Tips On How To Survive A Mass Shooting

by Joe Alton, M.D.
The Active Shooter Event: Staying Alive

Active Shooter Response
Active Shooter Response
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA -( Have a Plan

A person without a plan of action follows the herd. If fifty people around you drop to the floor, your natural tendency is to do the same.

Cowering in fear under a table in plain view of the shooter isn’t a recipe for a good outcome. By having a plan, you will have a better chance of getting out of there in one piece.

Know Your Surroundings

With an active shooter, what you do in the first few seconds may determine your final outcome. Give yourself a head start by always knowing what’s happening around you. We call this situational awareness. Know where exits are. Know where the gunshots are coming from. Know who appears nervous or suspicious in your immediate area.

Run, Hide, and Fight

If you find yourself in the middle of a terrorist event, you should remember these three words: Run, Hide, Fight. Just as “Stop, Drop, and Roll” can save the life of someone on fire, “Run, Hide, Fight” might save the life of someone under fire. This is the order of the actions that you should be taking in an active shooter scenario.

Hide (Second)

Most people will hide as their first course of action. You, however, should run away from the direction of gunfire as soon as you hear it, leaving through those exits you’ve been mentally marking. This will make it less likely you and the shooter will cross paths. Forget about collecting your stuff, it will only slow you down and, face it, it’s just stuff.

In a building, hiding under a table in the same room as the shooter is a death sentence. Get into another room, preferably one with a door you can lock. If there is no lock, put together a barrier with desks and chairs. Turn off the lights, silence your cell phone, and stay quiet behind an additional barrier like a table or in a closet. If you can quietly alert authorities, do so.

Don’t respond to voice commands unless you’re sure the danger is over; sometimes the gunman will try to lure you out of a safe place.

Run (First)

If you’re in the line of sight of the shooter, run away at an angle or zig zag to make yourself a more difficult target. I know it’s not a natural action you’d think of doing, but most shooters aren’t marksmen and will miss a moving target.

Fight (Last)

What if you can’t run, and there is no reasonable hiding place? You just might have to fight yourself out of there. This strategy isn’t always doomed to failure.

[AmmoLand Editors Note: The best option is to carry a firearm, concealed carry or open carry, nothing slows down or stops an attacker than a good guy shooting back at them. An armed fight should be your first choice.]

You still might be able to subdue an attacker even if unarmed. Three young and unarmed men were able to do it to a shooter on a train in Paris. It’s a last resort, but it can end without a fatality as it did there. If you don’t fight, the shooter will have a clear shot to your head and death is likely. If you fight, it might just be harder to be hit with a fatal shot.

Of course, it would be great if you knew martial arts, but any type of aggression against the gunman would disrupt their “flow” and possibly put you at an advantage. If you can, approach him from the side or rear, and go for his weapon. If you have help, all should attack at the same time from different directions while hurling objects that he has to dodge. This guy is probably not James Bond: he’ll be disconcerted and not be able to handle multiple threats at once.

Needing a plan for active shooter situations is galling to some but, it’s part of life in the New Normal. Those with a plan will have a better chance to survive this event and many other disasters in the uncertain future.

More from Dr. Alton – YouTube Speaking Clip: Your Rights vs Public Safety

About Dr. Joe Alton:

Joe Alton, M.D. ( ) is a disaster preparedness expert, member of the Wilderness Medical Society, and NY Times/Amazon bestselling author of the Survival Medicine Handbook and other books. Dr. Alton has also written the just-released and timely “The Zika Virus Handbook“. Dr. Alton is a well known speaker and host of The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Hour syndicated podcast.

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Fight isn’t always the best response. If you are armed with a handgun and the shooter – or shooters – have long guns and possibly an elevated position, you’re best option is probably a ‘tactical withdrawal’. Same if you have small children or other untrained/unarmed individuals whose safety you’re responsible for. Moving to a defensible area and defending it until the cavalry arrives, or even leaving the scene entirely, doesn’t make you a coward. We carry CCW to defend ourselves and our loved ones from harm. Avoiding the fight entirely may be the best way to accomplish that. If you… Read more »

Joe Alton MD

Read my last comment and you’ll see that I agree with you. This article was originally written to outline the recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security. In my follow-up article: “Active Shooter: When Violence is the Answer” should make my personal feelings clear. Thank you for your service to our country.

Joe Alton MD

This article was written for the unarmed citizen, hence the order of actions I recommended in the full article. I wrote it in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, and I would point out that, although you might think that the nightclub patrons were unarmed, in reality there were bar glasses, bottles, and at least 300 cell phones that could have been hurled as projectiles while rushing the shooter. Unless the gunman is James Bond, he would have been flinching and ducking, giving the opportunity to drop him and end the event. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin indicates that a… Read more »


First even if you are unarmed you can always find an improvised weapon, and fighting back is always better than hiding and running where you will then just be shot where ever you end up in the building or area. Take Orlando as you use this as an example, people ran and hid in the bathroom where they were then killed by the gunman with no where to go! So your best option is to fight and take out the shooter as quickly as possible! If you are armed this should happen as soon as you are in position to… Read more »


It,s always different,try to acess the problem ,take cover and fire back,stay calm and good luck

Wild Bill

Alton is all wet! Is he the author of the Liberal Sheeple’s Handbook. If you find yourself in the middle of a terrorist event, you should remember these three words: Move to Cover. Prep the Jury. Cut the Pie. Movement to cover needs no explanation. Prepare the Jury means shout loudly so that others can hear you ” Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Drop the weapon. Help, help, somebody call the police.” or what ever verbiage you prefer so that you have witnesses that you were not the perpetrator when the police arrive and for the benefit of the jury, that… Read more »


Fight is the 1’st,2’nd,and 3’rd option to me.