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Responding to an Active Shooter Attack

Eric Loden

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After the most recent shooting incident here in the Las Vegas valley a few of our students requested that we cover this subject on the range during one of our Foundry courses.

This is just one of the many topics covered in emergency planning and response in our On Site training programs, so this article will be a short briefing on a much larger topic.

Active Shooter statistics:

  • The average active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes, while 37 percent last less than five minutes.
  • 49 percent of attackers committed suicide, 34 percent were arrested, and 17 percent were killed.
  • 51 percent of the attacks studied occurred in the workplace, while 17 percent occurred in a school, 17 percent occurred in a public place, and six percent occurred in a religious establishment.
  • Two percent of the shooters bring improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as an additional weapon.
  • In 10 percent of the cases, the shooter stops and walks away. In 20 percent of the cases, the shooter goes mobile, moving to another location.
  • 43 percent of the time, the crime is over before police arrive. In 57 percent of the shootings, an officer arrives while shooting is still underway.
  • The attacks ended before the police arrived 49 percent of the time. In 56 percent of the attacks ongoing when police arrived, officers had to use force to stop the killing.


Profiling an active shooter

Unpredictable and evolve quickly

  • Motives
    • Ideological
    • Political
    • Hate based (Race, Gender, Orientation)
    • Revenge
    • Mentally disturbed
  • Means and Method
    • Targeting areas of vulnerability (Gun free zones)
    • Seeking targets of opportunity (No specific target, simply seeking a body count)
    • Multiple weapon systems (Most attackers utilize pistols, rifles, and shotguns in combination)

How the incident is resolved:

Action needs to be taken immediately to decrease the potential loss of life. We encourage you to have the Combat mindset. "Combat mindset is...The courage to fight. The desire to live. The strength to kill. The willingness to die." -EL


Encountering an attacker

We teach the same response to any potential threat with a few minor additions in the event of an active shooter event.

In most other types of attacks (robbery, assault, home invasion, road rage incident) the attacker initiates the attack with their intended target in mind or at least in sight. So lets talk about sight and seeing the potential threat.

Situational Awareness

The Color Code of Mental Awareness

A description of the level of attention or awareness you may apply to any situation in your daily life. One should always strive to remain in condition Yellow.

White - Un-readiness, internal focus, unaware of your surroundings.
Yellow - Relaxed and aware, a state of general anticipation, where the sudden appearance of a dangerous situation does not catch us off-guard.
Orange - Specific Alert, being alert you identify a situation that could indicate a pre-assault indicator. Threat assessment, target identification, and consideration for the rules of engagement begin to take place.
Red - Specific threat, the fight is now imminent. Decision to engage is based on your personal mental trigger, or line in the sand.
Black - Immediate engagement, the fight is already on. (You may not know until you take the first round.)

(Used in conjunction with Boyd's OODA Loop)




Observation: Being aware of your surroundings, entrances and exits, activities and what is going on with the people around you.

Orientation: Reading the situation as it develops, conducting threat assessment, scanning the crowd looking for potential threats and pre-assault indicators. (Suspicious behavior such as body language that signals the individual may be planning or preparing to make an attack.)

Decide: Planning your course of action. The 'what if's" such as..."If they go right, then I will go left..." These decisions on how you could react should be considered, discussed, decided upon, rehearsed, studied, learned from, improved upon, and rehearsed again... over and over... This is called TRAINING!

Act: Putting your training into action, making critical (life and death) decisions in the blink of an eye.

And once you act, this causes a reaction, and the cycle begins again..... until the threat is stopped.



  • Know your exits (Multiple exits and directions of travel)
  • Choose locations that provide you with possible cover, concealment, or positions of tactical advantage.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings, keep your head on a swivel, and watch your back.

By seeing the potential attacker first, this increases our reaction time, and perhaps allow us to escape or gain distance, alert others, and move to a position where we can protect or arm ourselves for the fight ahead.

Responding to an attacker (Fight, Flight, or Freeze)

  1. Escape and Evasion (Flight)
  2. Cover vs. Concealment

  3. Communication

  4. Contact (Fight)

Fight the fear and don't freeze. Denial is a powerful nerve agent, it kills your nerve to act.

Escape and Evasion

  • Move: Movement is life. Leave your belongings, encourage others to leave with you, if they will not... leave them behind.
  • If possible avoid making unnecessary noise, and attracting attention (stealth and surprise can be valuable allies)
  • Consider using cover or concealment during your escape.
    • Try to avoid long hallways or staircases where you have no cover or concealment (The fatal funnels)
  • Consider arming yourself if during your escape you encounter the attacker. (If you are not armed, find weapons of opportunity.)
  • If you are able to escape. Keep your hands visible when encountering first responders, give clear communication to those who need it.

Cover vs. Concealment

  • Cover is material that will stop a projectile
  • Concealment is material that hides you from the attackers line of sight (The danger zone)
  • Consider what is Cover in your surroundings and position yourself where it is between you and the threat.
  • Seek a position of tactical advantage
    • Capitalize on the availability of blind spots

If you are unable to escape and you are forced to take shelter somewhere, then you should find a position that will afford you a tactical advantage. If you can see the attacker but they cannot see you that extends your observation time, which increases your ability to react. 

