At a time in our nation’s history when mass shootings have become a near-weekly event, the “Run, Hide, Fight” triangle has reached the level of household mantra.
Essentially, when faced with an active shooter incident in a public place, work place, or school setting, public safety and security proponents maintain that those trapped inside the situation should first try to escape the area, or “run.” If they cannot leave, the next option is to seek cover, or “hide.” And if the attacker is blocking the exits and there are no remaining options then, and only as a last resort, are they advised to counter the assailant, or “fight.”
Tracy Yorker has been a public safety and security officer at SCC for nearly 25 years, with a military background in the United States Marine Corps. Yorker’s job — and that of the rest of the security staff — is to make the campus as safe and secure as possible for everyone on campus, but her job doesn’t end there. The security staff watches over students, staff, faculty, and visitors. In addition, they also help students find classrooms, deal with lost and found items, take incident reports from students and work with the Seattle police. Security also serves the lead role in referring larger issues to law enforcement when crimes have been committed or SCC students have been victimized.
“Pay attention to your surroundings,” cautions Yorker. “That’s the biggest thing. Because ultimately, your safety is your responsibility. Other people can help. They can step in, but no one has more invested in your safety than you yourself.”
Yorker advocates what’s known as “situational awareness” and cautions students against “wandering around oblivious, distracted by their headphones or absorbed in their media.” She says that she’s watched people waiting to cross the street and the moment the ‘walk’ sign is lit, or the light changes to green, pedestrians aren’t checking to make sure it’s clear but instead are walking right off the curb distracted by their phones. “Just think about that right there, and the danger attached to that,” she says.
Sean Chesterfield has been involved with security and law enforcement for almost 30 years, with the bulk of that time spent in educational institution security. He worked as a campus security officer here at Seattle Central for five years and returned to SCC in 2018 as the Director of Safety and Security. He states that it’s important to not become paranoid, but instead to become aware of your surroundings.
“One good situational awareness practice that I encourage people to do when they are out in public is survey their surroundings. Think about what could happen and what you would do in response to each situation. Where could you run? Are there good hiding spots nearby?” Chesterfield says this practice should be applied to the classroom, the mall, the movie theater, and other public venues.
Experts agree that those under attack should first try to get away from the shooter. That means outright running, or moving quickly if differently abled. It means staying close to walls with your head down and staying as quiet as possible. It means remaining vigilant and aware of your surroundings. If one particular exit is blocked, seek an alternative. In this first of the three decisions, whether a person should run or hide depends entirely on the situation.
“In years past, people were taught to shelter in place, but it was realized that this may not be the best way to save lives. Now if a person hears gunshots, they are instructed to run in the opposite direction. If it is safe to do so, hide. If you are unable to escape, fight — but only if there is no possible way to escape and you are in a life-threatening situation,” said Chesterfield.
If it’s not possible to safely evade and avoid the shooter, the next option is to find cover. That means hiding behind something heavy enough to stop a bullet. It means locking and barricading doors, turning off lights, and keeping away from interior windows. It also means silencing your cell phone and quietly comforting those hiding near you while paying close attention to any sounds in the main or traffic spaces.
Yorker says that if you find yourself in a classroom during a lockdown situation, the best advice is to turn off the lights, lock the door, and crouch against the walls out of sight. “You’re concealed, you’re safe, and hopefully you have cover.”
Lastly, if a person finds themselves too close to the shooter and unable to run or hide, that person should then be prepared to take defensive measures. What that means, essentially, is fighting — and not fairly. In this instance, the defensive attack must be aggressive, using whatever objects are available to fend off the assailant by targeting the body’s weakest points — the eyes, the throat, and the groin.
Countering a shooter is an extremely dangerous option, and again, recommended only as a last resort. While a shooter is obviously armed, their potential victims are usually not and, for the most part, haven’t been trained to fight or think tactically as most law enforcement officers and military personnel have. Experts maintain that this third option can bring about an end to the event more quickly while having the benefit of minimizing casualties, but it is not an action to be taken lightly.
“If you see something, say something,” said Chesterfield. This could be someone acting strangely, a suspicious package, something you read on social media, or a friend who is in crisis. When things don’t appear right, tell someone.” Chesterfield encourages students to notify campus security, a police officer, a school counselor, or a teacher, stressing that their actions may help save lives. “Students should not be complacent, but instead become participants in their own safety and that of those nearby.”
“We’re all here and we’re all vulnerable, but some people more than others because they choose to not be aware,” said Yorker. “We live in a time of anger and frustration.”
In tandem with this message of caution and awareness, a campus lockdown drill is scheduled for January 2020.