Now we’ve arrived at the problematic aspect of FEMA’s “run, hide, fight” recommendations. In the vast majority of cases, rapid evacuation and/or barricading will be the most likely response. Unfortunately in every active shooter event, there will be people who encounter the violent intruder as the incident begins, and may not be able to evacuate or escape the individual. FEMA addresses this explicitly: “If neither running nor hiding is a safe option, as a last resort when confronted by the shooter, adults in immediate danger should consider trying to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter using aggressive force and items in their environment…” (p. 65). Attacking or engaging with a violent individual is obviously not the preferred situation, but it’s critical to acknowledge that when the choice is fight or die, then aggressive action must be taken. Grab anything available as a possible weapons – books, desks, computers, even fire extinguishers – and use it aggressively against the attacker.
The issue of “countering” or “fighting” an attacker raises a lot of uncomfortable questions, but is clearly a matter of survival. Should significant time and attention be focused on teaching staff and students how to “fight a gunman”? Absolutely not. Why? Because it becomes the center of attention and the more crucial and practical skills of barricading and evacuation are overlooked. Should we at least acknowledge that in the rarest of cases, you might have to fight to survive the incident? Absolutely.