3 Ways to Survive - how to defend against an active shooter

SPECIAL REPORT: 3 Ways to Survive

Churches, movie theaters, night clubs, even schools. horror and violence has bombarded Americans in the most innocent of places in recent years.

As more and more cases of active shootings shake our country, experts say it's more important than ever to prepare yourself for survival.

We've heard it before, run, hide, and fight, but those steps aren't always easy when fear and adrenaline are running high.

"Active shooter threats as we've seen across the nation aren't limited to just colleges and universities, military bases, places of work. They can happen almost anywhere as we've seen," said Lt. Brett Stanelle with the Columbus State University Police Department.

From houses of worship to schools filled with some of our most vulnerable members of society, recent massacres have made many question if anywhere is safe anymore.

If you ever are thrust into a nightmare, experts say running, hiding, and fighting could save your life.

However, these tactics need preemptive thought, often creativity, and the will of a survivor. Now is the time to know, practice, and prepare for all three.

"Identify where your exits are," said Lt. Brad Hicks with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Special Operations unit.

Lt. Hicks agrees with other experts that running and escaping, if you can, is your first course of action.

"Depending on the vicinity, where you are in vicinity to the shooter, is really going to dictate what you do," said Lt. Hicks.

However, in many situations, it's not a straight shot to the arms of safety.

"Lower your profile, don't lay on the ground, but you lower your profile and work your way to an exit, away from the shooter," said Lt. Hicks.

Using your surroundings to help you escape can make you a harder target. Dashing from one piece of furniture to the next as you make your way to an exit can draw attention away from yourself. Remember, an exit isn't always a clearly marked door.

"It don't mean you can't break a window to get out. A lot of places have exits, a lot of places have windows also," said Lt. Hicks.

"You've got to put something between you and that threat. In many cases that's going to be distance. You're going to create distance between you and the threat by fleeing the area, escaping that building, getting to another location, but depending on the circumstances you may not always be able to escape that threat," said Lt. Stanelle.

In which case Lt. Stanelle says it's time to hide. First, investigate quickly which way the door opens to the room you're in.

Either way, piling as many sturdy objects in front of it can either stop the door from opening completely, or at least create a major roadblock.

WTVM put this to the test at a CSU building. A collection of chairs and tables with only one person supporting the makeshift structure was enough to stop an average-sized male from breaking through.

"Concealment is something that hides you. Concealment doesn't necessarily offer you physical protection from a threat," said Lt. Stanelle.

Lt. Stanell adds that this is an important thing to remember if you're hiding in an open space like a parking garage. You'll want to conceal yourself behind something that could also stop a bullet like the wheels or engine of a car, or a cement pole.

"When he has his hands on that gun, his hands are occupied where his hands are free," said local Armed Reaction Tactics specialist Michael Skinner.

As a last option, when the gunman is too close to run or hide, experts say your chances of survival spike trying to defend yourself, as opposed to cowering, pleading, or freezing.

"Simply taking the time to flip the switch and say to yourself that you're not going to be a victim but you're actually going to come out on top of this situation, and take the attack to the aggressor, could save lives," said Skinner.

Skinner says find blunt or sharp objects if you can. When you have to resort to fighting, the object of the game isn't to disarm, it's to severely harm the active shooter. If there's nothing to grab, use your hands, and remember, as scary as it sounds, getting hit doesn't always mean you're done for.

"It doesn't work like Hollywood, you get shot, you're out for the count. You've got to have that mentality that you're going to prevail in those situations," said Skinner. "There are some areas where you get shot, there's not a whole lot you can do about it, but if you have the proper mindset and you're shot in certain areas, you can still fight. You can still defend yourself. You can still defend others."

"If you're all huddled in a room together, if one of you, two of you, have a fighter's mindset, it's contagious. Just like flight or fight. Flight is contagious too, so when you have a group of people and they all start running, everybody looks and says why are they running? We better run too. Fight is also contagious," said Skinner.

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