How to Increase Your Chance of Survival When a Shooting Breaks Out: Experts

By Ilene Eng

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.—After three mass shootings in the span of a week, experts have stepped up to give the public advice on how to better survive when an active shooter runs wild.

Brad Engmann is ranked as one of the top competitive practical pistol shooters on the West Coast. He’s also co-owner of Threat Scenarios, a company that trains people to build skills for defense, recreation, and competition.

“If shooting actually starts, the first reaction of many people is going to be to freeze, try to figure out what’s going on. We don’t want to encourage that. We want to encourage people to spend a few minutes having a plan, and talking about it with their family in advance so that they can improve their reaction time,” said Engmann.

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Brad Engmann pretends to be a shooter looking for targets in an office space in Walnut Creek, California, on Aug. 6, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)
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Kevin Holman demonstrates attacking the shooter from a chokepoint and gains control of the weapon in Walnut Creek, California, on Aug. 6, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

He said people should have basic situational awareness that includes self-defense. People should also know where the exits and their family members are.

Here are some tips for what to do when confronting a shooter.

“Based on your proximity to the shooter, there are going to be a few steps that you walk through,” said Engmann. “The first is to run if you can, break line of sight from that shooter, so if he can’t see you, he probably can’t shoot you. It’s not to say that his bullets can’t pass through what’s between you and the shooter, it’s to say that you are going to be a harder target to hit, especially if you are moving.”

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Kevin Holman demonstrates how to gain control of a smaller weapon like a handgun by grabbing it with both hands and rotating it back towards the shooter’s ear in Walnut Creek, California, on Aug. 6, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

A crucial part in an active shooter situation is controlling the distance.

In a scenario like an office space, people should hide by places like doorways, known as chokepoints, and attempt to lead the shooter closer before taking control of the weapon.

When people are right next to the shooter, they can try to gain control of the weapon grabbing the weapon, kicking and headbutting the shooter until his or her grip is loosened.

“If there are other people around, this is where I say ‘help me, help me, grab it, tackle him, help me!’ So I can get them involved,” said Kevin Holman, a hand-to-hand instructor at Threat Scenarios.

Similar tactics can be applied to smaller weapons.

“I’m going to grab the wrist, and I’m going to grab the underneath of the gun. I’m going to rotate this back to his ear. I’m going to use the leverage. When I break that grip, now I have the weapon,” said Holman.

Engmann says no one is able to pinpoint accurately what motivates active shooters, since all situations are different. But he recommends the public to be aware of potential signs and report the person to a psychologist, superior, or law enforcement.