5 Critical Steps in a Shooting

Angie Szumlinski
September 18, 2013

What’s in a word?

“Shooter kills [some], injures [more]” has become a far too common news headline originating in offices, academic campuses, schools, senior housing/nursing homes and even military bases. Over the past several years and most recently this week, our country has experienced shooting events resulting in the loss of innocent lives.  Why do these events continue to happen and how can we be alert to the warning signs?  Unfortunately there are no easy answers to these questions so we need to be prepared.

There are 5 critical steps that first responders recommend:

  1. Take shelter; evacuate or seek a secure area. 
    • Consider designating a secure area such as a room that can be locked from the inside.  It is recommended that the room be windowless if possible.
    • If there are windows in the general area, be sure they are locked and turn off all lights.
    • Keep everyone as quiet and as still as possible; be alert to cell phones, pagers, etc. that may cause noise unexpectedly.
    • Get everyone on the floor if physically able or behind heavy objects such as desks, cabinets, etc. 
    • Ensure no one is visible through windows from outside of room.
  2. Call for help; report the incident, describe the “shooter” or “shooters”, weapon and location as best you can.
    • One person should call 911 from a land line if possible.  A cell phone can be used however it is more difficult to track the caller’s location on a cell phone. 
    • Tell the dispatcher what is happening and where you are located.  Include the facility address, phone number and cross roads in the location description to assist first responders in locating the facility.
    • Remember as many details about the shooter as you can including gender and race, distinguishing clothing, color of shirt, type of pants/shorts/skirt, hat, body type, age, hair color and cut. 
    • If the shooter has left the area let the dispatcher know which direction they went. You can use landmarks such as “he went out the front door and headed toward the Walmart on the corner” versus using North, South, East or West directions.
    • Stay on the line with the dispatcher until you are told it is okay to hang up.  If staying on the line places you in harm’s way indicate such to the dispatcher and get to a safe location. 
    • If you are unable to speak to the dispatcher due to the situation, leave the line open and the dispatcher can hear what is happening.
  3. Stay quiet and calm others.
  4. Stay put.  Remain in place until first responders give an “all clear”.
    •  Do not respond to any voice commands until you can verify visually that they are being issued by a first responder. 
    • Unfamiliar voices may be the shooter attempting to lure victims from the safe space. 
  5. Work with law enforcement.  First responders:
    • Will avoid engaging in armed conflict unless there is no alternative.  They may limit access to the location and evacuate as many people as possible. 
    • Will proceed immediately to the location where the last shots were heard in an attempt to stop the shooting as quickly as possible. 
    • Are trained to move in teams/units and are usually dressed in various uniforms and gear including vests, helmets, gas masks and other personal protective equipment. 
    • There may be rifles, shotguns, handguns, pepper spray, tear gas and/or TASERs.
    • Remember to remain calm, listen to the direction given by the first responders, avoid carrying anything that is not necessary, keep your hands visible at all times and tell them where the shooter is located if known.
    • When the area is secure, emergency medical personnel will remove injured persons and provide medical treatment.  Do not attempt to move injured people yourself. 
    • Remain in the safe area to assist in maintaining a safe environment until the situation is fully controlled.  First responders will release you when this is achieved.

Other considerations:

  • Have an escape route and plan your strategy before you attempt to leave the safe area.
  • Do not attempt to move injured people however let the first responders know where the injured are located.
  • Have an emergency code phrase such as “Dr. Strong” to alert other staff that there is danger and educate all staff on the protocol.
  • Notify your local law enforcement and fire department that you have a plan in place and provide them with a copy.

If you become verbally engaged with the shooter remember:

  1. Speak slowly
  2. Use a calm voice and low pitch
  3. Use the person’s name (if known) and introduce yourself by first name
  4. Acknowledge their right to be angry
  5. Tell them you are cooperating with them and that they are in control
  6. Present a caring attitude
  7. Stay as far away from the shooter as possible
  8. Avoid direct eye contact or stare-downs
  9. Use non-threatening gestures (palm out, open hands, etc.)
  10. Look for signs of imminent violence such as:
    • Verbal outbursts of anger and frustration
    • Loud, forceful speech
    • Verbal threats (direct or veiled)
    • Threatening body language or gestures
    • Signs of agitation
    • Clenching of jaw and/or fists
    • Pacing
    • Throwing or shoving objects

Please take the time to review and educate your staff on your disaster preparedness plans.  If you need assistance in developing a plan please contact your HealthCap Risk Manager.  Thank you!

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