Teaching Your Kids How to React to an Active Shooter
There has been some time that has passed since the latest “mass” shooting, although the news of a recently fired UPS worker killing two of his co-workers and eventually himself, reminds us that life is sometimes deadly. As a prepper as well as a strong advocate of the rights guaranteed by our second amendment, one of the things that I prepare for is a situation where a nut is going around killing innocent people. This could be some terrorist, a mentally deranged person, someone under the influence of psychotropic drugs or like in Alabama, someone with a grudge who simply doesn’t care anymore. You could say all of these types of people have one thing in common regardless of their motivation; they simply want to kill people.
There has and will always be people who want to kill for one reason or another. To deny that is to deny human nature so arguing about methods to make innocent people safer while at the same time preventing them from protecting themselves is to remain willfully ignorant about the reality of this issue. Bad people will always be around in one shape or another and they will endeavor to do bad things no matter what the rules are. Period.
I for one strongly believe that the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This is exactly what the police do and when they engage some nutcase like this with lethal force, the killers always stop. Usually they kill themselves first, but they do stop killing others in most cases when they are confronted.
This isn’t a debate about guns though or the second amendment, it is a conversation about what I want to share with my children should they find themselves in a situation where some psycho with a gun (or a knife, or an axe, a machete, sharp stick, baseball bat, hedge clippers) is in a location where they are and the psycho starts trying to injure people. This isn’t what you who may be aconcealed carry holder are to do in a situation with a psychopath; it is what the unarmed can do to get out of the situation and have a fighting chance at survival.
What do gunshots sound like?
Do your children know what gunshots sound like? Have you ever been outside and heard gunshots from a distance and wondered what was going on? If you live in some areas, gunshots outside are common but they can have completely different meanings depending on where you are. For example, if I was in downtown Chicago and I heard gunshots I would automatically assume someone with a gun was shooting people. Compare that with where I live which is vastly more rural than a big city. To hear gunshots out here probably means that someone is sighting in a new scope or is just practicing with a new handgun they purchased for self-defense.
The important thing is for your children to be able to recognize the sound of a gunshot wherever they are so they will be ready to act should they need to. Even out in the country people can go crazy so that gunshot you hear might mean that you will need to escape shortly. If nothing else, it should be something you pay attention to.
My children have all been to the range with me on multiple occasions and they have fired all of my weapons. They have been to indoor ranges and out in a pasture shooting at cans. They know what the sound of a gun is and this is a crucial point if your children are going to be prepared for this type of situation. It might even be their job to let a grownup know what that sound is. The range is a great place to introduce children to firearms in general but they also get to know the sounds a firearm makes. Even if you don’t like or believe in guns, that exposure could be something that saves their life.
Know your surroundings
This is probably the hardest thing for children to learn to pay attention to unless they are in a very familiar environment but knowing where the exits are and how to get out of a building in more than one way is important. If an active shooter is in the building you are in, do you know how to get out? If the shooter is between you and one exit, do you have a backup or alternate exit to go to? In a life or death scenario (and assuming you aren’t in a high-rise) would you bust out a window and go out that way?
Panic is probably the hardest to overcome in a situation where there is someone shooting people and coming your way, but having some conversations about where they would go and what they would do if faced with certain obstacles helps kids to think about this potential situation before they are faced with it. Just the exercise of talking through what they would do gives kids some perspective they can draw on in a crisis situation. I tell my kids to do whatever it takes to get out of the building. If that means busting a window, I’ll pay for it. If they have to steal a car I will bail them out of jail. Whatever it takes to stay alive and they have to know you are going to back them up when that happens.
Run – Get Out! Hide only as a last resort
As a Dad I would chase my kids around the house. I still do sometimes, but it isn’t anywhere near as fun. My youngest child would always run some distance but when I got close she would hit the ground and curl up waiting for me to tickle her. I would always try to get her to keep running because I would want her to run until she couldn’t run anymore if her life depended on it. I know with me she felt safe “getting caught” but I wanted her to know that wasn’t an option if she was running from a Zombie or a bad guy. We use zombies all the time to discuss end of the world situations because they are more fun to a kid than some of the realities of regular people acting odd.
If my children are anywhere they hear gunshots they are taught to run and get out of the building or location they are in as fast as possible. Like I said above, do whatever it takes to get out and the faster the better. A lot of schools will say go into a classroom, lock the door and turn out the lights. What the?? No, run out of the building so the bad guy won’t be able to break or shoot out the lock and walk in the room and kill everyone hiding under their desk. Even if they don’t break down the door you are trapped inside and they are between you and safety. I even tell my kids to run no matter what their teachers say. If their teacher’s say they are supposed to hide under their desks, I tell them to run out, go away from the shooter and get out of the building. Even DHS, when discussing what to do in an Active Shooter scenario recommends “if there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises”. Just get out.
Cover versus Concealment
Lastly, it is important for your children to know what bullets can do and what is necessary to stop them from going through someone. If they are trapped inside, they need to find something that will give them the best chance of surviving if the bullets start flying. That means something with enough mass to stop rounds.
Children think that as long as they are hidden they will be OK and we know that isn’t the case. They have to know what will protect them from bulletsand there aren’t many things in an office building, movie theater or school that will do an effective job but you can learn to look for more solid objects. Don’t even bother hiding under a table or a glass trophy case, but those big concrete posts in the lobby will work. Forget about hiding under the teacher’s desk, but the large bookshelves in the library could offer protection. Large appliances in the back of the cafeteria will work better than stainless steel serving dollies. The next time you are out anywhere ask your child what they could hide behind that would stop a bullet and see what they say.
To illustrate the damage of a bullet you can also go back to the range and take a watermelon or better yet a large phone book with you. Have your child stab the phone book with a knife really hard to see what happens. Most children will barely be able to penetrate the surface of a phone book with a knife. Then set the phone book up and shoot it with any pistol you have and show them the hole in the back. This will impress upon them the damage that bullets can make and why it is so important to get behind something very sturdy if they have no place to run.
Hopefully none of our children or any children will ever have to face a situation in which an active shooter is attacking people where they are. My hope is that if that happens I am with them. If I am not with them, I hope they will do everything they can to get out of there before they are harmed. Do your children know what to do?