Aug 30, 2019
Active Shooter Preparedness - for Blind and Visually
By Pete Lane
This document is intended to provide suggestions for
what to do if we find ourselves in an active shooting event: how to
recognize signs of potential violence around us, how we might
react, and what to expect after an active shooting takes
Note: This material has been adapted to
include a few fundamental actions which blind and
visually impaired individuals might find helpful in an active
shooter crisis situation. Some are offered as suggestions for
consideration, in which case alternativeideas are also offered.
Precisely what actions we might take will depend upon a variety of
factors, including the specific environment in which we find
ourselves during a crisis, our level of usable vision and our
mindset at the time.
Based on research done by the FBI, most shootings are
concluded within 5minutes or less from start to finish.
Accordingly, we don’t have very much time to think about what
we should do in such a crisis. This is why we need
to know what to do before it actually happens.
Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to survive, but we may get a
chance to act, and will only have seconds to figure out what to do.
Our stress will be high, so we should make a plan of action now
that we can call upon wherever and whenever we go.
This is especially important when we realize that the human mind
tends to process events in terms of our day to day activities, that
is, if we hear something that is out of the ordinary, we tend
to frame that sound as a routine experience in our minds. This
means we might not react to an unusual or foreign sound such as gun
shots as quickly as we should. We might chalk it off to being
something familiar, like the back firing of a car, or just some
unknown loud sound, rather than the truly life-threatening sound
that it is. However, if we have a clear plan in mind, our conscious
and subconscious thoughts may allow that plan to kick in,
over-riding that tendency to mis-characterize the event and allow
us to react more quickly. All this to say that it is absolutely
crucial that we plan now for what we might do then.
One key step will be to maintain situational awareness
wherever we go. If we think about it, as blind or
visually impaired individuals, we actually maintain this awareness
all the time. When we leave our home, we are taking in our
surroundings, listening, smelling, feeling and seeing
with any usable vision we can muster to prepare ourselves for what
we might encounter. We are actively immersed in each new
environment we enter. It is a
routine preparedness measure we utilize to carry out even
our most basic day to day activities and it may prove beneficial in
a crisis situation. So, let’s stay alert, be aware of our
surroundings, trust our instincts and be ready to act quickly.
Remember three actions to follow during an active shooting
RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.
Prepare in advance
- Sign up for an active shooter training class when available.
These are often offered by employers, community organizations,
local law enforcement and other civic groups. Be sure to
take advantage of them when they are available.
- Get training in CPR and AED techniques - these too are offered
by employers, the Red Cross or other civic or similar
- Take a self-defense class. Note: one self-defense program
offered specifically to blind and visually impaired persons is
called: 1 Touch Project, the details of which can be found
- Option: Have you considered arming yourself with a
firearm for self-defense at home? If so, attend firearms training
- Option: Some believe that as blind people, arming
ourselves with a firearm is unwise and unsafe. Conversely, some of
us, particularly those of us who live in the US believe that we
have a constitutional right to arm ourselves, and choose to do so,
so think long and hard before pursuing this option.
- If you see or hear something out of the ordinary which gives
you concern, say something to an authority right away. For example:
suspicious postings on social media, or odd or unusual behavior of
anindividual. Also try to be cognizant of
physical changes to your school or church buildings or
other locations. To illustrate this last point, we know that the
Virginia Tech shooter tested his plan by placing locked chains on
doors prior to his actual shooting rampage. Nobody seemed to notice
these, and campus security personnel weren’t informed. See
something, say something.
- Sign up to receive local emergency alerts and register your
work and personal contact information with any work, school or
other sponsored alert systems so you will receive up to date
information on these kinds of events. This would include social
media feeds for local law enforcement where you would be likely to
learn of incidents such as an active shooter situation in your
- Consider traveling with a buddy or companion when going to
an unfamiliar area.
- Make a plan with your family and ensure everyone knows what
they would do, if confronted with an active shooter, whether at
home or elsewhere.
- Whenever possible, locate the two nearest exits anywhere you
go, have an escape path in mind & identify places you could
hide. We know this is not often practical or even possible but keep
it in mind whenever visiting a new location. Don’t
hesitate to ask someone. In this day and age, people aren’t likely
to think you are being nosey or unnecessarily curious if you wish
to identify possible exits from the facility or area where you
- Familiarize yourself with the building, store, mall or outdoor
area when you have the time. Download a map or take time to
practice walking the area to learn the layout and find the
- In a Mall, the anchor stores will have rear exits behind their
business offices, as will theaters, stand-alone grocery stores,
restaurants, and other stores.
- If in a school, college, public building or other similar
facility, there will likely be an Emergency Preparedness and an
Active Shooter Plan in place. Check it out in advance on their web
site if possible or ask about it when entering the
- When practical, find out if an emergency preparedness plan for
individuals with disabilities exists at the location and become
familiar with it. Their web site may include such a resource
- During an incident
- Run - Escape, if possible.
- Getting away from the shooter or shooters is your top
- Run away from the sounds of danger if you can gauge their
whereabouts. Do not move closer to the sounds in order to assess
what is happening or attempt to help. Trust your instincts and
run away from the sounds.
