Last year alone there were 372 mass shootings in America – more than one for every day of the year. They happened at our schools, our work places, and our houses of worship.
When an active shooter strikes, two to four people die every minute, and if you think you would know what to do, you could be wrong.
"The myth that most people operate under is that if we just lock the door and wait, police will get there in time to save us," said Al Bahn, an instructor with ALICE Training Institute, which trains organizations for active shooter civilian response.
ALICE Stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate – all techniques Bahn teaches across the country.
Bahn said the first thing you should do in an active shooter situation is run for your life. Even if the shooter sees you, moving targets are tougher to hit.
During a recent active shooter training in Everett, Bahn demonstrated what happens when people just sit in place and pray for the best.
He armed a young woman with an airsoft gun and turned her loose in a classroom full of people who were told to hide and fend for themselves. Nine of the fifteen people were shot by a person who had never fired any kind of weapon before.
"It's kind of like fish in a barrel," said Chelsea Kyger. "How horrifying that must be for children stuck in that situation."
Bahn said if you can't escape, take cover wherever you can. Barricade yourself in a room using whatever is available. During the Everett training scenario, no one was shot after barricading, because the killer couldn't get in the room.
"He'll most likely move on, because he wants to inflict the most possible damage," said Bahn.
If you're ultimately confronted by the gunman, Bahn said don't beg or surrender. Plan a counter attack.
If you're stuck in a room, turn off the lights. If the shooter enters the room, distract and disrupt him by throwing things. Scream, run around, and create chaos. Shooting someone will be much more difficult, and the distraction will give you precious moments to make a getaway.
"I thought I'd have to try to take the guy out," said one participant. "Instead, a low-light background where you're having multiple things thrown at you – he couldn't hit any of us."
Bahn said most critical for every school, business, or church is to train for situations like these. He likens it to a fire drill.
"We haven't had a death from a school fire in over 50 years, but we've lost a lot of innocent lives in active killer situations,” Bahn said. “Why not do active killer response the same way we do fire drills?"
Bahn said ALICE has training scenarios for children as young as elementary school age that are not traumatic. It's an unsettling concept, but one that we may have to confront, as mass murderers continue to confront us.