The attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando has been characterized as the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States. Not surprisingly, this event has again brought active shooter situations to the forefront of public issues. While the likelihood of encountering an active shooter is extremely rare, we have provided a guide on how to prepare for and respond to these situations.
How to prepare
Active shooter situations can be unpredictable and random, which increases societal levels of fear. In many cases, active shooters try to inflict as much damage as possible in the short amount of time before authorities arrive on scene. You should understand the level of risk in the areas where you live, work, and visit.
- Know whether you may be a target, or whether any specific sites that you visit may be potential targets.
- Make sure you know where to go in the event of an emergency if you are going to an area of risk or if you commonly visit sites that may be targeted in an attack; have an escape route planned, and be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.
- Remember that, depending on the motives of the perpetrator, common targets can include local government facilities, police stations, military posts, markets, restaurants, schools, business districts, entertainment venues, and other public spaces.
How to respond
If an active shooter situation occurs in your community, remain calm and follow the advice of local authorities. Procedures will usually involve sheltering in place and locking down your building. If an active shooter is nearby, then you need to get away as soon as possible. Run in a zig-zag pattern, going from cover to cover if there is any cover. Do not try to be a hero. During a shooting, people who run away have the highest survival rates.
If you cannot get away from an active shooting:
- Hide immediately, preferably in a room or area that can be barricaded and has thick walls.
- Do everything in your capacity to prevent the shooter from entering the room or area where you are.
- Lock the door, use a doorstop, barricade the entrance, shut the lights off, and silence your cell phone and any other sources of noise. Creating as much of a barrier as you can is extremely important, because delaying the shooter even 2–3 minutes will give local authorities vital time to get to the scene and confront the attacker.
- Call local emergency services, whisper quietly, and tell them what floor you are on or what part of the building you are in.
How to recover
Once you are safe, monitor the reports of local authorities and continue to follow any specific instructions they may have. Be prepared to see large numbers of police and other local authorities in the vicinity of the attack.
- Follow the directions of the police; raise your hands, do not make any sudden movements, do not yell, and do not ask police questions. Exit in the direction that the police are entering from.
- Be aware that clean-up will likely take an extended time since there can be high numbers of casualties and widespread damage to buildings and other infrastructure.
- Note that you may be requested to evacuate the area for an extended period of time; buildings will likely be placed on lockdown, and schools and workplaces may be shut down.
- Remember that restrictions on local, regional, and international travel may be put in place, and there will likely be extensive media coverage of the event.
- Make sure you seek medical care if you have suffered any physical injuries.
- Seek the advice of mental health experts if you go through a terrorist attack, even if you do not experience any immediate symptoms; many individuals who experience attacks suffer continuing mental effects in the days, weeks, months, and even years afterwards.
Who to contact
- Local authorities (emergency services, police, etc.)
- Your local embassy (if you are travelling)
- Your insurance company or assistance provider
- After the event, when you are safe, you can contact your family and friends
For more information, you can check out the following guide and pocket card from the United States Department of Homeland Security:
Following the Brussels attacks in March 2016, Ingle International posted an article entitled Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance in Times of Terror. We received a significant number of enquiries from people wondering if they could cancel trips following terrorist attacks. Typically, unless the Government of Canada issues an “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel” advisory, any cancellations or interruptions will not be covered. Also, some policies, such as this one, do have “cancel for any reason” benefits, and they are definitely worth checking out. Finally, insured persons who are directly affected by an incident may be eligible for cancellation and interruption benefits, so be sure to call your insurance provider if you have any questions.
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