How to Protect Your Child from an Active Shooter

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 mom of two beautiful girls, these shootings have taken on a new meaning. We can stay away from public events, parties, and national monuments, but can you protect your child from an active shooter at school? 

Recently, a shooter gunned down children at a private school. 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, they need to be able to protect himself. Here are some tips you can use and share to protect your child from an active shooter.

How to Protect Your Child from an Active Shooter

How to Prepare Your Child for an Active Shooter Event

  • Discuss the threat beforehand
  • Practice action plan
  • Be aware of your surroundings: alarms, emergency exits, and suspicious persons
  • Follow Run, Hide, Fight protocol

9 Tips to Prepare Your Child for an Active Shooter Situation

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.

1: Accept that this is a possible scenario

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. That mindset can get us killed.

Let me share an example with you.

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. Can you believe that? A tiny preference saved us from being involved in a shooting.

Unfortunately, gun violence is becoming a common occurance in the US. According to one study, the amount of mass shootings in the US has almost doubled in the last ten years. In 2023, we’ve had 632 so far. How messed up is it that we can’t go to school, shop, listen to music, or 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.

2: Communicate the Gravity of Mass Shootings with Your Child

Once we get our mindset on track, we need to communicate the gravity of this possibility to our children. As parents, we tend to shy away from the graphic realities of the world. 

You mustn’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. 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” at their school.

 3: 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 you teach your child how to prepare for a mass shooting, try Run, Hide, Fight.

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 police, should always be the last resort. However, in some situations, hiding may be your first response rather than running.

4: Run

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.

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

5: Hide

How to Protect Your Child for an Active Shooter- Hide (1)
Hiding is an easy activity to practice at home with your children. Practice finding safe hiding spots, as well as defense positions.

If the shooter is at the entrance of a building, you may not be able to get out safely. 

Hide in 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. They should understand, though, the difference between this play activity and the gravity of a real situation.
  • 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

6: Fight

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

7: 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.

8: Be Aware of Suspicious Persons

Protecting Your Child from an Active Shooter- Suspicious Person (1)
Look for suspicious behavior, rather than people. Is someone acting erratically? Wearing warm clothes in hot weather?

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

9: 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’ve planned this attack 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 surroundings, 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.”

Prepare your child a public emergency (1)

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