It’s been two weeks since a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas killing 59 and injuring hundreds more. Two weeks later and still people are scratching their heads about the shooting. Why did this happen? How did this happen? And most importantly how can one stay safe during a tragic event like this?
In 2017 there have been four deadly shootings, including the Vegas shooting. Five were killed, and six were injured during a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida on Jan. 6, 2017. On June 5, 2017, five were killed in Orange County, Florida when a gunman fatally shot former co-workers. Lastly, on June 14, 2017, a UPS driver killed three co-workers and then himself at their San Francisco package facility.
Of course many remember the previous most deadly mass shooting in American history when a gunman opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016. 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 and injured 58. The recent Vegas shooting has now taken over as the most deadly and devastating shooting in modern American history.
With shootings becoming deadlier and more frequent the question of safety becomes more prominent. Experts suggest there are different ways people can stay safe during a mass shooting.
Laurindo Muniz, owner of G7 Tactical, and Chris Daniel, Chief of USF Police, both emphasize the importance of situational awareness in these type of scenarios.
“You should be aware of a lot of things,” said Muniz. “Whether it’s (the venue) outside or inside? Where are the exits? How many exits are there?”
“It is important to identify the exits,” explained Daniel. “It is also important to identify the people sitting around you and what they have with them or other things about the arena that may seem unique.”
Muniz also suggests observing the flow of traffic as part of situational awareness. Just as in a restaurant features servers in uniforms bringing food in and out of the kitchen, be aware of the flow of people in and out of a specific area.
While identifying exits and other surroundings Muniz and Daniel recommend observing places or things that can be used to utilize cover or concealment. These objects can be vital to a person’s survival once a mass shooting breaks out.
In fact, once gunshots ring out Muniz says seconds matter. The NRA Certified Firearms Instructor says a lot of times when shots ring out people go into a normality mode. A normality mode means people just stop and think ‘oh what is that?’ During the Vegas shooting, a lot of victims recalled thinking the gunshots were fireworks initially.
“What you should do is the moment somethings not normal, for instance, you’re at a concert, and there are no fireworks supposed to be going on right now. Or the concerts just started, it’s not normal for those sounds to just ring out,” said Muniz. “You should run, you should get out of there, don’t drop to the ground.”
While Daniel said taking the extra second to pinpoint where the gunshots are coming from can be a benefit, he said it’s also important not to stand there and analyze whether the noise is fireworks or something else.
“We function off of the run, hide, fight permit that whenever you can leave the area, depart and make sure the authorities are aware,” explained Daniel. “When you can’t (run) try to secure a place and hide and do everything you can to be inconspicuous.”
“And as a last resort, depending on your skill level or those around you and what’s available, is if you have no other choice you have to fight the offender to try and bring the situation under control or save yourself.”
Both Muniz and Daniel explain that hiding is the second best option when getting out of the area isn’t possible, and this is where situational awareness again comes into play.
“If you can’t leave the area because there are 22,000 people (in the crowd) then get behind that bar you recognized and that you looked at when you came in,” said Muniz. “You know it is concrete so now you’re behind the bar, and then you want to listen, shut your eyes and listen to where the rounds are coming from.”
However, Muniz suggests there’s some hiding that is good and some hiding that is bad.
“Typically with an active shooter it’s close and personal,” said Muniz. “You don’t want to go in the bathroom because you can’t lock that door. If you can go in a closet and lock the door then yes. If that door is locked, he’s not going to spend time because seconds matter to the shooter as well.”
Daniel explained that hiding makes someone a harder target, which is what the offender doesn’t want during a mass shooting.
“They’re looking for quick and easy opportunities,” said Daniel. “If you make it difficult they’re going to move on to the next available target.”
Lastly, if running and hiding aren’t an option, Daniel and Muniz both suggest engaging.
“I think that if all else fails and you have no other alternatives, and you can engage the attacker then you have no alternative than to do so,” said Daniel. “Chances are if you don’t, you or the people around you are going to be the next victims.”
Daniel explained that offenders aren’t necessarily prepared for an individual or crowd to turn on them.
“Again those are the best options, running away and hiding, but if you’re in a situation where you don’t have those opportunities or trying to do so is going to put you in a position of exposure then the only option you have is to fight,” he said. “And I would fight with everything I had because I don’t think that offender is going to expect that type of response.”
Muniz agreed and suggested a group effort would be even better.
“A group of people is even better, three or four of you, then attack the shooter,” said Muniz. “Someone grab the gun, and the other people attack.”
Whether you find yourself rallying a group for attack or finding concealment, at the end of the day situational awareness is critical when it comes to mass shootings. Officials and experts urge the community to speak up if something doesn’t appear right. There is no fine to notifying law enforcement of something that might be out of place, but a life could be lost if overlooked.
“I can’t encourage enough that situation awareness is key to everything. We walk through places every day, and we see things that look out of place, but in your mind, you automatically come up with some normalization of why it’s there,” said Daniel. “See something, say something is just as key to this as the run, hide, fight.”
“Situational awareness is very, very important,” said Muniz. “When something is out of the norm, move. Get out of there, don’t think about it, you leave and notify officials as quickly as possible.”
Meg Ross, Administration Bureau Commander of USF Police, emphasized the community’s role in these situations.
“We need the community’s help to identify and address these situations before they happen,” said Ross. “If as a citizen, you see something that sets your instincts off that’s when you should call us (the police) and let us know and let us investigate and determine if it’s safe or not.”
“Again, the offenders are looking at the opportunity of fear and dispersing people and identifying single targets where they can, they don’t anticipate crowds turning on them and overwhelming them,” said Daniel. “So, if you can take that same sense of community and combine it with a sense of survival some of these things may turn out a different outcome with fewer losses.”
What happened in Las Vegas and what has happened around the world with mass shootings is a tragedy. It’s okay to be cautious and prepared while enjoying a concert or attending another event and never be scared to report any unusual findings to local law enforcement.