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Surviving An Elevated Shooter

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As our nation and the City of Las Vegas continue to deal with the aftermath of the mass shooting, many people are searching for answers as to why this happened and what could be done differently to protect innocent civilians. The reality is, we may never truly know what caused a deranged man to murder so many people. However, there is no question we can learn from this tragedy and hopefully save more lives if it happens again.

The thing is, the recent shooting in Las Vegas was very different from other mass shootings such as the one at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida or even past school shootings. What made Las Vegas so different was that the shooter was at an elevated position about 400 yards away from his victims. This was not only an active shooter situation, but it was a well-prepared shooter who was at a tactical advantage over everyone including the first law enforcement responders.

A high elevation shooter isn’t new to the United States.  One early example is the University of Texas shooting in 1966. However, in Las Vegas, the shooter chose a location where he could fire on people trapped inside a venue.

Mandalay Bay, McCarran, and Route 91 by Mliu92 | Creative Commons 4

Now, you may be familiar with the saying run, hide, fight, which is what the FBI recommends you do during an active shooter situation. In other words, you should run from the shooter, hide from the shooter, and as a last resort you should fight. Of course, because the shooter in Las Vegas held an advantageous position the run, hide, fight wasn’t really much of an option. I mean, if you could run away then you should, but since the shooter had such a tactical advantage over the victims they didn’t know where to run to, they didn’t know where to hide and finally, they couldn’t fight back since he was so far away. With that being said, what should you do if you find yourself in a situation similar to Las Vegas and you have no idea where the gunfire is coming from?

  1. Always have an exit strategy. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard me talk about situational awareness more than once. The thing is, not only should you have heightened situational awareness when you are at crowded events, but also you need to always have a plan of escape. In other words, if you are at a movie you need to know where the exits are located and consider sitting close to one of them. The key is, if something happens you want to know where to go without having to waste time looking around and figuring out how to get out safely. So whether you’re at dinner or a concert, always have a plan in your mind to escape.
  2. Cover and concealment. For those of you who’ve ever attended a firearms course at the Spy Ranch, you’ve heard me discuss the difference between cover and concealment. Cover hides and protects you from bullets. Concealment only hides you and won’t stop bullets. For example, think of cover as a concrete wall and concealment as hiding behind a blanket. If you’re attending an event you should keep your eyes out for cover in case you need to quickly get behind something.
  3. Don’t freeze or lay down. Many people who were at the concert in Las Vegas thought the initial gunfire were fireworks and they didn’t react. Now, for someone who isn’t familiar with the sound of gunfire, this confusion would make sense since many large events have fireworks. However, if you hear something and you aren’t sure what it is you should immediately start moving away from the sound. Of course, I don’t mean you should run and create panic unless it’s really gunfire but there is nothing wrong with simply walking away towards your escape exit until you confirm what the noise was.

In addition, you’ve probably heard the phrase movement saves lives. This is especially true if a sniper or well-positioned shooter is targeting you. Obviously, a moving target is more difficult to hit, so even though your first reaction may be to lie on the ground this can make you an easy target.

Finally, I’ve heard some people talk about how they will no longer attend large events or gatherings. However, this is something that I think everyone should evaluate for their family. While I don’t think we should live our lives in fear, I can completely understand how some people may be hesitant to go to certain public events. The thing is, no one could have predicted what occurred in Las Vegas and none of us can know when the next similar horrific event will occur. But, we can plan ahead, identity exits, and also stay close to the perimeter of events so we don’t get caught in the middle if an attack does occur.


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