Tips on Surviving a Shooter Situation

Vester Flanagan II is pictured in this image tweeted by WDBJ. Flanagan was a former employee of the station; he went by the name Bryce Williams during his tenure there. WDBJ7/Twitter

In the wake of Vester Lee Flanagan's deadly on-air shooting of Virginia TV journalists Alison Ward and Adam Parker and other recent U.S. gun massacres, the New York Police Department held a symposium for the press on the topic of "active shooters," defined by the FBI as those who are "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."

While the NYPD on Thursday explained how media members could better protect themselves in such situations, the safety tips were by no means limited to journalists. The main things to remember follow:


Get out of the building—if it can be done safely. If possible, avoid escalators and elevators and take the stairs, the NYPD says. If you're on the stairs, stick close to the wall, allowing first responders to more easily move around.

When in a high rise, if the shooter is on a lower floor, go up as many floors as you can. Upon reaching an area that seems safe, the NYPD says, try to secure it and then move away from the entrance to an even more secure location. If a shooter is on a higher floor, go down and get out of the building.


When unable to get out of the building, try to find a central location that can provide some cover. Attempt to get behind objects that are likely to stop or slow bullets, such as soda machines.

When behind a door, try to block it using big, hard-to-move items such as desks and filing cabinets. If you must barricade a door with your body, the NYPD suggests staying lower than waist level.


If you can't get out or hide, try to keep quiet or even play dead, so the shooter won't see you. If you can't help but come face-to-face with an active shooter, try to overpower this person yourself or team with others, the NYPD says.

During an active shooter situation, there are also several things to keep in mind when interacting with police.

Call 911, and give your name and precise location, as well as sharing as many specifics about the situation as possible, such as how many shooters there are, where you last saw them and where they were going. Try to describe what the shooters look like, as well as their weapons, the NYPD says. Tell 911 whether you have heard explosions, and if you've observed any possible explosives.

When police officers arrive on the scene of an active shooter situation, their first concern is with stopping the shooter. You don't want the police to think you're the shooter, so keep your hands out, above your head, and keep them open and empty. Don't carry anything that looks like a weapon or an explosive.

Your natural reaction might be to run toward and grab police officers. Don't. And don't make sudden movements.

Obviously, the officers are there to help you. Because their first job is to address the active shooter, however, they might not focus on you if they still need to stop the shooter. It could take a few hours for officers to do so, make sure the area is safe and then find you. Try to keep calm and quiet until they arrive.