Scott Stewart writes:
[I]t is important to realize that armed assaults employing small arms and grenades have long been a staple of modern terrorism....
It it is not just the authorities that need to respond to armed assaults. Ordinary citizens also need to learn to quickly respond to danger. Properly responding to danger actually begins well before the first shot is fired when people adopt a mindset that recognizes the world is a dangerous place and that they are ultimately responsible for their own safety.
Once a person understands the possibility of being targeted and decides to adopt an appropriate level of situational awareness, he or she will be mentally prepared to quickly realize that an attack is happening, something security professionals refer to as attack recognition.
The earlier a person recognizes that an attack is developing, the better chance he has to avoid it. But even once the attack has begun, a person can still keep it from being a successful one by quickly recognizing what is happening and getting away from the attack site by running or hiding — or fighting back if they cannot run or hide.
However, once a person has recognized that an attack is taking place, a critical step must be taken before he can decide to run, hide or fight: He must determine where the gunfire or threat is coming from. Without doing so, the victim could run blindly from a position of relative safety into danger. I certainly encourage anyone under attack to leave the attack site and run away from the danger, but one must first ascertain if he is in the attack site before taking action. Many times, the source of the threat will be evident and will not take much time to locate. But sometimes, depending on the location — whether in a building or on the street — the sounds of gunfire can echo, and it may take a few seconds to determine the direction it is coming from. In such a scenario, it is prudent to quickly take cover until the direction of the threat can be located. In some instances, there may even be more than one gunman, which can complicate escape plans.
Fortunately, most active shooters are not well trained. They tend to be poor marksmen who lack experience with their weapons. During the July 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes managed to kill only 12 people — despite achieving almost total tactical surprise in a fully packed movie theater — because of a combination of poor marksmanship and his inability to clear a jam in his rifle.
This typical lack of marksmanship implies that most people killed in active shooter situations are shot at close range. Thus, it behooves potential victims to move quickly to put as much distance between themselves and the threat. Even the act of moving, especially if moving away at an angle, makes one a much harder target for a poorly trained marksman to hit.
It is also important to think about and distinguish between concealment and cover. Items that conceal, such as a bush, can hide you from the shooter's line of vision but will not protect you from bullets the way a substantial tree trunk will. Likewise, in an office setting, a typical drywall construction interior wall can provide concealment but not cover, meaning a shooter will still be able to fire through the walls and door. Still, if the shooter cannot see his or her target, they will be firing blindly rather than aiming their weapon, reducing the probability of hitting a target.
In any case, those hiding inside a room should attempt to find some sort of additional cover, such as a filing cabinet or heavy desk. It is always better to find cover than concealment, but even partial cover — something that will only deflect or fragment the projectiles — is preferable to no cover at all.
There are many examples from the recent Paris and Bamako armed assaults of people who ran away from the scene of the attacks and survived. In the Bamako attack there were also many people who barricaded themselves inside their hotel rooms and hid until the authorities could rescue them. The August 2015 incident aboard a Paris-bound train provided a good example of potential victims who were trapped aboard a train car and fought back to end an armed assault.
Some people have mocked the simplicity of run, hide, fight. But as these cases demonstrate, all three elements of this mantra can and do save lives.
The above originally appeared at Stratfor.