Did you hear about Florida?
That’s how my husband told me about the most recent mass shooting in our country. Florida, Las Vegas, Burlington, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, Houston, Sandy Hook Elementary. The list of mass shooting sites is growing; the list of lives lost is worse. As a new mom, these shootings have taken on a new meaning. We can stay away from public events, parties, and national monuments, but how can we keep our daughter from school? In Florida a teenager shot down his former classmates. At Sandy Hook, a young man gunned down innocent children. How in the world do you protect your children against that? In the event of a mass shooting, we need to know what to do. Worse, if your child is caught up in a violent event, he needs to be able to protect himself. Here are some tips you can use and share to protect your child from an active shooter.
It’s Time to Stop Kidding Ourselves
We all have the “it can’t happen to me” mentality to some extent. That is, we worry about what could happen, but we don’t actually believe that it will. This can get us killed.
When my husband and I first moved to Seattle, we wanted to go see a movie. We had two theaters in mind, a theater 5 miles from us or a theater 20 miles from us. We chose the theater outside the city limits just because we liked the seats more. That’s it. That night, the other theater had a shooting. A tiny preference saved us from being involved in a shooting.
Less than 100 miles north, some guy gunned down 5 people at a mall. As I’m writing this post, there are reports of gunfire at a college not even 50 miles away. How messed up is it that we can’t go to school, we can’t shop, we can’t go to church, without having a safety plan in place? I don’t mean to scare you, Mamas, but we have to be able to protect ourselves and our children. It’s not safe to live with our heads in the sand. Our babies depend on us.
8 Tips to Protect Your Child from an Active Shooter
1: Share the Gravity of Mass Shootings
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Don’t beat around the bush. You need to share the gravity of the situation so your child can take preparation seriously. At the same time, try to contain your own fears. Children are so tender and their little hearts are more susceptible to fear. You set the stage for how your child will react in an active shooter situation.
If your child is afraid, try not to dismiss his fears, but listen and follow up with a plan. If you’re looking for ideas, check out, I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared. This book is cute, filled with colorful, friendly pictures, but delicately depicts how your children should react to a “dangerous someone.”
2: Teach the Slogan: Run, Hide, Fight
Don’t Talk to Strangers; Stop, Drop, and Roll; Only You Can Prevent a Forest Fire. We still remember the slogans from our childhood. When your teach your child how to prepare for a mass shooting, teach them Run, Hide, Fight. This mantra is great for children. However, keep in mind that for you, it may not be a step-by-step process. You may have to switch up the order in a real-life situation. Fighting for your life, according to the FBI, should always be the last resort. However, in some situations, hiding may be your first response rather than running.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN FOR LATER!
The next three tips revolve around the Run, Hide, Fight concept. This is the jist of it, but I highly suggest you do your own research into the program with the resources I list at the end of the article. Now, back to “Run.”
Run to the nearest exit, as long as that’s not toward the shooter. When you run, try to use in a zig zag pattern to make yourself a more difficult target. Zigzagging isn’t the most natural pattern, so this videotutorial might be helpful. Once again, use your judgement. If zigzagging is going to slow you down and the shooter isn’t paying attention to you, forget it. Run as fast as you can to the exit. If you’re in a wide open space and you’re being shot at, zigzagging can save your life.
Tips for You:
- Run in a zig zag patten
- Leave your belongings
- Do not let anyone slow you down
- Once you’re safe, report the incident
- Tips for Your Child
- Practice zigzagging in a game, like tag or dodge ball.
- Run away from the gunshots
- Use cover as much as possible, avoiding open areas
If the shooter is at the entrance of a building, you may not be able to get out safely. Aim for an enclosed room with locks if at all possible. Quickly and quietly barricade the door and grab anything that could be a useful weapon. Make sure your child is hidden or out of the main line of sight.
Tips for You
- If hiding in the open, your cover should be thick, capable of at least reducing the impact of bullets
- Silence your phone (and child!)
- Avoid bathrooms or other rooms that are easily accessible with little cover
- Don’t assume that you can play dead. In some mass shootings, the attacker shoots victims again to ensure that they are dead.
