By Cori Zaragoza, Staff Writer
After the recent wave of mass shootings that have taken place across the United States, NPR sat down with Katherine Schweit, who is the creator of the FBI’s active shooter program, to speak on the problem and what Schweit’s recommends on surviving an attack, should you ever find yourself in one.
“You know, I’m going to tell you the truth. I was shocked. I was shocked. And at first, I was – it was disbelief,” said Schweit to NPR, regarding the school shooting in Uvalde, where 21 people, mostly students, were shot and killed by a gunman. She said she was stunned to hear about the lag that law enforcement had while the shooting was happening. “That the law enforcement was there for an hour on the other side of a wall is just unheard of. I couldn’t have written this if I’d written a script. People would have said they wouldn’t believe it.”
Schweit created the FBI’s active shooter program after the 2012 mass shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 27 people died, mostly children under the age of 10. Schweit said to NPR that when an active shooter is underway, law enforcement must neutralize the shooting as soon as possible, and that officers must instantly pursue the sound of gunfire.
“That is the lone objective, and that – you should never waiver from that,” Schweit shared to NPR.
She also shared that schools are teaching children “wrong” — they emphasize and train for students to hide, when they should be fleeing. The official motto for all federal agencies is to run, hide, fight — which is what everyone should do during a shooting, but schools often teach only the ‘hiding’ part, which can cause students to become trapped and easy targets for a shooter.
“We’re not teaching the run part. And we don’t do that anyplace else in society. We don’t tell kids in a mall, OK, just hide. Whatever’s going on, hide under the bench at the Starbucks kiosk,” she shared. “So somehow, when it comes to schools, we missed an opportunity to teach children and teach adults in schools that they need to run. That’s the first thing they need to do. They need to escape.”
Schweit emphasizes that survivors are usually the ones who run and try to flee. She says when that’s not possible to do, fight back as hard as possible. But, she emphasizes that the first priority for people should always be to escape and that the most recent training/protocol put on by the FBI is focused on escape during mass shootings.
Here are some tips from Ready.Gov on how to prepare and protect yourself should you ever need to:
- Stay alert. Always be aware of your environment and any possible dangers.
- If you see something, say something to local authorities. That includes suspicious packages, people behaving strangely or someone using strange communications.
- Observe warning signs. Signs might include unusual or violent communications, substance abuse, expressed anger or intent to cause harm. These warning signs may increase over time.
- Have an exit plan. Identify exits and areas to hide wherever you go, including work, school and special events.
- Learn lifesaving skills. Take trainings, such as You Are the Help Until Help Arrives, which can be found at https://bit.ly/3H6vZsB, and first aid to assist the wounded before help arrives.
Survive DURING: Run, Hide, Fight
Run to Safety: Seek safety. Getting away from the attacker is the top priority.
- Leave your belongings behind and get away.
- Call 9-1-1 when you are safe and describe the attacker, location and weapons.
Hide: Cover and hide if you can’t evacuate.
- Find a place to hide out of view of the attacker and put a solid barrier between yourself and the threat if possible.
- Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights.
- Keep silent.
Defend, Disrupt, Fight: Fight only as a last resort. When you can’t run or cover, attempt to disrupt the attack or disable the attacker.
- Be aggressive and commit to your actions.
- Recruit others to ambush the attacker with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc.
- Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the attacker.
- Take care of yourself first and then, if you are able, help the wounded get to safety and provide immediate care. Call 9-1-1 when it is safe for you to do so.
Be Safe AFTER
- When law enforcement arrives, remain calm and follow instructions.
- Keep hands visible and empty.
- Report to designated areas to provide information and get help.
- Follow law enforcement’s instructions and evacuate in the direction they tell you to go. Listen to law enforcement for information about the situation. Share updates as you can with family and friends.
- Consider seeking professional help: be mindful of your mental health. If needed, seek help for you and your family to cope with the trauma.
To follow Katherine Shweit and see what else she recommends, visit www.katherineschweit.com. Further information on the FBI’s active shooter program can be found at https://bit.ly/3Qkuvin and www.ready.gov/public-spaces.