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How to Stay Safe During a Mass Shooting

Recent mass shootings in Highland Park, Illinois, Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo have proven that such violence – while rare – is increasingly common and can happen anywhere, at any time.

Even for those not caught in the crossfire, hearing about such shootings can be deeply chilling.

This grim reality of recent large-scale massacres and the ongoing gun violence epidemic in many US cities raises two questions: what to do in the still unlikely event that you find yourself somewhere where a gunman has opened fire? And how not to be paralyzed by the possibility of this happening?

Be aware of the surroundings and how to escape

In a 2017 article titled “How to Protect Yourself in a Mass Shooting”, security expert Ed Hinman wrote about the importance of “advancing” a place, whether it’s a place public or an organized event.

“Before you settle into your seat or seat, ask yourself: If there is an attack, what am I going to do? » he wrote.

It only takes a moment to answer that question before you sit back, relax, and enjoy your outing,” Hinman added. “Think of it as regular deposits in a survival bank and then, in an emergency, being able to make a potentially life-saving withdrawal.”

Get down and get away from the gunfire

John Correia, who teaches armed and unarmed self-defense through his Arizona-based company Active Self Protection, said civilians should take logical steps to get to safety when a firefight is in progress. While every scenario is unique, he said there are basic strategies like putting distance between you and a shooter.

“The first thing you want to think about is kind of common sense, which is to go down and if you can figure out which direction [gunfire is] just left,” Correia said. “That’s our general rule.”

In mass shootings, Correia said, “the culprit tends to shoot wildly and so your best bet is to be as small a target as possible and get away as quickly as possible.”

Correia suggested getting behind a solid structure if possible. Using a car as a shield may not be ideal if the vehicle is made of weaker materials like fiberglass or plastic. If there is an option, concrete or brick walls “can be very useful” and would offer better protection than stucco or gypsum partitions.

“If it’s a real heinous active shooter looking to target individuals, going to a place where you can’t be seen is very helpful,” Correia said.

Preparation and training can help

While much of a person’s ability to react successfully under the stress of a deadly threat like a mass shooting stems from instinct, such inclinations are “certainly trainable,” Correia said.

Just as children who play sports learn to react quickly to a quick throw or pass from a teammate, they can be taught how to react in an emergency. Adults too.

“Calmness is a superpower. And the ability to stay calm under stress is a matter of life and death in an emergency, no matter what the emergency,” Correia said.

However, being ready for a shoot can be difficult, as by their nature they are unexpected.

“One thing you have to realize is that nobody knows how they are going to react or react,” said Jin Kim, a retired FBI agent who was the active shooter coordinator in the management unit. crises. “When it happens to them, it’s in the most average, routine and mundane moment of their day.”

Gunmen in mass shootings become more sophisticated over time – issuing more advanced challenges to those trying to evade their lines of fire. The Highland Park suspect, for example, allegedly took up a rooftop sniper position on the parade route, giving him a tactical advantage.

“As a collective, we underestimate the offender and the cohort of offenders every day,” Kim added.

How to deal with fear caused by shooting

For John Duffy, a Chicago-area clinical psychologist who treats many teenagers and young adults, the distress calls started coming in Monday, when the office was closed on July 4.

None of Duffy’s patients were in Highland Park or directly affected by the shooting, but they were all in shock and pain. Duffy said he passed 1 p.m. meeting in his office talking about the latest American tragedy – this one in the backyard of Windy City.

“Everyone is talking about the same thing,” Duffy said in a phone interview after the sessions. He and other experts offered advice to the public on how to cope.

Highland Park suspect’s father sponsored gun license application, police say

Find purpose and control

Writing to members of Congress, protesting, fundraising and starting petitions are all ways ordinary people can help tap into their fear of everyday life in a society where violence and devastation regularly make the headlines, said Duffy.

“There’s no reason to think it won’t happen again and what gives people hope, oddly enough, is thinking about ‘What do you think we can do about this?’ “Duffy said. “I think people like the idea that they could contribute in some way to some kind of solution.

Caroline Giroux, a trauma psychiatrist and professor at the University of California, Davis, also said it was important for people in a panic, afraid of the next massacre at a school, mall or public event, to find a sense of control. Advocating for change, she said, is one of the best outlets, especially if by lending your voice you can join other like-minded people.

“It’s really important to grab any area of ​​control we have, even if it’s just our voice,” Giroux said. “We need to get stronger, we need to unite our voices and that in itself can keep us going. That in itself can knock us out of our paralysis and out the door every day.

Don’t dismiss the fear you or your loved ones feel

Duffy no longer tries to calm patients down by promising them that they are safe or that they and their loved ones are statistically unlikely to be caught up in an event like the Highland Park shootings.

“In good conscience, I can’t say, ‘No, it’s going to be fine,'” he said. “I still agree that it’s really scary.”

It is important, he said, to let people express their legitimate fears and provide them with a release from the strong emotions that follow the tragedies that saturate the news and social media sites 24/7. 7.

“I find the least helpful thing to do, no matter who I talk to, is tell them it’s okay, it’s going to be fine, because everyone has way too much access to all the information,” did he declare.

How to protect yourself in a mass shooting

Take care of yourself differently

Giroux recommends practicing a healthy lifestyle: getting enough and regular sleep, eating well, exercising, socializing, and engaging in mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be a traditional exercise like meditation, she said. It can be as simple as concentrating on what you’re doing during mundane tasks like folding laundry or gardening.

It’s important to have “some kind of mindfulness practice every day,” she said.

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