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Noel Alumit

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Notes from an Active Shooter Training

safetyA few months ago, staff at USC Rossier was asked to attend an active shooter training–what should we do if a gunman (or woman) came to campus and started shooting at people.  The instructor of the training said this scenario is not a question of “if” but “when.”

With the shooting at UCLA yesterday, the question of “when” hit way too close to home.  We have friends and colleagues at UCLA, and it was more than disconcerting to read on social media that they were barricading themselves in classrooms and offices to stay safe.

In the last 24 hours, UCLA’s Chancellor Block sent several emails updating the community about the situation.  The psychological repercussions will be great, I’m sure.  On my Facebook feed, I’d read several posts of colleagues who want to leave teaching because, well, it’s too dangerous.

School shootings is something I’ve written about before.  Last fall, I asked the question: Where will the next school shooting be?  Unfortunately, I got my answer.

As news of this shooting continues to make headlines, we have to understand that schools are not the only places where shooters go.  It was just 7 months ago when San Bernadino was devastated by a mass shooting. Whether people stay in education or not, a shooting scenario can happen anywhere.

At my active shooter training, there were many helpful tips.  The formula to go with is: Run, Hide, Fight.


If you’re aware of a shooter in your building or area, run.  But keep calm.  Be aware of your surroundings. Look for exit signs. When you get outside, run with your hands up in the air. This will help identify you to police officers that you’re trying to get away and you’re not the actual shooter.  Yes, you can be mistaken as the suspect–read here.


If you’re trapped in a room or building with no visible exit, hide.  Lock or barricade your door.  Turn off the lights, hide, and make it look like the place is empty. The shooter is looking for signs of life, so if it looks empty they’ll leave. If a door is locked or jammed, they’ll leave.

If the door doesn’t lock and you have nothing to barricade, take a belt or some kind of strap, wrap it around the doorknob, stand to the side of the door and pull the strap tight, forcing the door closed.  (see picture). You want to stand at the side of the door because standing behind the door to barricade it, puts you in danger. Unless the door is made of metal or thick wood, the gunman can shoot through the door and kill you.

Turn off all phones. Turn off your cellphone and disconnect land lines. Remember the shooter is looking for signs of life. If he hears a phone ringing, he’ll think someone is there.

(On the same note, don’t call someone if you think they’re near the shooting area. You don’t want your ring to alert the shooter that your relative or friend is nearby. In an ideal situation, those caught in the melee will know to turn off their phones.  However, even in calm situations, people don’t turn off their phones, even when instructed–those who have heard a phone go off in a theatre, know this.  Chances are those fleeing or hiding for their lives, won’t be thinking of silencing their phones. Call when the police say that it’s safe and the area has been secured with no threat of danger.)


If you are in a situation where you can’t run or hide, fight.  In my active shooter training, we were asked if any of us had been in an actual physical, all-out fight.  Only a few of us raised our hands.  I was expecting this.  Most of us who enter higher education, don’t expect to fight physically.  However, this might be your last option.

Look for weapons in your area.  Look for things to throw or attack with. Pens, keys, scissors, high heal shoes, furniture, bottles, fire extinguisher.  If none of these are available, use your fists.  Punch, scratch, kick like hell.  Aim for vulnerable areas like the face and groin.

I had friends who used to say, “If I go down, I’m taking some with me.”

Fully concentrate on taking down the shooter.

If you’re trapped with a group of people, make a commitment as a group to fight hard.

Hopefully, we may never experience something like this, but let’s be prepared.

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