This article in our Situational Awareness series will give you “tools” to keep yourself safe should you ever be involved in an Active Shooter scenario.

Do you know what it takes to survive an Active Shooter event?

Whether you are out shopping or at your job, imagine the following scenario:

You are at the grocery store and you hear shots fired in the store. Do you know what to do next?

What is going through your mind right now?

Do you know where the other exists are in the store?

Do you know how to protect yourself if you can’t get out?

If you answered “no” to these last two questions, please take a few moments to keep reading.  We’ll help you come up with a plan.

“Active Shooters” have been in the news a lot recently. An Active Shooter (which would be more accurately labeled “Active Murderer”) is defined by US Government Agencies as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”

One very notable statistic that needs repeating is that in almost 50% of the cases, the event has concluded before law enforcement arrives.


I have the privilege of knowing security expert Rick Colliver, who has personally trained our family. Rick is the author of Principal Protection; Lessons Learned, The Evolution of Protective Operations and you can learn more about Rick and find his great book here.

Here are Rick’s recommendations for how to survive an Active Shooter event:

Threat Assessment: Understand what leads a person to commit acts of targeted violence and how to recognize what phase of an attack a person could be in, on any given day. Most criminals, especially those committing this sort of act have done significant preparations getting ready to carry out their plans. When you see something suspicious or unnerving, know how and where to report it or to get out of the situation if it’s actively occurring.

Venue/Geography: Tying to situational awareness, know where you are and how to get out of there in a hurry. When your life is in danger don’t be afraid to break windows to get out. If a building owner wants you to pay for a window that you broke getting yourself and others to safety, laugh at them as you write the check. Let them know that the lawsuit for failing to maintain a safe environment will be a thousand times costlier for them than replacing the window. There are no rules in survival.

Personal Defense: Know how you react under different types of crises, and know what skills you have in your defensive tool box. Ninety percent of the public pays no attention to what’s going on around them and waits for something bad to happen before they can exude shock and surprise on the evening news. Enroll in personal defense training to know how to protect yourself before something happens.

Self defense tools: In 1645, Miyamoto Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings…and in it, one of the central take-aways is “don’t have a favorite weapon”. That means, learn to protect yourself and to deliver defensive violence, incapacitating violence, in a variety of ways to stop whatever the threat your life is in. There are what we call “ambient weapons” everywhere. Objects present in the environment that can be used as a weapon if needed. A rolled-up magazine can be an excellent impact weapon…a CD broken in half is an edged weapon with a finger knurl…umbrellas…pencils…you get the idea.

Biology and Physiology: We are all different. The point is that a 40 year-old woman who’s 5’1”, 212lbs cannot outrun a 6’, 22 year old skinny male on meth. So there will be times when hiding is a better defense than running. If you can successfully surprise your attacker as she/he comes through a door, and cave their skull in (pardon my brusqueness, but I’m making a point) you have to lay them out cold or you’ll just piss them off. You have to act NOW!

Self-Awareness: Know yourself…know your capabilities…know your weaknesses. We are all imperfect machines, but some of us have survival skills. Use the skills you have to survive. “What if” yourself constantly when walking through malls, schools, churches, amusement parks…when sitting in a restaurant. “What would I do if…?” “Where would I go if…?” “What weapons or tools do I have on me right this second that could keep me alive?” To some degree, that type of analysis should be a part of your everyday life, going to the grocery store, getting gas or picking up the kids.

Pretty Loaded Advice on What You Can Do Today!

  • Always pay attention to the people around you. Notice the guy that is walking with a strange gait and big coat. Pay attention to body language and look for ominous signs. People who are about to commit violence are under stress and their body language will show it.

  • If someone makes you nervous then move away from the person as quickly as you can.

  • Always know where all the Exits are. Remember that you can use the kitchen Exit of a restaurant, use a store’s back door or employee Exit, and if your at a concert, you can go straight over the stage to exit the venue.

  • If you don’t have any defensive tools with you, look for anything that can be used as a weapon to strike someone if you need to.

  • If you are locked in a room put a door jam in place or block the door with desks or anything heavy. It might not stop them, but it will slow them down.

  • If you don’t hear shots fired near you then get out of the building as fast as you can.

Don’t let all the news reports of active shooters terrify you from living your “normal” life, just be sure your “normal” is empowered with the skills and tools necessary to keep you and your loved ones safe so you can survive an Active Shooter situation.

The one thing many survivors of attacks had in common was a plan and the correct mindset for what to do in a dangerous situation.

We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions using the comments section below.  If you have ideas for other topics/videos that you would like to see in our Situational Awareness series, please let us know!  You can also email comments and suggestions to


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