Posts Tagged ‘police’

After the events of the last week, there is nothing else I can write about for my scary topic. My normal writing style won’t fit this serious topic, so let’s get right to important information we should know, balanced with pictures to remind us how it should be!

Imagine Peace Tower

Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Photo by Jonas Freydal Thorsteinsson.

First Some Facts

There is so much posted on this topic – be careful believing what you read! I checked original sources as much as possible, looking for strict definitions and statistical analysis, but I encourage you to do your own research.

Mother Jones tracked mass murder active shooting events from 1982 on. According to their Guide to Mass Shootings in America, there were at least 62 mass murder events in the United States in the last 30 years. They use a FBI definition for mass murder as someone who kills at least 4 people in a single incident, primarily in a single place – not to be confused with a serial murderer killing in separate incidents and locations. Half the active shooter cases occurred at schools or the workplace. Malls, military bases, and restaurants were other common locations. More than three-quarters of the guns were legally obtained and most were semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles. Most shooters used more than one weapon. Mother Jones has good summaries of the main shooting events of the past, gathered on one site.

Police Analysis

The New York Police Department did a detailed statistical analysis of active shooters from 1966-2010, with 202 cases meeting Homeland Security’s definition of an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area”. Notice no mention about the number of victims – in fact, the median number of people killed was only two, as was the median number injured. Their findings were otherwise similar to Mother Jones, although NYPD felt classifying weapon type was too difficult. Only 8 out of 202 had a female attacker, and 98% had only one shooter. The age of the shooter depended on the location – school shootings tend to have young adult shooters, whereas middle age shooters are most common at other sites. There was a wide degree of tactical planning by shooters, from almost none to detailed surveillance and plans to trap victims.

Unpredictable By Nature

Peace Pagoda, England

The western hemisphere’s first Peace Pagoda, in Willen Lake, England. Photo by diamond geezer (real name unknown).

Active shooter episodes are unpredictable, with no pattern or method to the actual choice of victims, although 78% have a link to at least one of the victims, most often academic or professional. The scariest thing is the speed in which it all goes down. Most attacks are over within 10-15 minutes, and some even faster. In the Northern Illinois University shooting, the murderer killed 5, injured 21, and then killed himself, all in about 3 minutes.  Unfortunately, when a shooter goes “active”, those in weapon range depend primarily on luck to survive. Luck – and how fast police arrive! 40% of attacks end in the shooter’s suicide and 46% end by force, primarily by police. I couldn’t find statistics on bystander intervention outcomes (does anyone have these?), but successes seem few and far between.

What Actions Should You Take?

1. Always be aware of your environment and possible dangers, both for active shooters and for other disasters. Pay attention to hazardous construction, excessive crowds, local environmental risks, and unusual behaviors.

2. Plan evacuation routes (preferably more than one) for every building you enter. Your best chance at surviving a shooting is to get out, quickly and quietly. Encourage others to leave with you (QUIETLY), but don’t force them. Don’t bring anything with you. Don’t stop to help wounded – you might just increase the casualty count. Once out, call 911 as soon as you are safe.

3. If you can’t get out, find a hiding place where the killer is less likely to notice you. Lock or barricade the door. Keep out of sight, hiding behind or under large furniture (to block bullets), and be quiet. SILENCE CELL PHONES – EVEN VIBRATION! If window exit is possible, do so. Avoid long hallways and bathrooms – areas killers often check.

4. If stuck with the shooter and unable to evacuate or hide, stay calm (yeah, sure) and don’t draw attention. If not yet shooting, follow their instructions. Once shooting starts, make a personal choice. You can stay still and hope they don’t shoot you. You can run for an exit while zigzagging (a moving target is harder to hit). You can attack the shooter. Definitely dangerous, but no more so than doing nothing and dying anyway.

5. If you can’t get to a safe space to call 911, dial anyway and leave the call open, allowing the dispatcher to hear what’s happening.

Peace Pagoda, Massachusetts

Peace Pagoda, Massachusetts. Photo by Baer Tierkel.

6. When police arrive, follow instructions. Drop everything, raise your arms, and open your hands. Do not point, make sudden movements, or make noise. Police can not tell who is a victim and who is a threat, so don’t do anything to confuse them. (Follow these rules when evacuating on your own as well, in case police are already outside).

7. Move quickly according to instructions. Do not try to stop or talk to police. They must find and stop the shooter before anything else, including care for the wounded. Once in a safe zone, other rescuers will help you. Do not leave the area until released by police – you are a witness.

Want to Learn More?

For more information on how to prepare, respond, and recover from active shooting events, read the Department of Homeland Security Active Shooter brochure. Or go all out and take the on-line FEMA course IS-907 – Active Shooter:  What You Can Do. It’s free, takes about 45 minutes, and includes information for employers on reducing risk. You even earn continuing education credits!

In the end, there are crazy people out there, and weapons to do crazy things. Hopefully it will never happen to you or your loved ones, but ultimately, we can’t prevent these events. All we can do is think through in advance what our best actions might be.

Stay safe,

Sheila Sund, M.D.

Colorful Origami cranes

Origami cranes. Photo by Sheila Sund, cranes by Kenton Popovich.