Solving problems with ‘Run, Hide, Fight’; and giving active shooter threats as much attention and practice as fire drills
Law enforcement agencies and research institutions began studying response tactics after the Columbine High shooting in 1999. Since then, protocols and best practices have emerged, such as:
- A focus on eliminating the shooter before assisting the injured
- The best police-to-patron ratio
- Changes in law enforcement training to speed up medical response
- Changes in training away from establishing a perimeter and toward eliminating the threat
Training for medical personnel, civilians, and even building engineers changed, too.
After years of study and training, Vantage Point Consulting has identified new training tactics for civilians dubbed R²EBA that can save your life.
Recognize, React, Evacuate, Barricade, Attack
R²EBA goes beyond the oft-cited “Run, Hide, Fight” response used by many training programs and will save lives.
“The first ‘R’ in R²EBA is probably the most important,” says VPC Vice President and Security Branch Director Dwight Frost. “A lot of people don’t recognize a threat, or they’re slow to react even when they see it.” Frost is a 28-year veteran police officer and is a trained SWAT team sniper.
For instance, a person in a hospital carrying a guitar case may be there to perform for patients, “But a lot of weapons are smuggled into schools and businesses using instrument cases,” says Frost. “If it’s not likely a time for a performance, you should at least recognize it as potentially abnormal.”
“Only you will know what is unusual,” says Frost. “No one but you can walk into a room and tell if something seems normal or not.” And, he adds, “This is not to say everyone is out to harm you.”
You should give unusual behavior the same level of recognition you would give to a fire risk from the poor placement of a space heater or a child with a lighter.
Your reaction to a recognized threat or situation comes from thinking first—during training—and being quick in the moment.
“A lot of people are slow to react to a threat,” says Frost. “I’ve worked with nurses who say they know how they would respond, but in training with a plastic gun—that they know is plastic—they freeze.”
During VPC’s active shooter training, real security footage of an obviously armed gunman walking into a room is shown painting a “V” on the wall. “And everyone just sits there and watches him,” says Frost.
“We teach people to think about what they’d do, what they should do, and then do it.” Much of this action is informed by real, in-person training where trainers yell and behave with the intent to provoke your body’s natural fear responses.
During 1999’s Columbine shooting, the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting—and almost every other incident—people who got out of the same building as the gunman survived. Many of those that stayed perished.
Two classrooms in Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall massacre showed the differences. In one classroom, an instructor and a student used their bodies to hold a door shut while students jumped from a window to survive. Next door, eighteen students hid behind or under their desks, and none survived.
Even if jumping means the potential for a broken bone, such as a student who walked away with a broken rib, it’s demonstrably better than death.
“The problem with ‘hiding’”, says Frost, “Is it puts people into the mindset of hiding under their desk or table. “If I’m in a room, I want to identify every possible way to escape, whether that’s through the window or ceiling. Hiding in place is a terrible idea.” The only exception is if a shooter is outside your building—in which case, you should put as much distance between you and the area as possible if it is safe to do so.
If escape is impossible, like on the fifth floor of a building or if a room has no discernable exits, the best alternative is to barricade yourself in the room. Use appliances, furniture, and anything not bolted to the floor to put as much weight and material between you and the doors or windows.
“And you should always continue to search for a way to evacuate yourself,” says Frost.
As a last resort, once no evacuation route is available and barricading is either impossible, unlikely to happen fast enough, or has been broken, you should attack.
“We go beyond the typical ‘Fight’ response,” says Frost. “You can throw things and yell, but we teach eye-gouging and throat punching.” It sounds barbaric and violent, but those attack methods can briefly disable an assailant more than throwing office supplies or furniture in a life or death situation. “The attack has to be vicious,” says Frost, “So you can buy enough time to try another evacuation.”
Introduce next-level R²EBA active shooter training to your hospital, school, or business
Schools, businesses, healthcare facilities, and other groups of any size can benefit from in-person training that challenges people to think strategically and train their bodies to react.
“We can also show people how to escape from rooms they regularly find themselves in,” says Frost. This applies to children, too, who already practice similar escape drills for building fires.
To get started, contact VPC today or learn more about active shooter threat training.