How to Protect Your Children During A Mass Shooting or Terrorist Attack
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It’s hard not to think about, but it’s important to know how to protect your children during a mass shooting. It seems like every time I check my news feed there is another shooting. Shootingtracker has the count at 353, which sounds pretty scary considering that amounts to nearly one shooting per day. It is important to point out that Shootingtracker accounts for any incident that involves 4 or more people dying in an incident, whether it be gang or drug or domestic violence.
It’s a scary world we live in right now with terrorism or mass shootings becoming more of a realistic threat. I live close to Centcom and every single day the base is at security level FPCON BRAVO, meaning there is somewhat of a predictable terrorist threat. President Obama told CBS News that the U.S. has “a pattern now of mass shooting in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”
With times like these, it would be foolish not to think about what you would do if you were in a dangerous, life-threatening situation, especially if you have children. I have three children all 5 and under and I often have them out in public alone. I did some research as to how to protect my children and myself in the event we ever face such a situation. I will not discuss gun laws or politics because it is what it is right now. Instead here is what you can do to have the best possible chance of survival.
The biggest danger is not having a plan. It is unlikely that you will be able to think clearly enough to come up with a plan in a tense, hostile situation. You will likely be in a state of panic. Being prepared, having run through the scenarios several times in your mind, and being mentally prepared can increase your chances of survival. This includes your children. While it is a scary world, you don’t want to instill fear into your children’s everyday life. For children ten and under, discuss what they already know and answer questions very generally and matter-of-fact. Explain to your kids that while the threat of danger is unlikely, it is still possible and you need to be prepared as a family. Create a code word, that if used, means they must listen to you with out question and move quickly.
If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:
- Have an escape route and plan in mind
- Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow
- Leave your belongings behind
- Help others escape, if possible
- Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be
- Keep your hands visible
- Follow the instructions of any police officers
- Do not attempt to move wounded people
- Call 911 when you are safe
If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.
Your hiding place should:
- Be out of the active shooter’s view
- Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction and locked door)
- Not trap you or restrict your options for movement
To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:
- Lock the door
- Blockade the door with heavy furniture
If the active shooter is nearby:
- Lock the door
- Silence your cell phone and/or pager
- Turn off any source of noise (i.e., radios, televisions)
- Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks)
- Remain quiet
If evacuation and hiding out are not possible:
- Remain calm
- Dial 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter’s location
- If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen
As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter by:
- Acting as aggressively as possible against him/her
- Throwing items and improvising weapons
- Committing to your actions
Tips with Children
Go with your gut. If you have a bad feeling, if something seems off. Leave. Sure it sucks to unload your kids at the coffee shop only to load them back up, and they will probably hate it too. But your soy latte can wait. It is not worth risking your life. Hit the one up the road and promise the kids a treat of their own for their cooperation.
Be aware of your exits. That includes the typically “off limits” areas such as the kitchen or employee entrance. Get out as soon as possible.
When out in public, make sure you are wearing shoes you can run in or be prepared to kick them off and move. Running with kids will be hard enough, so save the stilettos for date night.
Ditch the stuff. The diaper bag, your purse – nothing matters but your lives. Stuff is replaceable.
Run in a zigzag pattern and just get as far away from the shooter as possible. Encourage others to follow, but focus on getting yourself and your children out.
If you have multiple kids, know how you will get them out. I have three kids. I know that I will have the baby in the carrier, and will grab my boys hands.
Finally, make sure that you are aware and alert. Pay attention to the details. If you are lost in your phone or in deep conversation, you can’t observe your surroundings. Stay safe and be confident in protecting those you hold dearest.
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