Here’s what safety experts say you should do in an active shooter situation

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Mass shootings in the United States increased 50% from the previous year in 2020, according to a USA Today analysis.

Monday’s grocery store shooting in Boulder marked the 103rd mass shooting — defined as a single incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not involving the shooter — in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Because of this, the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management recommends all people be prepared “both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.”

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Many employers and schools conduct active shooter drills or trainings, often run by local police, to prepare people for what to expect in the situation. 

If you find yourself in a situation with an active shooter, here’s what safety experts in Colorado recommend you do.

During an active shooting

  • Run — experts advise that if there is a way out, take it. Make sure you have a set plan in mind, leave your belongings behind and help others get out if you can.
  • Hide — hide if the shooter is near; try and remain calm and call 911 “to alert police to the active shooter’s location.” Experts say that if you are unable to talk or describe the location to silence your phone but leave the line on and let the dispatcher listen. When identifying a hiding spot, experts recommend going out of the shooter’s view and behind large items like cabinets or desks and remaining silent. If possible, lock and blockade the door, but do not limit your own options. 
  • Fight — experts recommend this only as a last resort if you are unable to hide or evacuate. They advise attempting to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter by being as aggressive as possible toward him/her, doing things such as throwing items and using whatever you can as a weapon.

When law enforcement arrives

  • The first officers on site are not there to assist injured individuals, they are there to locate and stop the shooter.
  • When officers get there, experts ask that you stay calm and follow the instructions of law enforcement. Make sure your hands are empty and raise your arms above your head, making sure hands are visible at all times. 
  • Avoid quick movements, pointing or screaming, and do not stop and ask for help if you’re evacuating, “just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.”

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More:Here are the names of the 10 victims in the Boulder shooting

After the shooting 

When you have reached a spot safe from the shooting or it has ended, law enforcement will likely keep people in that area until they deem the situation under control and have spoken to or identified all witnesses. The Department of Emergency Management asks that you do not leave until law enforcement authorities have said it’s OK.

Many survivors and first responders of active shooter events face psychological effects. If necessary, turn to mental health professionals for assistance.

For more information on what to do in an active shooter situation, read the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s guidance here, and the federal guidance here

Sources: Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.