Is your state about to reopen? Are you planning to head back to the mall? Even when preparing to resume your normal life, it’s important to always stay safe.
Active shooter situations can happen anytime and anywhere. Large, crowded areas are increasingly common targets. Your awareness and preparedness in these locations can be the strongest ally to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
In a mall or shopping center, you are particularly vulnerable because these areas offer unrestricted and unsecured access to anybody. For the parents out there, you have another major factor to consider: your children could be with you in the mall.
How to Survive
For the purposes of this video, we’re going to focus on what you can do to ensure that you and your family survive. There are many three-word strategies out there that address what to do in an active shooter incident, like “run, hide, fight.” Fundamentally, they’re all saying the same thing:
- Get out of the building if you can;
- Hide if you can’t get out safely; and
- Fight if you truly have to.
How this plays out during an active shooter event is completely circumstantial. In a large, crowded space like a mall, your use of situational awareness is critical in determining the proper course of action.
Know Your Surroundings
First and foremost, you need to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Make note of where the exits are as you walk through the mall. Also, stop and take a look at the map of the mall. Some malls are laid out to where the stores on one side lead to an outside loading area, while others lead to an interior hallway. Others are laid out in such a way that all stores lead outside. Knowing the layout can assist you in the event that you need to run or hide to escape the shooter.
When you hear the gunshots, can you determine where they’re coming from? If not, look to see how others are reacting. If people are running, chances are they’re running in the opposite direction of the shooter. Physically make contact with your family and start moving away from the shooter towards the nearest exit point. If you have younger children, pick them up to avoid them getting separated from you or injured by a panicked crowd.
Making it to an exit may not be possible if the shooter’s coming from that same direction. Depending on how close they are, you may need to exit through or hide in one of those stores. This is where the familiarity with the mall’s layout can help. If the store is against the exterior of the building, chances are the door at the back will lead you straight outside. If it’s along the interior of the building, the rear door will either lead to an interior hallway that extends through the mall from which you can eventually exit, or it will lead to a storage room or office.
If You Become Trapped
If you find yourself in an enclosed room or otherwise unable to exit the mall, you need to hide and lock down the room. Barricade the door with whatever is available and shut off all the lights. Try to arm every person with something that can be thrown, swung, or otherwise used as a weapon. Most shooters are not expecting resistance. Do everything you can to attack and disorient them as soon as they start to make entry into the room. If the shooter’s distracted even for a few seconds, that can buy enough time to overwhelm the shooter and end the whole thing.
If you’re completely out in the open when the shooting starts, like in a food court, don’t just hide under something like a table or a counter. These only provide partial concealment. You need actual cover while you determine your next steps. Finding cover means getting behind something that has the potential to protect you from bullets, like a brick wall or a concrete pillar. Again, this would not be a permanent place to hide, but can protect you while you evaluate whether you can safely escape or if you need to hide.
Should You Engage or Flee?
According to security experts, the average distance active shooting victims are shot from is 18 inches. Because of this, it’s better for you to find an escape path if the shooter is not within your immediate vicinity.
If you have a license or permit to legally carry, you will likely have a firearm with you. I would still advise you to get out, especially if you are with your family. However, you may not be able to escape and may be forced to defend yourself or others. In this situation, your adrenaline will be pumping. People will be panicked. Remembering your gun safety rules is critical. Perhaps the most important rule would be to identify your target; know your target’s foreground, background, right and left of your target. You don’t want to act hastily and hurt an innocent person. You only want to stop the threat.
To summarize, once a shooting starts, don’t hesitate. Quickly evaluate whether you can get to an exit that is not in the direction of the shooter. If you have small children with you, pick them up and carry them, keeping your body between them and the shooter when possible. In the event you cannot escape and have to hide, make sure you secure the room and find something to use as a weapon. If you have to fight, fight like your life depends on it. Take advantage of the fact that the shooter probably won’t be expecting it. And finally, if you have a firearm, only use it as a last resort and with the utmost caution.
Your actions and the actions of those around you in the first 60 seconds can make all the difference for you and your loved ones. Stay tuned for future episodes where we will explore how to respond in active shooter situations in different locations, and how the presence of your firearm or your family alter how you respond.
If you have any questions, please contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.