If possible take some additional precautions to decrease making contact with the shooter.

  • Turn the lights out
  • Lock the door (Improvise a lock if one is not available)(Use belts, shoelaces, extension cords to tie doors closed)
  • Block or barricade the entrance with large items of furniture (Even small items that can slow the attacker down can be used.)(Tripping hazards, tacks, broken glass, etc..)
  • Remain quiet (silence your cell phones) If unable to speak, perhaps text a person who can communicate to emergency response services.


Your first duty in communication is to alert others that there is an attacker in the area. The quicker the alert can spread, the more time individuals have to react and time is life.

  • Coded alerts (location specific)(ie: Phone call for Alan Smithee Line 9, Phone call for Alan Smithee Line 9")
  • Hand signals (Perhaps as simple as acting out shooting with a finger gun in the air)
  • Text alert system
  • Fire alarm (This is not usually recommended as people do not tend to react with a sense of urgency to a fire alarm)(As an alternative... perhaps flashing the lights on and off in a specific pattern would gain more attention?)
  • Communication with Emergency responders: Tell them where you are, what you are wearing, if there are others with you, and what you know about the attacker(s). (Location of attacker, description, weapons used, direction of travel... pay attention to the operators questions, and answer truthfully)(Try to remain calm... breathe)


When contact is made you have a few choices. Fight for your life!

Utilize: Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action!

Distraction devices:

  • OC Spray (Mace) used to blind and induce pain
  • Fire extinguishers to obscure vision, and then use as a contact weapon
  • Pot of hot coffee to burn, blind, and strike with
  • Throwing items (Knives, Scissors, Bottles, Drinking glasses, Paperweights, etc.. if all you have are your shoes... toss em)
  • Firecrackers (Recently discussed as the 4th of July is approaching... if Law enforcement can use stun grenades, then can firecrackers be used as civilian alternative?)(Not a recommendation... just a consideration)
  • Another controversial consideration... a "Moltov cocktail"  any flammable liquid and ignition source.

Contact weapons: (Improvised weapons)

  • Long range: Flag poles, closet rods, brooms, mops,
  • Mid range: Chairs, Bags (A purse with a snow globe collection or a sock with gym padlock can crack a skull)
  • Close range: A tightly rolled magazine, kitchen knife, letter opener, receipt spike, scissors, writing pen, etc...

Some weapons can be used together to increase their effectiveness and or range. Such as a mop with a knife taped to the end to create a spear, or the legs of a wooden chair being broken off into sharp spikes, etc...


This is what I grabbed in a split second... with planning.. you can place more items in your vicinity that you can assemble with ease. Experiment.... practice putting the pieces together... try out your items on an appropriate target at home. (Not safe for work.)


Mom told you not to run with scissors, I'm telling you it's okay on this occasion. A good grip that keeps both points open and available.



Any heavy object, in a bag or even tied to a cord can make a good failing weapon. Increase your range and striking power.


A letter opener taped to a 3-sided ruler makes a handy hand spear.


An all plastic "letter opener" style knife will still get the point across. This is a double edged sword.. meaning you can get it through a metal detector.. but so can any adversary.

In our Close Contact Combat course we teach a system of engagement that is summarized as follows:

Evasion: Move out of the line of attack

Contact: Make contact with the attackers weapons and move off the line of attack.

Capture: Hold and re-direct the weapon to be aimed where it doesn't present a threat to others. (Generally: Down and away.)

Control: Disarm, disable, subdue, restrain,... stop the attack.

Strike: If striking is necessary, make it count. The goal is not to hurt or harm but instead it is to immediately incapacitate.


Strength in numbers:

If you are not alone, don't fight alone.

Summon the courage and assistance of others.

Organize a plan of attack, assign roles, (Distraction, distance attack, mid range attack, close attack, and subdue, immobilize, or neutralize the threat.)

Multiple direction attack (Come from more than one direction so that if one effort is stopped the other has a chance of success. Attack high, mid, and low on the body for the same reason.)

Scenario example: One individual will throw an item at the attackers head from one direction to serve as a distraction and possibly cause injury, while another may attack the body or strike the arms (holding the weapon) to dislodge the weapon or alter its aim point, while another violently tackles the knees of the attacker to take them to the ground, and then all persons lay on top of the attacker and have responsibility for individual limbs. One person holds the head down, one person holds each arm, and another sits atop the legs to incapacitate the individual until emergency responders arrive.

All of these actions take individual training to some degree, and some can simply be assigned by a strong leader, if that is you then lead. If it is another... then follow. However you can stop the attack, fight to win.


Additional considerations:

Injuries to yourself or others

Additional threats

  • Fire
  • Explosives
  • Chemical agents
  • Biological agents

As we stated this is just a brief article of a much more detailed lesson plan that is only part of the more in-depth courses. If you really want to be prepared, never stop training.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please let us know by replying to this article below, or dropping us a line at info@adaptacademy.com


Some videos that others have been produced by Federal, State, Local Agencies, or private institutions.





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