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Like the clinically insane, security experts continue to give out the same advice time and again despite the fact that their advice continues to fail.
Run, hide, and fight only as a last resort has become the insane mantra of the eyewitness news “expert”.
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Topics Covered During This Episode:
- SWAT Fuel Fitness Talk: Special Report- Hyponatremia, Soldier dies in Ranger school, Soldier dead after falling ill during Army Ranger school
- SWAT Fuel Review: Stronger Bodies, Sharper Minds
- Security Expert Gives Advice on avoiding workplace shooting tragedy – Run, Hide, Fight
- The Smartest Thing to Do in an Active Shooter Situation
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I was in Times Square last week with my family, and as we pushed through the crowds of tourists, the thought crossed my mind: I wonder if there’s crazed gunman out there who’s about to kill us all.
I have these thoughts from time to time. I’m not obsessive about it. I don’t flinch at every corner. But I know it could happen. We saw it happen in Paris—at a rock show, no less. I’ve been to rock shows. Dozens of them in the last year alone.
I also go to movie theaters and schools and marathons and magazine offices. If you’re not at least a tiny bit paranoid about the places you normally felt safe, you haven’t been paying attention.
Yes, the odds are low you’ll ever be a victim of terrorism. You’re 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease, and 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a suicidal and well-armed maniac on a rampage.
But at least the heart attack, in most cases, isn’t a complete surprise—unless you’ve been avoiding doctors your whole life—and won’t happen just because you got on the wrong train or bought a ticket for the wrong movie.
If you’re like most people, you feel unprepared. If the worst happens, and we don’t happen to carry around artillery, what do we do?
Alon Stivi has some ideas.
Stivi is the founder and CEO of Direct Measures International, a California-based company that offers security training and protective services, and puts out instructional DVDs like Active Shooter Survival.
He spent four and a half years in Israel’s Special Forces, including a year in Lebanon during the 1982 Arab-Israel War. He’s taught combat tactics to Navy SEALs, and has provided personal security for the likes of Warren Buffett and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I called Stivi to ask about the things we all hope won’t happen to us—being there for an “active shooter” situation.
MEN’S HEALTH: I’ve never been in a situation where there’s an insane person with a gun trying to kill me and everybody around me. But I imagine if that ever happened, my instinct would be to drop to the floor or hide under a desk.
ALON STIVI: And that’s incorrect.
Nobody has ever survived an active shooter by ducking under a desk or a table. It just doesn’t happen. And do you know why?
Because they were sitting targets?
That’s right. Every shooter knows that’s where people are scrambling to hide, and that’s where they look first. And then they shoot you at point blank range.
Maybe I’m confusing how to survive a shooter with what I learned as a kid about surviving a fire. My instinct is to “Stop, drop, and roll.”
That’s actually not that far off from the standard operating procedure. It’s called lockdown. Which means, you just stay where you are.
But if you look at most of these shootings, you realize that people died because they were in a lockdown.
In most cases, unless we’re talking about terrorists who want to kill everybody, active shooters have a hit list. They are looking to kill specific people.
And guess where they find them when everybody is on a lockdown? Exactly where they were expected to be.
But what if you can’t get out the door? Do you crawl out a window?
If you can, absolutely. Whenever escape is possible, you should try to escape.
But even if you’re stuck in that room, you can still take protective measures. People think a lockdown is simply closing the door. That is not sufficient. I tell my students, a lockdown without barricading is self-entrapment.
So push a table in front of the door?
If you can. But if not, you can use what I call collective resistance.
Which means what?
The most important tool you have to stop a shooter is the element of surprise. The last thing he expects is to be counter-attacked. A shooter thinks he has the power. He thinks that because he has a firearm, this is it, he’s going to kill everybody he wants today and then kill himself and that will be it.
You make an interesting point in one of your videos, about how when a shooter enters a room, he doesn’t look to his left or right. He’s just looking straight ahead.
That’s correct. I don’t know if you’ve ever been involved with shooting firearms, but when you shoot, you looking down that barrel. You’re looking to align your sights with a target. Otherwise you’re not going to hit anybody. That puts you in tunnel vision, or target fixation.
So they’re like a horse with blinders?
Essentially, yes. There’s no other way to shoot effectively. Which, by definition, makes you vulnerable to anything that moves from your side, from behind, from above, or from below.
And that’s where you’ll be waiting?
That’s where you should be waiting. If you’re under a desk, waiting for him to come in, you’re dead. But if you or a group of people are waiting on either side of the door, he won’t be expecting that.
What do you hit first?
Well, first thing you want to do is obstruct his vision by turning out the lights. If he’s coming from a lit environment into a partially dark environment, it will take a few seconds for his eyes to adjust.
But what if you’re in a room with windows and it’s sunny outside?
Just throw something at his eyes. That’ll make anyone flinch, at the very least. If anything is coming towards your face, you try instinctively to protect your vision, cover your face, even if it’s just for a second. That’s all the time you need.
To do what?
Take him down.
Okay, so here’s where it gets complicated for those of us who don’t normally “take down” somebody, much less somebody with a shotgun and a brain full of crazy.
Start with the knees, which will bring them instantly down to the floor. Just by falling on the floor, they lose their ability to move or aim effectively.
I would have thought to aim for his balls. Isn’t that where they’re most vulnerable?
