How to SURVIVE in an active shooter situation

I recently attended Active Survivor Training (also called Active Shooter training) with my children. What we learned was invaluable and, as our personal story shows, the lessons can be used in real-life situations.

To survive and active shooter situation you cannot count on law enforcement. You must act.
A Study of Active Shooter Incidents between 2000-2013

These types of incidents are not just happening in schools. They are being perpetrated by disgruntled employees, happening at our local Walmarts and more. This is why I encourage everyone to contact their local police department and sign up for this type of training.

Here’s some of what I learned:

You can’t count on law enforcement to save you.

  • Over 60% of active shooting situations are over in less than 5 minutes
  • On average, police take 5 minutes to arrive on scene
  • On average, SWAT takes 50 minutes to arrive on scene

To survive, YOU must take action.

What you should NOT do

Previous active shooting situations have been studied in detail and the findings are clear: Hiding, negotiating, and playing dead will get you killed.

  • Shooters know people “play dead” and target them
  • Shooters go in with the goal of killing as many people as they can and know they won’t make it out alive so negotiating or pleading is futile
  • Shooters look for people who are hiding and they end up being sitting ducks

What you should do

Your goal in an active shooter situation must be to survive until law enforcement arrives. Remember, on average this takes 5 minutes or more. Here are the three strategies that give you the best chance of survival:


If possible, ALWAYS run. This gives you the greatest chance of survival.

  • In every situation know where the exits are
  • Call 911 only when you reach safety
  • Never go back

Remember, it takes time to call 911 and provide information, and even longer for law enforcement to respond. These seconds count so always run to safety first before calling.


Hiding or playing dead is not enough to save you from an active shooter. You must actively barricade yourself in a room while waiting for law enforcement.

  • Lock the door FIRST
  • Use furniture, cords, etc to barricade the door
  • Do NOT remove barricades. Not for other potential victims or even law enforcement*

*Once the police are on scene they will find a way to get into the room. Take no chances.

Remember, active shooters want to kill as many people as possible. If a door not easily breached they will quickly move on so even a simple barricade can be effective.


When in close proximity to a shooter, the best strategy may be to attack.

  • Use deep breathing to ensure you have all your facilities about you
  • Anything can be used as a weapon – throw a stapler, cell phone, or trash can
  • Grab the gun with both hands to either jam it or delay the shooter

Remember, you may not be able to ultimately wrestle the gun away or stop the shooter. However, you may be able to distract them or delay to allow law enforcement to arrive. It may be your only and best chance of survival.

While these strategies all come with inherent risks, previous shootings have been studied in detail. The FBI and other law enforcement groups have found that the likelihood of survival dramatically increases for people who run, barricade, or attack.

In active shooter situations, the FBI and other law enforcement groups have found, the likelihood of survival dramatically increases for people who run, barricade, or attack. Click To Tweet

Other tips

  • Stanch bullet wounds with tampons, teeshirts – anything is better than nothing.
  • Use a belt or cord to tie a tourniquet above a wound. Tighten until the bleeding stops.
  • When police arrive drop any weapons and put your hands up.

In real life…

Like most people, I never imagined this type of tragedy could happen to me. However, recently, my sister and I were in a life or death situation with a gun (you can read more details of our story here). Fortunately, my sister had been through Active Survival Training.

An “active shooter ” is defined as someone who wants to kill as many people as possible. Based on this definition, our situation did not involve an “active shooter,” but the strategies from this training were effective.

My sister instructed our teenaged children to run, and as a result:

  1. All three of our kids safely escaped
  2. They were able to call 911 and get us help

She also knew our best chance of survival was to attack. She and I both wrestled for the gun, and as a result:

  1. We bought ourselves time for law enforcement to arrive
  2. The scene was disrupted and our attacker moved out into open space where he could be confronted by law enforcement.

Ultimately, these active survival strategies saved our lives.

Remember, in an active shooter situation your goal is to survive while you wait for law enforcement:





Related Posts:

My Response to the Parkland Shooting

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I learned this valuable information and more from Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Active Survival Training which I attended on 9/4/2019.

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