UPDATE: I attended the HCPS Safety and Security Forum, and armed with more data, I have now have some important caveats. See my Feb 4th update on the subject. Here the original post:
Ask any self-defense expert and he or she will tell you that the single most instinctual self-defense strategy with the greatest payload is running away. Obviously there is no single approach that applies in every situation, but if you had to pick one, running away has to be it.
No matter what the weapon, even a gun, the further you are from an attacker the more your survival chances increase. Trained professionals have a hard time hitting moving targets. Let’s face it, there’s a reason people put tin cans on fence rails instead of tossing them into the air.
If everybody runs in opposite directions it becomes very hard for a shooter to acquire a target. When you flush quail, do they huddle for safety or take off in as many different directions as possible? This is a basic axiom of squad-level military tactics: don’t bunch up. How in the Devil’s Green Hell can we in good conscience advise our teachers and faculty to huddle our kids together like fish in a barrel?
So why is it that when our kids are threatened by shooters we put schools on lockdown and keep all of the kids inside? When there’s a fire, a flood, a gas leak, or a spill in the chemistry lab, we evacuate the kids. We get them as far away from danger as we can. How are shooters any different?
I looked at nine famous school shootings in which the lives of 103 students and faculty were lost. In 7 of 9 cases, perpetrators moved around the school firing at either random or specific targets. Look at Columbine and VA Tech in particular. While it’s true that hiding sometimes saves lives, isn’t it also true that if everyone had scattered as soon as the firing started there would have been fewer targets?
In only 1 of the 9 cases was a shooter captured. The other 8 ended in the shooter’s suicide. This is an important statistic because if you think that the police are going to come and save the day, you’re badly mistaken. More often than not, a shooter is going to walk around a building or campus shooting people until he’s done, at which point he’s going to take his own life.
Even when I expanded my analysis out to the 67 school shootings for which there is data on Wikipedia I got the following results:
Resolutions to School Massacres
Killed or Arrested by Police 21
Subdued by citizens 9
As you can see, there is a greater chance that the shooter will surrender or be subdued by citizens than there is that police will arrest the perpetrator. Now, to be fair, I’m sure many of these shooters committed suicide because the police showed up on scene as it appears the Newtown shooter did.
But it’s also true that the two Columbine shooters had finished their spree and killed themselves two minutes before the first SWAT team entered the building.
Very soon my daughter’s school is going to have a safety and security forum for parents and school officials. I will be there will my analysis in hand. In the meantime, with all of this in mind, the other day I gave my 9th grader the following instructions:
“If you are outside and you hear or see gunshots, run as quickly as you can in the opposite direction. If you are in a classroom and there is a first floor window, open or smash that window, exit it, and then run away as quickly as possible. If there’s no window, open the door, look for the shooter, and run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible. If someone tells you to hide and wait for the police, don’t stop to tell them they’re bonkers — just run like hell. If you’re brave enough to take run, maybe someone else will follow your lead and you’ll save their life as well as your own.”
In the end we all have to come to our conclusions. But please consider all angles and make an informed decision with an eye on the facts as you see them.
Due credit and thanks to Mark Hatmaker and his short rant on this subject in one of his free weekly Legends emails (if you’re a martial artist and you don’t subscribe you’re missing out).