No. Women in particular think that way. I have a lot of female students who are like, “Oh, I’ll just take his nuts out.”
But men instinctively protect that region of their body. All it takes is a little movement with the knee to block it. And if that punch doesn’t land, well, you’ve missed your first shot, and guess what? He’s got a gun, and you’re dead. There is no margin for error.
I see your point.
Also, to punch or kick him in the balls, you would have to be directly behind him, or directly in front of him. From behind, you have to get really close and hope he’s standing with his legs really far open.
Like he’s an old west cowboy at a high noon showdown?
Right, yeah. That’s the only way you’re going to get a good shot.
And the other option is if you’re right in front of him, and I do not recommend that you stand right in front of a guy on a shooting rampage.
Duly noted. Ball punches are a terrible idea.
This is not a martial arts fight. You’re not looking to cause pain. You’re looking to bring him down. This is a whole different world.
It actually is. Everything about this seems surreal and unrealistic. It’s hard to fathom that what we’re talking about is something we might need to actually do someday, to avoid being gunned down by a psychopath.
But it’s important. It’s important for people to have a paradigm shift in their thinking about active shooters and terrorism in general.
I always point out to my students, on 9/11, the odds on those airplanes were definitely in our favor.
On any of those planes, we had a hundred or so passengers and a few terrorists with box cutters.
Other than the passengers on flight 93, there wasn’t much, if any, resistance. They just waited, and hoped for the best.
But we’re in a different world now. Nobody just sits there if they think there’s a hijacking.
I guess that’s true. Look at what happened on that train in France last summer.
Three passengers stopped what could have been a massacre. That wouldn’t have happened a few decades ago. Because they learned the lesson of 9/11.
Which is what? Don’t wait for help to arrive?
Help is going to arrive, but don’t wait for it.
If you look at these shootings, the majority of deaths happen in the first five, ten minutes. Before the police can arrive.
There has to be the same paradigm shift we had in our thinking about planes when it comes to public places, to schools, to businesses, to our homes.
But how do you find that balance between being paranoid and being prepared? I want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario without being the paranoid guy who sees boogey-men lurking in every shadow. How do you do that?
Yeah. You’ve been doing this all your life. How are you not a mess? How do you even leave your house anymore?
I’ve seen things you don’t even dream of. But I haven’t become paranoid, and I’ll tell you why. It’s pretty simple. There is only one antidote to fear. Well, maybe two.
First is the belief in fate. You believe that everything will somehow be fine and you’ll be taken care of by some higher power, and that’s great.
And for the rest of us?
The real antidote to fear is knowledge. I know what to look for. I know what to do if something bad happens. I have a plan of action.
This knowledge is what allows somebody to live a life free from fear.
Or at least free from the fear that we and the people we love could die because somebody is angry and has a lot of bullets.
The world has changed, and we have to adjust to it.
Changed because it’s more dangerous? Or we’re just more aware of it?
I’ll give you an example. When you came to the office today, you probably crossed a road, right?
And before you crossed, you looked left and right, just to make sure there wasn’t a car coming. Because if you didn’t, you might die. If you get hit by a car going 60 miles an hour, you will be obliterated.
So you check for that car, and you don’t feel paranoid or stressed about needing to do that, do you?
Not at all. It’s just something you do.
Exactly. It’s a part of your life. It’s a part of the world we live in. Two hundred years ago, there were no cars. We looked for, I don’t know, mountain lions.
Nobody thinks about mountain lions anymore. At least in this country.
Because nobody here is being eaten by lions.
You don’t go to a movie, or get on a plane, or take your kid to school and think, “I hope there aren’t any mountain lions.”
Now we look for cars. It’s part of our existence, part of our day to day.
And just like we look for cars, people need to start learning how to look for shooters.
Not to become paranoid and fearful about shooters, but to look for them, like we look for cars before we cross the street.
Have you ever had a moment in the middle of the night when you’re in bed with your wife and you hear a crack on the floorboard and you’re both like, “Oh shit, did you hear that? What was that sound? Is there somebody downstairs? Should we do something? Are we about to die?”
Well that’s strangely relieving.
You could kill a man with one finger. And even you have those late night moments of irrational fear, where you feel vulnerable and pretty sure you’re going to die even though your rational brain is telling you that you’re probably not going to die. That makes me feel more normal.
I never feel especially vulnerable.
Okay, well help us out then. What’s your secret?
Creaks happen everywhere. It wakes you up, it startles you. But when that fear strikes me, I remember that I’m ready to respond. You know your home very well, don’t you?
I guess so.
Of course you do! And you know your home much better than any potential intruder, right?
I tell people all the time, if you hear something in your home at night, don’t turn the light on. Keep it off. Who knows your home better than you do in the dark? You have the home field advantage.
But it’s still dark. If I walk downstairs in the dark, I’m still a little uncertain about that last step.
Well then you should practice. Walk through your home at night, look for different ways to get around or escape if necessary.
Doing those kinds of drills casually, on your own, without stress, prior to anything happening, will go a long way to saving lives.
As Stivi told us after learning of the San Bernardino shooting, “We pray for the victims , the injured, and their families. We will also continue our work, so next time more shall live. We know that this tragic incident will serve as lesson for us all.”
Let’s hope he’s right.