How to protect yourself in an active shooter situation.

shooting, shooter, guns, mass shootings

It's a thought no one wants to have: what do you do if you get caught in a shooting situation?

Unfortunately, we've seen far too many horrifying examples of mass shootings in the last couple of years. As a country, we are trying to mitigate these horrifying tragedies but sometimes it feels like they're never going to end. In an effort to educate ourselves, we've researched and listed the items you need to know to defend yourself from an armed perpetrator.

In 2015 alone, there were 372 mass shootings as defined by four or more injuries or causalities, including the shooter. Hopefully, no one ever has to act on these steps but there are guidelines of how to react to best keep yourself and others safe.

The Department of Homeland Security released response tactics of how to respond to an active shooter situation.

It boils down to "Run, Hide, Fight" in the order of what you should try to do first.

--"Run": Try to get away from the shooter as quickly as humanly possible. The DHS says to leave belongings behind and to get to your closest exit immediately. Additionally, former San Diego police officer Dr. Steve Albrecht reminds people that if it is safe and quick to do so, bringing a cell phone can help you connect with law enforcement while escaping. Be sure to silence all sounds from your phone. The DHS also recommends having your hands visible when you reach safety so officers do not confuse you for the threat.

To prep for this run tactic: Take note of exits and consciously visualize an escape plan in all new environments, including places that you regularly inhabit, such as your workplace or apartment building.

--"Hide": If getting to an exit would put you in danger or risk you being seen by the perpetrator, hide. Try to find a place out of the sight from the shooter and block their entry to any room you enter by barricading the door. Turn off lights, make sure everyone has electronics silenced, and stay quiet until help arrives. This may be a time to alert law enforcement that you are inside the building if you can safely do so. The Ideal Room To Hide: no windows and can be locked.

Safety expert Bill Stanton says you can also tighten a belt on the door hinge if there is nothing to barricade the door or if it opens outward and has no lock.

--"Fight": This is the last resort, as recommended by the DHS. Should you not be able to run or hide, or find yourself in a situation where in doing so you encounter the shooter, fighting may be necessary. Objects like fire extinguishers allow you to create a fog to visually impair the shooter (although, it may also make it difficult for you to see, as well).

Office supplies like scissors are effective where Stanton says to "aim for the eye" if the shooter gets close. You can also quickly educate yourself on How To Defend Yourself From A Gun.

While terrified, ideally if you are with a group you will be able to work together to charge the individual. This is also the time that people might use weapons they have on them, depending on state laws and regulations of the institution they are physically in.

There are critics of the Run-Hide-Fight message and counterpoints some make. For example, retired Lieutenant Colonel and firearms instructor [Mike Wood( points out that people also need to consider they may have a "panic induced paralysis" and freeze before making a decision on how to react.

Slate echoes Wood's concern, stating that in that kind of overwhelming situation, people may freeze and that having "a stronger understanding of the relationship between words and our brain" allows people to save their own life by breaking down hesitation between thought and action. Wood also advocates that people not take the DHS message entirely linearly. For example, he says you may be in a better position to hide before running.

Hopefully, these are tactics you will never have to use. However, knowing exits, safe rooms, and strategies to fight back, you are ultimately in a better position to stay safe.

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