While active shooter situations are still pretty rare, it’s a phenomenon that does seem to be increasing in regularity. From the recent shooting in Colorado, to terrorist attacks around the globe, these events do happen and they are something that we need to be prepared to respond to.

Preparing for Active Shooter Situations and Terrorist Attacks

situational awarenessSituational Awareness

Being able to protect yourself in an active shooter situation begins with having a good sense of what’s going on around you. As I suggested in a previous article, about protecting yourself during a flash mob situation, knowing your environment is one of the most important safety precautions that you can take in any situation.

Before entering any public place, you want to scope out the situation. If anything looks out of place, or your gut tells you something isn’t right; Listen to your instincts and leave.

Find your Exit Points

Part of being aware of your environment, means knowing how to get out when things go bad. Upon entering any new area, the first thing you want to do is look for every possible escape route and exit. This one thing could mean the difference between life and death, and isn’t something that should never be overlooked.

Always Give Yourself the Tactical Advantage

Call it paranoia, I call it always being prepared. When putting yourself in a target rich environment –  like a movie theater, public gathering or concert venue –  there are a couple of things you should do to maximize your ability to survive a deadly situation.

First, try to avoid situations that may turn violent.  While predicting one of these events is almost impossible, there are a number of things you can do that will put the odds in your favor.


large crowdsThe madmen who commit these crimes are looking for attention. Lone shooters and terrorist organizations are both looking for media attention and high body counts. They are more likely to attack people during high profile events, so when possible:

  • Avoid opening night events
  • Avoid sold out shows and concerts
  • Avoid high profile events and politically charged rallies


If you do go to a large event such as a movie, a concert, or some sort of rally or sporting event; choose seats that are situated near an exit. The last place you want to be during a shooting is stuck in the middle of a crowd or in the middle of row of seats.  Placement is a hugely important factor in staying safe.

  • Choose seats near exits
  • Never choose seats in the middle of a crowd
  • Don’t make yourself stand out from the crowd in any way
  • Make sure there are no obstacles standing in your way of making a quick escape


We have instincts for a reason. A number of people in the recent Colorado event had a bad feeling when they saw the shooter enter the building. Yet most of them brushed off their feelings and reasoned that it was probably some sort of publicity stunt for the movie.  Even after the shooting started, a number of people said “they still thought it had to be part of the show.”

If a situation seems odd, if something seems out of place, or your gut tells you something isn’t right; listen to your instincts and don’t wait around to find out what happened.

Surviving an Active Shooter Situation

Should the unthinkable happen, and you find yourself in the middle of an active shooter situation, there are a couple of things that you can do to help maximize your chances of survival.


In my opinion, this is first and foremost on the list of options.  In an active shooter situation, the first thing you want to do is try to escape. This isn’t a movie or a video game, when the bullets start flying the last place you want to be is anywhere near the shooter.

Hopefully you took the time upon entering your location to scope out the exits. If you can safely make your way to an exit, do so without hesitation and without attracting unwanted attention from the shooter. Once you hit the exit, keep going. Distance is one of the keys to surviving the situation.


Taking cover means moving yourself away from any possible harm. If you can’t safely remove yourself from the situation; the next best option may be to take cover. When I say take cover, I don’t mean closing your eyes and hiding behind some tiny little object.

In the movies, you often see the hero of the story returning fire from behind some ridiculous object like a table or piece of furniture. In real life, these objects provide little if any actual protection from incoming fire. There’s a big difference between taking cover behind a solid barrier (like a concrete wall) and hiding behind a chair or table.


Critics of this option will probably argue that you should never try to attack a shooter. But if you’re in a situation where there’s no place to run and no place to seek cover; what other option do you have? Most critics fall silent when asked that question.

The fact is in an active shooter situation, you often have very few options. Lying frozen in fear does nothing to add to your chances of coming out alive. If you have no other options, you need to act quickly and decisively to try to take out the shooter.

If you have a weapon, then hopefully you have trained for this type of situation. I’m not going to go into tactics and proper response, because nothing I can write will properly prepare you for this situation. Only proper training, both physically and mentally, can help you prepare for this type of encounter. Please don’t underestimate the need to properly train yourself in the ways of self defense.

After the attack, get to safety.

Once you have exited the building, or removed yourself from the situation, DO NOT DROP YOUR GUARD. What if the shooter returns? What if there are other shooters waiting outside the exits?

I was stunned to see cell phone footage of people fleeing the scene of last week’s shooting. Why anyone would stay and film this tragedy is not only disgusting, it’s something  that could get you killed.  Hanging out at the scene of the incident is never a good idea, trying to film it on your cell phone is just plain stupid.

While these types of incidents are extremely rare, they do happen and they are something that we must be prepared to respond to. We live in a sick society that is constantly seeking fame and unfortunately there are a growing number of lunatics who will do anything it takes to receive that fame and notoriety. This is a problem that will probably only get worse with time.

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DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the Author. Radical Survivalism Webzine and its staff will NOT be held responsible for harm or damages of any kind incurred when acting on the advise and opinions offered in this article.

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RSOP is the co-founder & Executive Editor of Radical Survivalism Webzine, as well as a Family Preparedness Consultant with over seven years of personal experience in the self-reliance game. RSOP's many preparedness roles within his own group include team mechanic, head of security, electrician, and project designer/engineer.