It’s the most horrifying question to think about: What should you do if there’s an active shooter nearby?
When two people were shot outside Fashion Place in Murray on Sunday — in a clash of rival gangs, police say — there were initial fears of an active shooter in the mall. Law enforcement officers who train people for such scenarios say there are three options: Run, hide, and fight.
The first step is to be aware of one’s surroundings at all times, Sgt. Wyatt Weber of Utah’s Department of Public Safety said in 2016, after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in which 49 people were killed.
Run • If it’s practical to do so, run to an escape route you planned in advance. Leave your personal belongings. Encourage others to follow but don’t let them slow you down. A running target is harder to hit than one standing still.
Once you are out of the danger area, warn others from going in, and call the police.
Hide • If you can’t run, find a good place to hide. Look for an office with a door that locks, and try to barricade the door with something heavy. Turn off the lights and silence your smartphone — don’t just set it to vibrate. Store employees throughout Fashion Place gathered shoppers and co-workers into back rooms Sunday and barricaded doors.
While hiding, think about these questions: What did you see? How many shooters were there? What did they look like? What kind of weapons did they have? If possible, get that information to police; if it’s not safe to talk, call 911 and leave the line open.
Look around and see if there’s something you might use as a weapon. If the shooter comes your way, you may need to use it.
Fight • Some people choose “fight” in a “fight or flight” situation. If you choose “fight,” officials say, do it ahead of time so there’s no hesitation in the moment.
Use whatever is available: A chair, scissors, a pen. If possible, team up; the saying “there’s safety in numbers” turns out to be true. The goal is to escape, not to subdue the shooter; this isn’t a Chuck Norris movie. Just getting the assailant off balance for a few seconds may be enough to get out alive.
Once you’re out, you will likely encounter the police, and you don’t want to be mistaken as a threat. Keep your hands empty, fingers spread apart, so police can see you’re unarmed. Don’t scream, point, or hang onto the officers. Calmly tell the police what you saw, if it would be helpful, and leave the way the police came in.
Rules for concealed-weapon carriers: If it’s holstered, tell police you have one and where it is, but keep your hands visible. If you’re holding your weapon, place it on the ground and put your hands up.
There’s probably a rendezvous point, such as a parking lot, outside the danger area. Stay there until police have questioned you and say you’re free to go.
Tribune editor Matt Canham contributed to this report.