(The Kiplinger Program, along with the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, sponsored three active shooter training workshops in June. The programs were held in Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio and were presented by FBI profilers and SWAT team members. In three days more than 60 journalists from about 30 media outlets were trained in identifying, preventing and surviving an active shooter situation.)
Sit through three hours of active shooter training and it’s very likely your perspective on safety and personal survival will change … for the worst.
Watch videos of past active shooters as they explain their reasons for mass killings, pay attention to the signs that could have led the way to the prevention and hear the horrifying story of survivors.
Do all that and you’ll almost certainly be convinced this could happen to you at your media office on any given day.
Congratulations, you get the message, because that’s exactly how the FBI views active shooting scenarios.
“If you think this can’t happen to you and at your workplace, you’re lying to yourself. There is still this mindset that this won’t happen, that I won’t be a victim,, it happens other places to other people, but it won’t be me,” FBI SWAT team leader David Britton told the room of journalists in Cincinnati. “Do you think those people who found themselves in similar situations didn’t think the same thing?”
If there is a singular takeaway from these three days of active shooter training, it’s this – it can happen to you. With an active shooter on a killing rampage in this country every 18 days, the odds are dramatically increasing. Pair this with the elevated hatred for the media-fueled by political rhetoric and it’s no surprise that violent incidents against journalists are on the rise. It stands to reason shootings will as well.
Fortunately, you can prevent it or survive it. If you take is seriously and prepare.
Shootings by the Numbers
The FBI has compiled some interesting statistics over the last 20 years that can provide a modest roadmap to managing the crises. Ignoring the signs left in the open by a potential shooter is the common mistake made.
“In so many cases we talk to survivors and people who knew the shooter and we see where they left ‘bread crumbs’ that could have been traced and alerted people to their intentions. People either don’t pay attention, don’t want to get involved or pass it off and it’s simply the best way of prevention,” FBI profiler Kristin Cadieux said.
- 87 percent of mass killers have no prior police records. There is no indication that someone who’s had brushes with the law is more likely to kill in mass.
- 67 percent of killers were known to their victims (or some of them). Workplace shootings are the most common by someone who’s worked there or has relationships with people who do.
- 28 percent act within 24 hours of their decision to kill, 26 percent wait a week, 22 percent wait 8-30 days. Active shooters don’t snap. They go through a very elaborate process to reach this point, not the least of which is planning and preparation for the day.
- Between 2000-09 there were 8.6 active shootings per year; 2010-17 it’s 20.6.
- There is an active shooter incident in the U.S. every 18 days.
- 46 percent of shootings take place in commercial buildings, 24 percent in schools and 10 in government buildings.
- Just under 1,700 people have lost their lives in U.S. mass shootings, the majority of them coming in the last 10 years.
- Most mass shooters obtain their guns legally, 175 legally compared to 59 illegally. However, an additional 79 are uncertain to law enforcement.
- Four key contributors to mass killings in recent years, according to the FBI, has been: financial stress, social media, access to firearms and mental health issues.
- But, only 25 percent have been diagnosed with a previous mental illness.
Profiling a potential shooter is easier than predicting when and where they will strike, Cadieux said.
Most mass killers have specific motives or carrying out their reign of terror. The root of many is a real or perceived injustice or a slight that has happened to them by a friend, employer and they can’t let it go. They dwell on the slight and many of their failures personally or professionally are the fault of others who have slighted them. Sometimes these “slights” are years old.
Common motives include:
The need to be omnipotent, all-powerful and in control
The need for infamy or notoriety. Many active shooters idolize previous shooters.
The need to resolve an ego issue
Revenge or punishment, often for the slight.
The desire to promote an ideology such as race or cultural supremacy, religious beliefs.
The need to kill someone and then commit suicide, usually involving a love interest.
The perverse desire to experience the thrill of killing people.
Be Aware and Be Ready
As good as law enforcement can be at preventing many incidents (and they stop hundreds a year we don’t know about) they can’t accurately predict when someone will strike or what may be the trigger point that sent a person on a rampage.
The best professional advice is to be prepared by planning and practice.
“Every business needs to have a plan when someone breaches and starts shooting. Training and practice are what keeps you alive. It’s the difference in surviving or panicking,” Britton said.
The most common practice is known as the Run, Hide, Fight Method. Known my different names, it encourages people trapped in a building or in open space with an active shooter to flee first, hide second, and if need me, fight as if your life depended on it.
In the Run scenario, it means knowing the exits in all situations – movie theaters, restaurants, churches, malls, office buildings. Know where they are and how to get to them quickly. Encourage others to run with you, but don’t wait for them. Leave personal items behind. Don’t ever go back for anything. Seconds count. Gather at a safe spot, preferably one that has been predetermined in the case of work.
According to Gadieux, in many cases, when the shooting starts people just drop to the floor and stay low in hopes of avoiding becoming a target. Sadly, those who lay flat and try to hide in open sight are the ones who are most likely to be killed. Escaping is always the best advice.
If you have to hide, keeping out of sight is key. “Each case is different, but most of our research tells us that shooters don’t shoot at what they don’t see,” FBI SWAT team veteran John Wagner said.
Turn out lights, barricade doors, disappear under desks if necessary. Stay calm and quiet. Turn off cell phones.
Lastly, understand that if you make the personal decision to stand and fight, you should plan to attack with a vengeance and plan to kill. Your life depends on it. “You can’t go about this passively,” Britton said.
Use anything and everything as a weapon. People can be injured or killed with a pen, Britton said.
For more steps and more in-depth analysis of active shooters consider this link from the three days of workshops.
“In the end, prevention is the key. The old adage ‘if you see something, say something’ applies here,” Cadieux said. “Most shooters reveal their intentions either through social media, in conversations to friends, family, colleagues. In a lot of cases, once they decide to kill, they can’t keep it to themselves, they want to brag and look for the attention.”