A gunman killed eight people and wounded seven others Saturday in a shooting at an outlet in Allen, a suburb 25 miles north of Dallas.
The killings add to the growing list of mass shootings that have occurred in Texas and the United States in recent years.
A gunman in Cleveland fatally shot five of his neighbors last month after a fight in which, according to police reports, one of the victims asked him to stop firing his gun in the yard. This came nearly a year after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a primary school in Uvalde.
As the threat of gun violence continues to hang over communities, experts say it’s important to know how to respond in an active shooter situation.
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Run, hide, fight
The general protocol people should follow in an active shooting situation is the run, hide, fight approach, said Shelby Kervin, homeland security lieutenant for the Plano Police Department, a city near Allen.
Running means evacuating the area or active threat and leaving your belongings behind. In situations where evacuation is difficult, hiding in rooms or behind barricades that protect against gunfire is the next approach. Hiding can also feel like turning off the lights and closing the windows.
Fighting the perpetrator, Kelvin said, should be a last resort if evacuation and hiding are not possible and one’s life is in immediate danger.
While people may know what to do, they may not react that way at the moment.
“We all recognize those three simple steps,” Kervin said. “…But some of the things that are missing… are that we really hit the stress response.”
Kervin said many times people look at what other people are doing when threatening situations are ambiguous.
“The moment you see someone carrying a weapon and starting to approach you, get past that denial as fast as you can and yell, ‘Gun, gun!’ Run,” Kervin said. “Run, run, run, run like your life depends on it because he literally does.”
One reason running is so important, Kervin said, is target availability.
“Soft goals, hard goals. We don’t want people to be soft targets,” she said. “Soft targets, those are the people who get stuck. They lay down, they sit there, or they just don’t move. We want them to move because even a well-trained shooter has a hard time hitting a moving target.”
Additionally, Kervin said it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. This means having an idea of where the exits are in buildings and where the medical equipment is.
If I’m armed, do I take out the shooter?
In some active shooter situations, people at the scene of the incident have shot down the perpetrator.
Attempting to bring down the shooter with a firearm is a personal choice that could have negative consequences, Kervin said.
“The only time I would recommend using a weapon against him is if fighting was your only option left,” Kervin said.
In a situation like the one that occurred in Allen, thousands of people could be running around. “While the police are responding, if you’re sitting there holding a gun and you don’t have any visible signs that you’re the police, that could be problematic,” Kervin said.
Is playing dead an option?
The shooter’s goal, Kervin said, is to actively attack and actively kill in large, densely populated areas.
When people play dead, they are still vulnerable fragile targets, he said.
“Maybe from a distance it could be applicable because they can’t see you breathing,” Kervin said. “But if they’re closing in on you and you just lay there, your chances of survival go down a lot.”