How To Protect Yourself In A School Shooting, Because It's Better To Be Prepared In The Unlikely Event One Occurs Near You

In the Unites States, not long goes by without a school shooting. The latest occurred in the early hours on Thursday when a gunman opened fire at Florida State University, injuring three students. The shooter was killed by the police in an exchange of fire, and the campus has been declared secure. One student remains in critical condition after being hit by the shooter, and two others are stable. While the psychological effects of experiencing a shooting will be long-lasting for most survivors, there are ways that you can protect yourself from immediate physical harm should you ever — God forbid — find yourself in a shooting, inside a school or elsewhere.

According to the Everytown For Gun Safety, a site that tracks school shootings, the Florida State University incident is the 91st shooting since the site started monitoring after Sandy Hook. That tragic incident occurred in December 2012, just under two years ago. Yes, there have been 91 reported incidents of school shootings in less than two years. That's just about one school shooting a week, as in a school shooting occurs as often as the day Thursday. As in, there were were more school shootings than episodes of your favorite TV show in the last two years.

For any student who thinks, "That could never happen to me," it's probably true. Hopefully, none of us will ever experience a shooting in our lifetime, but it's very possible that we could, given how rampant gun violence is and how easy it is to obtain a firearm. Now that I've ruined your day, I'd like to offer some good news: There are practical ways to protect yourself in the event of a school shooting to significantly increase your chances of survival.


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The best way to avoid getting hurt in any confrontation or fight is to avoid it altogether. If you are far enough away from the shooter to get away, do so, and fast. You may feel responsible for helping others, but you won't be doing them or yourself any favors if you make yourself a target. If you can, run from the scene immediately and get help. Even if the shooter is within view, his chances of hitting a moving target are much lower than a still one. When you run, do so in a zigzag pattern to reduce his chances of hitting you.

Find Safety

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If you're not able to run away immediately, look for an exit — emergency doors, windows, even vents — to escape. If you're stuck in a confined space, move out of the line of fire and find cover. Shield yourself behind anything you can find — chairs, tables, cabinets, other furniture — and stay low. Move on all fours to remain hidden. Be aware of where the shooter is at all times.

Hide and Stay Quiet

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Once you find a hiding place, stay as quiet as possible and work out an emergency plan in case the shooter finds you. Be aware of anything around you that you can use as a weapon in the worst-case scenario of the shooter approaching you. If you're able to find a room to hide in, barricade the doors and windows with furniture and anything you can find. Stay away from windows at all times.

Fight, But Only as the Very Last Resort

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As a disclaimer, you should never confront the shooter if you don't have to. Do not play the hero. You cannot predict how the shooter will respond, and it may very well set him off even further. However, if the worst-case scenario should happen and the shooter approaches you with his gun aimed, you have no choice but to fight. It's the only chance you have to survive. You may think that you don't have it in you, but in emergency situations like this, the adrenaline might carry you through. Use any object you can find as a potential weapon, try to knock the weapon from his hands, or try to subdue him by rendering him unconscious.

If you want to be really prepared — as prepared as law enforcement — take Krav Maga, which offers gun defense as part of their regular course curriculum, even for beginners. See the videos below.

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IMPORTANT NOTE: After disarming the gunman, DO NOT point the gun at the suspect. Unload the gun immediately, or if you don't know how, hold the gun low against your side. If law enforcement arrive on the scene and see you pointing the gun at anyone, they may open fire on you.

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