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How to Survive a Mass Shooting: What to do in an Active Shooter Situation

While active shooter situations are still pretty rare, it’s a phenomenon that does seem to be increasing in regularity.

From the recent shootings in Ohio and Texas to continuing terrorist attacks and violent attacks from organized urban mobs, mass shooting and mob attacks do happen, and they are something that we need to be prepared to respond to.

Preparing for Active Shooter Situations, and Terrorist Attacks

I dedicated an entire section of my book, The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide: Self-Reliance Strategies for a Dangerous World, to self-defense topics and understanding the criminal mind. The world our kids are growing up is far worse than anything we experienced growing up.

Situational Awareness is Key to Your Survival

Being able to protect yourself in an active shooter situation begins with having a good sense of what’s going on around you.

As I suggested in a previous article, about protecting yourself during a flash mob situation, knowing your environment is one of the most important safety precautions you can take in any situation.

Before entering any public place, you want to scope out the situation. If anything looks out of place, or your gut tells you something isn’t right, Listen to your instincts and leave.

Take the time to Learn Defensive and Firearm Tactics

The simple fact is, the only way to be able to stop these types of events is for the good guys to be armed and trained!

The key to preparedness is not only understanding the threat but taking the time to train yourself to be able to react during these stressful situations. To be truly prepared you need to take some sort of self-defense training course that deals with real-life training and stress response.

When training, you need to consider every aspect of an active shooter situation. That means going beyond just knowing how to shoot. Things like re-holstering your sidearm, calling the police while keeping your firearm on your target, working with improvised weaponry, close quarters combat, and knowing how to handle the stress of the situation, are all areas of training that should be included in any good self-defense course.

Find the Exit Points Wherever you Go

Part of being aware of your environment means knowing how to get out when things go bad. Upon entering any new area, the first thing you want to do is look for every possible escape route and exit that you can find. If things go bad, this one action could mean the difference between life and death, and is something that should never be overlooked.

Know what gunfire sounds like!

Even if you refuse to protect yourself by carrying a firearm, you sure as hell better know what actual gunfire sounds like — and you need to make sure your kids know as well.

All to often you hear people say things like, “I thought someone was throwing fireworks.” That couple seconds of hesitation will get you killed! You need to immediately be able to identify the threat and act.

Always Give Yourself the Tactical Advantage

Call it paranoia; I call it always being prepared. When putting yourself in a target rich environment –  like a movie theater, public gathering, or concert venue –  there are a couple of things you should do to maximize your ability to survive a deadly situation.

First, try to avoid situations that may turn violent.  While predicting one of these events is almost impossible, there are a number of things you can do that will put the odds in your favor.


The madmen who commit these crimes are looking for attention. Lone shooters and terrorist organizations are both looking for media attention, and high body counts. They are more likely to attack people during high profile events, so when possible:

  • Avoid opening night events

  • Avoid sold out shows and concerts

  • Avoid high-profile events, and politically charged rallies


If you do go to a large event such as a movie, a concert, or some sort of rally or sporting event, make sure you choose seats that are situated near an exit. The last place you want to be during a shooting is stuck in the middle of a crowd, or in the middle of a row of seats.  Placement is a critically important factor in staying safe.

  • Choose seats near exits

  • Never choose seats in the middle of a crowd

  • Don’t make yourself stand out from the crowd in any way

  • Make sure there are no obstacles standing in your way of making a quick escape


We have instincts for a reason. A number of people in the recent Colorado event had a bad feeling when they saw the shooter enter the building, yet most of them brushed off their feelings and reasoned that it was probably some sort of publicity stunt for the movie.  Even after the shooting started firing, a number of people said,  they still thought “it had to be part of the show.”

If a situation seems odd, if something seems out of place, or your gut tells you something isn’t right, listen to your instincts and don’t wait around to find out what happened.


It may sound counter-intuitive, especially if you listen to the mainstream media, but most of these mass shootings occur in gun-free zones. The cowards who commit these massacres know that they will find little resistance in these so-called “safe zones” so more often than not they select these targets to carry out their crimes. Criminals, terrorists, and the mentally insane don’t care about Gun Control Laws.

Personally, I avoid these areas like the plague, but if you are forced to go into one of these areas at the very least you should consider carrying some sort of improvised weapon.

Surviving an Active Shooter Situation

Should the unthinkable happen, and you find yourself in the middle of an active shooter situation, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your chances of survival.


This is first and foremost on the list of options.  In an active shooter situation, the first thing you want to do is try to escape. This isn’t a movie or a video game; when the bullets start flying the last place you want to be is anywhere near the shooter.

Hopefully, you took the time upon entering your location to scope out the exits. If you can safely make your way to an exit, do so without hesitation and without attracting unwanted attention from the shooter. Once you hit the exit, keep going. Distance is one of the keys to surviving the situation.


Taking cover means moving away from any possible harm. If you can’t safely remove yourself from the situation, the next best option may be to take cover. When I say take cover, I don’t mean closing your eyes and hiding behind some tiny little object.

In the movies, you often see the hero of the story returning fire from behind some ridiculous object like a table, or piece of furniture. In real life, these objects provide little if any actual protection from incoming fire. There’s a big difference between taking cover behind a solid barrier (like a concrete wall), and hiding behind a chair or table.


Critics of this option will probably argue that you should never try to attack a shooter. But if you’re in a situation where there’s no place to run, and no place to seek cover, what other option do you have? Most critics fall silent when asked that question.

The fact is, in an active shooter situation you often have very few options. Laying there frozen in fear does nothing to add to your chances of coming out alive. If you have no other options, you need to act quickly and decisively to try to take out the shooter.

If you have a firearm, then hopefully you have trained for this type of situation. I’m not going to go into tactics and proper response because nothing I write will properly prepare you for this situation. Only proper training, both physically and mentally, can prepare for this type of encounter. Please don’t underestimate the need to properly train yourself in the ways of self-defense.

After the attack, get to safety.

Once you have exited the building or removed yourself from the situation, DO NOT DROP YOUR GUARD.

  • What if the shooter returns?

  • What if there are other shooters waiting outside the exits?

I was stunned to see cell phone footage of people fleeing the scene during the Colorado shooting. Why anyone would stay and film this tragedy is not only disgusting, it’s something that could get you killed.

Hanging out at the scene of the incident is never a good idea, trying to film it on your cell phone is just plain stupid.

While these types of incidents are extremely rare, they do happen and they are something that we must be prepared to respond to. We live in a sick society where people are constantly seeking fame; unfortunately, there are a growing number of lunatics who will do anything it takes to receive that fame and notoriety. This is a problem that will probably only get worse with time.


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