California State University, Long Beach
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“Run, Hide, Fight”

Published: March 1, 2016

With the number of active shooter incidents increasing, you can’t be reminded too often on how to respond if you find yourself in that situation.

If you do, though, CSULB University Police Sgt. Keith Caires wants the campus community to remember one phrase—“Run, Hide, Fight.”

“That’s the platform the CSU decided on so that’s the building block to what we do here on campus,” said Caires, who heads up CSULB’s Office of Crime Prevention, the primary resource for information regarding such incidents, which includes educational materials and active shooter response training workshops. “We wanted to create something we can deliver, if requested, to the average campus community member, based around the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ platform.”

The definition of an active shooter, as agreed upon by U.S. government agencies, is “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”

With the 24/7 news cycle, it may just feel like such incidents are more prevalent, but, in fact, according to statistics taken from a 2000-13 FBI study, they are. An average of 6.4 “active shooter” incidents occurred annually in the first seven years of the study, increasing to an average of 16.4 over the last seven years.

Still, Caires refers to them as “low-frequency, high-impact” events, the kind the media tends to cover. To gain some perspective, however, he noted campus individuals should be more concerned about earthquakes or floods than an active shooter.

Nonetheless, University Police wants individuals to be prepared if such a scenario does unfold because survival may depend on having a plan—and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

“The ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ concept is very simple, but they are not balanced responses,” said Caires. “I would say 98 percent of the time, just get away; 1 percent of the time, you may have to shelter in place; and maybe .1 percent of the time, you may be confronted by a shooter.”

If an active shooter is in your vicinity, the first option is to run, if safely possible. If it’s not, hide where you can lock and/or barricade the door, silence your cell phone, turn out any lights and remain quiet. The hiding place should be out of the shooter’s view, provide protection if shots are fired and not restrict your options.

As a last resort, fight, attempting to incapacitate the shooter with physical aggression or using improvised weapons, such as a chair. The element of surprise works in someone’s favor, with the key to fighting being committing to your actions.

“If someone is pointing a gun at you and not shooting you and you are close enough to touch it, then you’re actually at a momentary advantage because they are in a ‘pause,’” said Caires. “If you act with conviction then you’re going to beat their reaction time.

“Someone doesn’t have to know martial arts,” he added. “It just needs to be someone who decides to take action. If you do it fast enough, the gun will probably go flying because they’re not expecting that. Hopefully, other bystanders see that and help take the person down.”

According to Caires, there have been several successful bystander interventions—verbal, as well as physical. He noted the Paris train terrorist attack in August 2015 where it was a professor who initially snatched the rifle away from the attacker.

Statistics compiled from the 2000-13 FBI study reveal 160 “active shooter” incidents in the nation during that time, resulting in 486 deaths and another 557 wounded.

The most casualty-ridden active shooter events in U.S. history were at the Cinemark Century 16 Theater in Colorado, 12 killed/58 wounded on July 20, 2012; at Virginia Tech University, 32 killed/17 wounded on April 16, 2007; and Ft. Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Texas, 13 killed/32 wounded on Nov. 5, 2009.

With incidents taking place in 40 of 50 states since 2000, it’s clear that it can happen anytime, anywhere.

In order to make the campus community better prepared, Caires offers active shooter response training to any department or student group on campus. Training can range from just the delivery of curriculum to an actual exercise.

“We can just talk through scenarios,” said Caires. “Or we can do a drill where people move to a fall-back room, actually block the door and then discuss what they would do as the incident develops. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing and you don’t know how you’ll react if it does happen, but our intent is to prepare people, and departments, as best we can.”

Caires noted that it’s been his experience that individuals get the most benefit out of having the training in their space.

“We did a drill for CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) where we pretended there was an incident and did a walk-through exercise and that worked out well,” he said. “I think it helps a great deal if people can visualize and see what would take place rather than just talking about it.”

The University Police sergeant said that the element of surprise can work in your favor, if your actions are done with conviction.

“The concept of aggressing on an active shooter is not new,” said Caires, “but nobody has to be a fighter. If you want to fight, however, we provide information that will allow you to be most effective. It’s our job to educate the public and to show that just because one guy is pointing a gun that doesn’t mean you are powerless.”

For more information or to arrange for active shooter response training, contact Caires by email or call (562) 985-8538.