Tips for Your Child
- Practice hiding beforehand with Hide N’ Seek. Emphasize silence and finding cover quickly.
- If no hefty cover is available, cabinets, furniture, cars, etc. is better than nothing. Just hide out of sight!
- Do not use a cell phone to record the event. Call or text for help
The idea of fighting an active shooter isn’t a pleasant one. I’ve had nightmares about this scenario. I’m protecting my baby, attacking the enemy, and suddenly my limbs are weak and I’m as slow as a turtle.
The truth is, most of us are not combat ready. Not only are we untrained, but we’ve literally been taught our entire lives that violence is intolerable. So, suddenly, in the most dangerous, stressful situation of our lives, we’re expected to attack our shooter. It’s a scary prospect. Once again, preparation is the key to survival.
Tips for You:
- Prepare beforehand by purchasing pepper spray
- Focus on incapacitation: go for the eyes, groin, knees, hands, whatever keeps him from shooting you
- Don’t hold back. You’re defending your child and yourself.
- Counter, not fight. This concept came from ALICE Training Institute, the creator of the book above. This is a premeditated, intelligent response to defend yourself and your child. Countering defends your life by interrupting the gunman’s attack by throwing, hitting, making noise, or making distractions.
Tips for Your Child:
- Stay out of sight
- Run to safety
6: Acknowledge the Freeze and and Prepare
You’ve heard of the fight or flight response to danger. Unfortunately, there’s a third reaction: freezing. Almost everyone freezes when they see danger, even for a second. It’s this primal part of our brain that says, “If I don’t move, the predator can’t see me.” Which completely ruins the entire concept of Run, Hide, Fight.
You can’t predict your response to an emergency situation, but you can prepare for it. After you freeze, you have the opportunity for “cognitive reappraisal.” That is, the advanced, logical part of your brain remembers your emergency plan and forces you to act. But the thing is, cognitive reappraisal only works if you practice and plan beforehand. The same applies to your child.
7: Be Aware of Suspicious Persons
There’s a good phrase to remember. “People aren’t suspicious, behavior is.” Don’t stereotype. Rather, look for erratic behavior.
Keep an eye out for:
- Running where it’s not appropriate
- Off-season clothing
- Out of place objects (for example, a man is carrying an axe when you’re nowhere near trees)
- Non-appropriate clothing (you’re at a formal dinner and someone walks in wearing camo)
- Evasive behavior (not engaging in conversation or keeping to the shadows)
- Nervous behavior (Sweating, rapid eye-movement, licking lips, erratic hand movements)
- Entering and leaving the building frequently
Tips for Your Child:
- Report anyone that is not a teacher or police officer at school that does not have a name badge or pass
- Do NOT open any door that is locked to the outside
If they see something, say something
8: Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Have you ever gone to the theater and searched endlessly for the bathroom, only to see that you walked right past it when you bought your ticket? How about emergency exits? Raise your hand if you can list off two of the emergency exits at your local Wal-Mart, just off the top of your head. We’re not paying attention to our surroundings. We have a thousand other things we need to concentrate on (like not losing our kid, for one).
Unfortunately, this puts us at a disadvantage with an active shooter. Unless the active shooter just went nuts one day, they tend to plan for weeks, if not months. They’ll know the area. If you don’t know where the emergency exits are, then you can bet the shooter does. Make it a point to be aware of your surrounds, even if you’re just noting the fire exits.
Tips for You:
- Take note of the exits in any public place, including the fire exits
- Become familiar with the basic layout of the room
- Look for the alarms
Tips for Your Child:
Encourage your child to become more aware of his surroundings by playing games. Ask about the layout of the room, how many exits they can find, what faces they remember, etc. Try to make a game of it, like “I Spy.”
Take a note from the Boy Scouts and “Always Be Prepared.”
I hate that it’s 10 o’clock at night and I can’t stop thinking about how I can’t protect my daughter from everything. The only thing I can do is prepare and give her the tools she can use to protect herself. Mama, I hope you never have to protect your child from an active shooter. By reading this article, you’ve taken a small step to preparing for a terrible situation. You should be proud of that.
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