I would want her to run until she couldn’t run anymore if her life depended on it. I know with me she felt safe “getting caught” but I wanted her to know that wasn’t an option if she was running from a Zombie or a bad guy. We use zombies all the time to discuss end of the world situations because they are more fun to a kid than some of the realities of regular people acting odd.

If my children are anywhere they hear gunshots they are taught to run and get out of the building or location they are in as fast as possible. Like I said above, do whatever it takes to get out and the faster the better. A lot of schools will say go into a classroom, lock the door and turn out the lights. What the?? No, run out of the building so the bad guy won’t be able to break or shoot out the lock and walk in the room and kill everyone hiding under their desk. Even if they don’t break down the door you are trapped inside and they are between you and safety. I even tell my kids to run no matter what their teachers say. If their teacher’s say they are supposed to hide under their desks, I tell them to run out, go away from the shooter and get out of the building. Even DHS, when discussing what to do in an Active Shooter scenario recommends “if there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises”. Just get out.

Cover versus Concealment

Lastly, it is important for your children to know what bullets can do and what is necessary to stop them from going through someone. If they are trapped inside, they need to find something that will give them the best chance of surviving if the bullets start flying. That means something with enough mass to stop rounds.

Children think that as long as they are hidden they will be OK and we know that isn’t the case. They have to know what will protect them from bullets and there aren’t many things in an office building, movie theater or school that will do an effective job but you can learn to look for more solid objects. Don’t even bother hiding under a table or a glass trophy case, but those big concrete posts in the lobby will work. Forget about hiding under the teacher’s desk, but the large bookshelves in the library could offer protection. Large appliances in the back of the cafeteria will work better than stainless steel serving dollies. The next time you are out anywhere ask your child what they could hide behind that would stop a bullet and see what they say.

To illustrate the damage of a bullet you can also go back to the range and take a watermelon or better yet a large phone book with you. Have your child stab the phone book with a knife really hard to see what happens. Most children will barely be able to penetrate the surface of a phone book with a knife. Then set the phone book up and shoot it with any pistol you have and show them the hole in the back. This will impress upon them the damage that bullets can make and why it is so important to get behind something very sturdy if they have no place to run.

Hopefully none of our children or any children will ever have to face a situation in which an active shooter is attacking people where they are. My hope is that if that happens I am with them. If I am not with them, I hope they will do everything they can to get out of there before they are harmed. Do your children know what to do?

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  • Brian

    I enjoy your site and that says something because I am not sure if I fit the bill as a “typical” prepper. That being said I take issue with part of this article. I work for a non profit in a high school and we have lockdowns fairly often. If we had 1800 students running for the proverbial hills we would have a lot of dead kids. There have been school shootings where the plan was to scare everyone outdoors where an ambush was waiting. If there is a school like ours, in the middle of town, you could very easily be sending kids into the crosshairs of knuckleheads. Sometimes making it difficult for the shooter so the ERT or SWAT can arrive and blast the guy is preferable. There are so many variables in those situations that the safest thing to do is not offer a shooter or shooters more targets.

    • Brian,

      Thank you for the compliments on our site and I am glad you also took time to comment on this article. I like to have feedback and input from as many sources as possible so hearing from someone like you is great for the other readers as well as for my own information.

      I understand what you are saying, but most of the active shooter situations that I have heard about do not follow what you are saying. They are almost always committed by one or two people who go into the building and start looking for targets. I haven’t heard of a case where they herded everyone outside to an ambush scenario but if that were to happen I agree with you that more kids could be killed.

      I also agree that making it difficult for the shooter is preferable, but only in a situation where you have no place else to go. Everything I have read and my own gut tells me that the first thing to do is to try and get out of the area of the shooter as fast as possible. Assuming that isn’t possible, making it difficult, hiding and preparing to attack if necessary would be the next best thing.

      These are kids we are talking about so I see your points. It may simply be easier to manage a bunch of scared kids by locking them in a room, but I look at this as a trap potentially. If they can run and get outside where hopefully the SWAT team is already assembled they would be safer than in a room with no way out and a psycho with a gun at the door. By them being out of the school the shooters have less targets also.

      Pat

    • RDPaul

      I am not familiar with a single US active shooter scenario where the shooter lay in wait outside the school. I would love a reference fore that.

      Even if there was 1800 kids running in every direction, preferably away from the shooter makes mass casualties much less likely. Moving targets are harder to hit than stationary ones and the time it takes to hit one kid gives all the rest that much time to get away. Even with multiple shooters the scatter strategy, which BTW is used by military units to ensure that one machine gun or grenade doesn’t take them all out, may not be good for school administration control, but it is the logical strategy for minimizing casualties, baracading with be a secondary strategy for me!

  • Sleepydog

    Brian does bring up some valid points. I think it just goes to show that every situation is “fluid”. Which is an almost impossible concept to try and teach a young child. So much depends on where you are at the time. I do agree that the best thing you can do is what the article suggests – Talking to your children! So many people want to just stick there head in the sand and pretend it can’t or won’t happen. As a parent, as a prepper you can’t cover every scenario but just the act of talking, drilling, and doing gives your child a considerable advantage!

    • Yes he does and as you say every situation is fluid. The people involved, the location, where your kids are in relation to the shooter and possible exits. There are a myriad of variables and it is hard to say definitively what would be right and what is wrong without knowing all the factors.

      I just talked to my daughter the other night and I asked her what she would do. The first thing she said is that “protocol says” that she was supposed to close and lock the door and turn out the lights even though the door has a big glass panel in it… She then proceeded to tell me how she would get out in a lot of different scenarios depending where she was. That is what I wanted her to think about and how I wanted her to think. Again, I hope she never has to go through that but I agree its good to have these conversations.

      Pat

  • tman

    As a recently graduated high school student I believe that current lockdown procedures are inadequate for active shooters. I think that teachers should be taught to adapt to the situation as necessary. In my JROTC class my instructor talked to the class about the schools procedures and talked about modifying it for our classroom and the situation at hand.This kind of strategic thinking is what should be taught to teachers. Personally I always told my younger brother to get to the truck and I would meet him there and bug out.

    • Exactly what I would have done tman.

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