The Next Phase of Survival

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

As I’ve said before, the most important thing you can do if you’re caught in an active shooter scenario is MOVE.

Then once you are in a defensive position that is well hidden and away from the site of the shooting, you can take a moment to calm yourself — but keep your mind alert. Now is the time for the next phase of survival.

Stop and Assess

You’ll naturally think, What the hell just happened? Don’t sit there and ponder this. Visualize your trigger and focus. The calmer you are, the better equipped you’ll be to outthink your assailant.

To devise a trigger, you must dig deep, identify the single-most-important thing in the world to you and make a mental portrait of this image. Whatever it is, your trigger is how you ignite the will to survive. Use this memory file as the ultimate motivation to get you through life-and-death situations.

If able, call 911. Give police as much HUMINT (human intelligence) as possible, including:

  • Who you are, what’s happening and where
  • How many shooters there are and their physical description
  • What types of weapons are being used, and what special gear, such as body armor, you observed
  • The shooter’s skill level, ethnicity, language or accent — and anything else that may be helpful to first responders.

Next, check yourself for wounds. If you have made it this far, you are probably not critically injured. Present breathing and a heartbeat rule out serious injuries, but many times, in great stress, people will be injured and not know it.

Do a quick head-to-toe self-assessment, paying particular attention to bleeding and potential fractures. If you are with others and someone is injured, you may need to figure out a way to transport that person. Also, take a moment to remove excess or brightly colored clothing and any accessories you don’t need (coat, purse or shiny jewelry).

Another part of this assessment step is to take an inventory of the resources at hand that could help you further. Is there anything that can break a window, for example, or something to act as a transportable shield? Is there a vending machine or a water cooler nearby to get some nourishment? You have just been through strenuous physical activity and significantly more effort may be required until you are safe.

Make a Plan

Success in warfare often comes down to the side that knows their battlefield better. If a mall or school turns into a battlefield, knowledge of the environment will be a great advantage.

If you are in a familiar environment, such as an office building where you work, where your previous situational awareness provides knowledge of the exits, this is the time to figure out where you are.

If you are in an unfamiliar place, like a mall, and your smartphone still works, get a map from the website, or use evacuation placards or signs posted on walls to get your bearings.

Make a decision as to the next course of action. There isn’t time to second-guess yourself or for debate. Pick the best plan for evacuation and then follow it.

In an active shooter scenario, here are your three options:

  1. Head to the nearest exit.
  2. Run to the highest level and attempt rescue from the roof.
  3. Set an ambush, recover a weapon and shoot your way out.

Even if the police are on their way, don’t wait for help. You might be dead before the cavalry gets there. In making your decision to evacuate, choose the most discreet way out and the one most likely to limit your chances of meeting the shooter again. Your goal now is evacuation. However, remember that the safest evacuation route may not be the most direct. The best exit may not be the closest one.

Fight for Your Life

Sometimes, the only way out is to fight. There will be times when your only course of action might be limited to taking on the shooter. If that’s the case, it’s best to try to capitalize on the shooter’s lack of discipline or training and attempt to set an ambush.

The best ambush is one in which your target ends up in the exact location you want them in. Essentially, walking right into your trap. Put yourself in a hidden position that the shooter must pass by. This is known as the “strike zone.” Obviously, surprise is the key to a successful ambush. Additionally, you will increase the odds of your success with a weapon.

An ambush with using multiple people is the ideal form of ambush because you are able to strike from multiple positions simultaneously. Just remember that with multiple people, the odds of hurting one of your own increase. Make sure that you direct those in your party to remain at pre-established set points in the ambush to avoid causalities from “friendly fire.”

If the ambush is successful and the shooter is dead — good, the mad dog is done. If the shooter is alive, make sure to bind and gag them. Never assume this is the only shooter or that the incident is now over.

Instead, be sure to:

  1. Stop and listen: Do you hear any more gunfire?
  2. Does the shooter you took down have a radio? If they do, they must have accomplices.
  3. Attempt to get information on the number and their location from the assailant using any effective form of coercion. Yes, I mean torture. This person was trying to kill you and other innocent people — I would use whatever means necessary to know whether or not they are acting alone.
  4. Immediately inform the police of your status and pass on any useful information.

Again never assume an active shooter situation is over until law enforcement declares it.

Hands in the Air

If your efforts are successful and you’ve made it out alive, you surely don’t want police to think you are one of the assailants. As in the military, law enforcement are taught to look at the hands of anyone first. If your hands are free of weapons, then you aren’t considered a shooting threat.

When you are about to exit and think there is a high probability of encountering law enforcement, you must empty your hands. Put all weapons on the ground and away from you. Place hands high in the air and yell out, “Friendlies — we are unarmed.” Keep repeating this, and do so loudly.

At this point, do exactly as you are instructed. There will be time for police to realize you are a survivor once they have you in a nonthreatening position.

Be a survivor… not a statistic,

Cade Courtley

Cade Courtley

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