Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
In an active shooter scenario, the FIRST THING you must do is remove yourself from the immediate vicinity of the source of the gunfire, which is referred to as the “kill zone” or the “X,” and do so without hesitation.
Simply put, you must do whatever it takes to get clear of the “kill zone” if you expect to have any chance of survival or retaliation. If you survive the first 10 seconds of this type of ambush, you have a much better chance of making it out alive.
Fight, Flight or Freeze
When a shooting occurs in a public place, the natural and initial response is to flee, but you need to do it with forethought. There is little time to think, but you must make your flight a calculated one so you don’t turn yourself into a more visible and attractive running target.
By scrambling in panic, you could end up going nowhere worthwhile or even moving closer to the line of fire. Your flight must be for the purpose of getting clear of danger — off the “X” — and not flagging your position.
In many shootings, it’s bystanders who freeze who are added to the casualty toll. Do not freeze or burrow in — react and move immediately. Hitting the floor and lying flat is usually the first thing people do instinctively, but don’t just cover your head and hope for the best.
You must begin moving immediately while staying low. If you are able to dive for one of the objects you previously identified as cover, make that move while the shooter is aiming somewhere else. Get to your cover while staying as low as possible, and do it with maximum purpose.
Continue to move away from the shooter, going from cover to cover. Visualize the path you will take — this will help you set your mind to achieving small goals or little victories, as each move takes you farther from the “X.”
For example, you see a potted plant 15 feet away. Your goal is to make it to that point, and thus you gain one more little victory in your overall escape plan. Once you make it to that secure cover, follow your path to get to the next one.
At first, get to covers by making small bounds. As you gain distance from the shooter, you can increase the distance you travel between covers. Start by low-crawling, but note that the farther you are away from the shooter, the faster you can move, until even sprinting if the situation warrants it.
But remember — assault rifles have a maximum effective range of 600 meters (or six football fields), and sniper rifles can hit targets even further, so if you can hear gunfire, you can be shot. You must continue to move with maximum purpose and calculated caution.
Even when places have numerous objects that afford cover or concealment, your escape route will often have open spaces, like hallways, that must be crossed. These junctions, while you are still in the line of fire, are called “danger crossings.”
If you come upon a dangerous crossing, take a moment to discern a pattern in the shooting and try to move when there is a pause in the gunfire. This will generally happen when the shooter is reloading.
Even after you have cleared the kill zone, there is still a good chance of being shot. Maintain a lower profile (slightly hunched over, with your weight over the balls of your feet). Continue to move from cover to cover. Utilize shadows or “dead space” areas that are obstructed from view.
Be sure to stay at least a foot off the walls. When a bullet ricochets off a wall, it tends to travel along the wall approximately 6 inches. If your body is against the wall, you will get hit.
Exiting the Area
Once you have successfully cleared the kill zone, you need to quickly decide the best way to gain even greater distance from the shooter or ultimately exit the building.
Remember where you saw the main exits. Fire exit doors in malls and many other public buildings are required by law to be at the rear of the building or at the back of each store.
Continue to move, but take no chances, because the shooter could be following you. Put as many obstacles as you can between you and danger, by closing doors as you go or tumbling merchandise to the ground, making it harder for the shooter to trail you if that is his or her intention.
If, and only if, you feel you are at a location of relative, short-term safety, gather yourself. When you are in a defensive position that is well hidden and away from the site of the shooting, take a moment to calm yourself, but keep your mind alert.
Moving as a Group
If you find yourself among a group of other survivors, it’s your job to assign responsibilities. This will help focus individuals who are still in a serious panic mode.
Maintain group cohesion by displaying a sense of purpose and by offering a reasonable game plan. Remind people: “We’re in this together, and we’re going to get out of this together.”
Think of your group as a small unit, which can benefit by using standard, small-unit tactics and techniques employed by the military. Usually, but depending upon the scenario, it’s better to move in single file, with a couple of feet or an arm’s length of separation between each person.
Assign each person on the line to scout out areas that you plan to travel to during your evacuation. By using all eyes, the group can maintain 360 degrees of awareness. The leader, or the one in point position, is responsible for the front 180 degrees — or from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock, with 12 o’clock always being the direction of travel.
The second person covers the left, the third covers the right and so on. The last person on the line scopes out the rear to alert the group of any indication that the shooter is following them.
If you are in the rear, don’t walk backward; you will undoubtedly trip and fall. Instead, every three or four steps, stop momentarily and turn back. Then continue moving forward. This person is responsible for the 180 degrees (or 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock) field of the rear view.
This method allows you to know what’s going on all around you and will give the group precious extra seconds to react.
Be a survivor… not a statistic,