Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TUTORIAL - How to Survive a Mass Shooting

Interestingly, the Australian government recently released "official guidelines" for how they expect people to act/react when caught up in a mass shooting.

While it's great that they have this kind of forethought, I wanted to present my own guide to you for what to do. The official guide is great and all, however it assumes that everyone in the vicinity will also be following this same process, and that won't be the case.

With the rise in terrorist attacks going on around the world it'd be foolish to think that it can't happen in Australia. Even just recently a gunman emptied the mall in Brisbane. He never fired a shot, but that doesn't mean to say that he couldn't have. Any crowded place is a risk factor - malls, bus and train stations, football stadiums, shopping centres... Be prepared, not scared, and you'll drastically increase your chances of survival if this sort of thing goes down.

Panic does strange things to people, and I have been unlucky enough to witness my share of it. What it breaks down to are three types of people:

The Herd (~70% of people)
The herd are the most dangerous, as they present the vast majority. When shit hits the fan they completely lose it. They start running, and they're not even sure where to. Because of this, they form into "herds" and all start just following each other. This creates a veritable stampede where self preservation for each individual takes over, and they will quite literally knock others down and walk over them to save their own skin. If you've ever had to deal with one panicked person, imagine having to take on a couple of hundred all at once.

The Watcher (~25% of people)
These people are like deers in headlights. When shit hits the fan, they freeze. They'll stand and stare, or wander aimlessly, wanting to get a look. Sometimes their curiosity overcomes their fear, sometimes they're in a state of minor shock and sometimes they're just stupid. These days, the watchers tend to pull out a phone camera and instagram their impending death #whatareyoudoing #run #youidiot.

The Hero (~5% of people)
These are the ones who have the safety of others in mind. They help guide people who are herding and help snap people out of it when they're frozen to the spot. They can be a hinderance in themselves as they may grab you when shit goes down in an effort to "help you" escape, but they may be herding you into a dangerous scenario. These people mean well, but think they know better, but you're better off fending for yourself.

So what happens when someone in a crowded place pulls out a gun and starts shooting? You'll hear the 'pop pop' of the shots, and then the inevitable screams. Most people's first reaction in this scenario would be to stop what they were doing and look around to see what the cause is. This moment of curiosity could very easily cost you your life, so avoid the temptation.

OPTION A - Run if you can!

As soon as you hear the first scream, the three people types listed above will move into action. The herd will begin to run away from the gunman, and will eventually coalesce into a single mass as they push to escape. The watchers will stand and stare while being jostled by the crowd. The heroes will start telling people "Over here! Over here!" and guiding people towards doorways, etc. One or two may even try to take on the gunman and bring him down.

Your goal should be to be like none of these people. As soon as you hear the shots and the screams, you need to run. Where to? That comes down to preparation. Any time you need to be in a crowded place, whether it's a theme park, a restaurant, a shopping mall or whatever, you need to locate and recognise no less than 3 quick escape routes. Why 3? Well, if you only pick one, then that escape route might require you to pass by the gunman to make it there. With at least 3, you can pick the one which is closest and most opposite in location to where the gunman and resulting chaos is. If your chosen exit is being flooded by the herd, however, it may be optimal to pick a different route. Acting fast is your best chance of survival. If you act quickly enough, you can be gone and have escaped via one of your exits long before anyone else even makes it there.

OPTION B - Hide if you can't run!

If, for some reason, all of your exits become compromised, then your best option is to hide until the chaos has ended. A gunman will never go long before he is dealt with by authorities. Familiarise yourself with materials that will stop a bullet and those that won't. Hiding behind wooden countertop may not stop a stray bullet. If you're able, learn the sounds that different calibre firearms make, and see if you can recognise how powerful the weapon is. A 0.22 pistol round will be easily stopped by a car door, but a 0.45 round wouldn't necessarily. Don't forget that a FMJ round will easily pass through a person and hit another person, and even flying debris from impacts nearby can cause you injury.

When choosing a hiding spot, make sure you have one or two exits from it. Don't run into a closet and hide there, as if the gunman comes to the door you will have no-where to go. Don't go into elevators or cram onto an escalator. If you have to get creative to get away, don't be afraid to. Sustaining a broken ankle from a small balcony jump is much better than being shot in the chest.

OPTION C - Confront the gunman!

This should be your absolute last resort. I cannot stress to you enough how risky this option is, however, sometimes there is no choice. There are various scenarios that this may happen:
  • 1. He has found you and is close
    • Your only option here is speed. Don't think of surrender. A crazed man with a gun who has been shooting people isn't looking to let people go. You need to rush at him, preferrably after causing a distraction. Throw something into his face or eyes to momentarily distract him and rush him, focusing on removing his firearm. BE AWARE that if you stun or shock him in some way, his reaction may be to let off a wild shot or shots. Come at him from a direction oblique to where the firearm is pointing.
  • 2. He has found you and you have a distance advantage
    • This can potentially be dangerous, as you will be too far away to rush him. You have two options - a) find a means of escape while attempting to avoid being fired upon or b) lure him closer so that you can attempt option (1).
  • 3. You have hidden, he is near, but doesn't realise you're there
    • Ideally in this scenario you would want to stay hidden and hope that he passes, however, he may be actively searching for people, in which case your time is limited and you must act fast. Try and surprise him from behind (doing so from the front may result in you being shot). Focus on disabling his firearm hand and aiming for blows to the head to create both the maximum amount of shock/confusion as well as having the potential for the most damage. There is no reason to go soft on someone who is actively trying to shoot you dead.

When disarming a gunman, you need to be standing in a direction relevant to him where you are not within a 45 degree arc of where the gun is pointing. Be careful not to grab the gun itself. A revolver, when fired, creates a blade-like explosion from the sides of the rotating cylinder and it will quite literally slice your fingers off. A semi-automatic pistol's slide mechanism will slam backwards and then forwards again, potentially ripping your hand open.

Instead, try to control the gunman's wrist and forearm, as you will be able to control the direction that the firearm is facing at all times. Aim blows at the back of his hand, just above the wrist. This will cause his hand to go limp and potentially drop the gun. If you manage to break enough of the long bones in his hand, he will have considerable difficulty in being able to pull the trigger again.

While "handling" the gunman in this fashion, you need to take every oppourtunity to can to direct blows at his eyes, nose and throat. These vulnerable points will leave him stunned and have the highest probability of putting him down.

A WORD OF CAUTION - while you are struggling with the gunman it is essential that you are aware of where the firearm is pointing. He may fire randomly, and if you've manipulated his arm to be aimed at fellow civilians, you could be directly responsible for people being shot.

Once you manage to put the gunman down, DO NOT attempt to use the firearm yourself. If you know how (and ONLY if you know how), unload it (if it is semi-automatic don't forget the one in the chamber). Move it far from the gunman's reach, but maintain an eyeline to it in order to direct the attention of authorities. Then, use all required force to keep the gunman down and on the ground, preferrably face down. Restrain him by any means necessary as at this point he is a man with nothing to lose, and will do anything he can to avoid capture.

BE AWARE that he may have a second weapon, be it another gun or potentially a knife. Be vigilant at all times and DO NOT let your guard down at any point.

When the authorities arrive, they will be armed and will suspect you. This is normal, but you will be fine. Step away from the gunman when directed to, place your hands above your head and make no quick movements. Allow the police to move over and restrain you. Don't try and convince them that you're not the shooter, just let them do their job. Everything will be clarified later. Remember! You have plenty of witnesses!

I hope it never happens to you, but best of luck if it does! Remember to stay calm, stay alert, plan multiple exits beforehand and be prepared, not scared!

- CumQuaT

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