A man with his hands in his head in front of an American flag | Active shooter preparedness

Run. Hide. Fight.

With active shooter scenarios and mass casualty events a near daily reality, you’ve probably become familiar with these three words. But what do they mean, and when is it appropriate to apply Run-Hide-Fight in the moment?

In this multi-part series, we’ll define these options and discuss how to use each to your advantage if you, your family, coworkers, or students come face-to-face with a terrifying choice.

When initially considering Run-Hide-Fight (RHF) it’s important to recognize two things. One, while RHF is widely accepted as FBI and DHS guidance in active shooter response, some experts disagree on its practice. However, there is broad consensus that whether applying RHF, lockdown measures, barricading, or other related tactics, response during an active shooter event is fluid and can be ever-changing.

Situational Awareness and Assessment

No matter what method you use and no matter the training you’re given, situational awareness and situational assessment are both essential. Situational awareness is the practice of being alert to the activities and physical environment around you. We’ve covered this subject before in these pages, but if you need a refresher, read up on situational awareness here.

Situational assessment means quickly scanning your surroundings and using the information to determine your best course of action. Where are the shots coming from? What’s your proximity to the shooter? Are there exits available, or do you need to barricade or shelter in place? While the hope is that an escape route is readily available and you can remove yourself from a threat as quickly as possible, that isn’t always the case. Calm but quick thinking is essential to assess the situation and determine the best option.

A true understanding of Run-Hide-Fight accepts that these options are not always linear, and your best choice at the time may depend on how the event is unfolding. You may have to run, then hide and run again. You may have to hide, then run, then hide again. Fighting the assailant should always be a last resort but in some cases, it may be the only option.

You Have Less Than 5 Minutes

Though your choices may be dictated by the situation, it’s important to note that most active shooter incidents end quickly. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nearly 70% are over in less than five minutes.

To that end, RHF training advocates that your first option—avoidance—is your best option. Assuming there is sufficient distance between you and the shooter, silence your phone, stay out of sight, and head away from the sound of gunfire to the nearest exit. Direct others to do the same.

If it is unsafe to flee, then your priority is to make it difficult and time-consuming for the assailant to find you. Stay behind a locked door or an improvised barricade. Cover windows or other visual access points. Unless you are the specific target, most shooters will not waste time trying to get through a locked door or other time-consuming obstacle.

Most shooters will not waste time trying to get through a locked door or other time-consuming obstacle.

When it’s safe to make a call, dial 911 and provide the following information to law enforcement:

  • Location and number of active shooter(s)
  • Location of caller
  • If there is law enforcement on site
  • Physical description of shooter(s)
  • Type and number of weapons used by shooter(s)
  • Use or threat of explosive / improvised explosive devices

(Don’t worry: 911 professionals will ask you these questions, you don’t have to memorize them.)

Have an Escape Plan

Often, the goal of the shooter is to inflict maximum damage in short order. Knowing this, make it a practice to have an escape plan in place so choosing to run is easier when the time comes. We’ll discuss how to devise that plan in Part 2.

Preparedness is Proven

With online training for early warning signs, situational awareness, conflict avoidance, de-escalation techniques, and Run-Hide-Fight, The Power of Preparedness (TPOP) can ensure you’re armed with the knowledge, confidence, and “muscle memory” to take the right action at the right time to save lives. Contact us to learn more.