- Leave your belongings behind and get away.
- Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of
whether others agree to follow.
- It may be that running is dangerous to you and/or others. Here
are some options to consider:
- Option 1. If you are unable to run safely by
yourself, ask for help from others. Grab an elbow or something else
to allow you to run with a sighted individual. If nobody agrees to
help, then don’t ask, just grab an elbow and run. Courtesy is
secondary to survival, Pride in your independence goes out the
window in these situations, and survival takes top priority. Keep
running until you are out of the building, store, mall, or
other location, or until you are absolutely sure you are free and
out of danger.
- Option 2. The shooter is oriented to looking
for people who are running, so find a place to drop down and hide.
Offer a low profile that may be out of the shooter’s line of sight
in hopes of avoiding his gaze. (See the discussion later in this
document which describes the actions to take when hiding).
- Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where
the active shooter may be.
- Call 911 when you are safe, and describe the shooter, location,
and weapons to the extent possible
HIDE, if escape is not possible.
- Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet, preferably
out of the main aisle or hallway, and the primary line of sight of
- Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t
- Note, this would include silencing Voiceover,
Talk Back or other speech system you may utilize.
- If in an open area, don’t hide in groups. Spread out along
walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter.
It may be that adding an extra step or two for the shooter to find
or reach you may cause them to move on to more fruitful convenient
targets. Remember, active shooters are looking for the most victims
in the shortest amount of time.
- If in a store or restaurant, and a solid structure is not
available, pull a clothes rack, display, table and chairs, food
cart, or other similar covering over yourself to block you from the
- If in a separate room, don’t hide on a wall facing the
door where the gunman may come in. hide on left or right
wall, out of his line of sight where he is not
- Secure the room: Lock doors, close blinds, and turn off
- Barricade the door with heavy furniture, a chair under the
doorknob, boxes, etc. which may add a layer for the shooter to have
to overcome, or which might stop a bullet.
- Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and
provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
- Get into offices, rest rooms, or other rooms with lockable
doors if possible. Get behind heavy doors, walls, credenzas, file
cabinets, desks, tables, counters, large vending machines,
etc. which offer protection if possible.
- If outdoors, try to hide behind structures or solid objects.
These may include walls, barricades, power boxes, pillars or poles.
You can even hide behind a curb, which while low, may offer
sufficient protection against bullets.
Option:If no solid hiding place is available,
asa last resort, consider “playing dead” if the shooter
approaches you while hiding. Lie face down, calm or stop your
breathing, don’t move a muscle, keep your eyes open and
try not to move your eyes or eyelids.
- Try to communicate with authorities silently. Use a headset or
ear buds to silence your device, using text, email or social media.
If possible when speaking on a 911 call, let the operator know you
may be near the shooter so you may not speak or respond to
questions. However, don’t risk revealing yourself to the shooter in
order to do so.
- Stay in place until law enforcement tells you it’s clear and
safe to move.
FIGHT - As an absolute last resort.
We realize this suggestion is extreme, and certainly not an
ideal course of action, but there may be a time during the incident
when there are no other options short of fighting the shooter in
order to prevent him from harming or killing others, or you. This
is a last resort, but if faced with such a circumstance, commit to
it fully as it may mean survival.
Just because you don’t have a gun, doesn’t mean you don’t have a
weapon. A weapon can offer valuable force and may mean the
difference in these drastic situations, and almost anything in your
environment can be turned into a weapon: chairs, fire
extinguishers, lamps, umbrellas, belts, paper weights, books,
coffee mugs, even a pen can be used as an improvised weapon.
If possible, spray a fire extinguisher or chemicals in his
direction, trying to aim for his face and eyes. Or throw a pot of
scalding hot coffee his way. Be creative! Once the shooter is
disoriented, rush him and take him down. We recognize that this may
be easier said than done but remember at this point we’re
considering our last resort.
Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible
against the shooter.
Be prepared to cause severe or lethal injury to the
shooter in order to save yourself and others. Don’t worry
about fighting “fairly”. All is fair in such
situations: bite him, poke him in the eyes, kick him,
stab him with your improvised weapon, attack his soft tissue such
as his throat, eyes, stomach, ears, etc. Instill whatever pain or
injury you can, even disorientation if that is all that is
Team up: Recruit others to help you ambush the shooter to
confuse, distract or disorient him. Use weapons like
scissors, letter openers, knives etc. to fight with.
- Keep hands visible and empty so law enforcement doesn’t
perceive you as a threat. Do not hold on to your cell phone as this
may be perceived as a weapon - keep your hands visible and
- Know that law enforcement’s first task is to end the incident,
and they may have to pass injured along the way.
- Officers may arrive in groups, will likely be armed with
rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns and may use pepper spray or tear
gas to control the situation.
- Officers will be very aggressive, shout commands and
may push individuals to the ground for their safety. Try not to let
this disorient you or cause you to disregard their instructions. If
practical, show them your white cane, or otherwise let them know
you are visually impaired.
- Follow law enforcement instructions and evacuate in the
direction they come from, unless otherwise instructed.
- Take care of yourself first, and then you may be able to help
the wounded before first responders arrive.
- If the injured are in immediate danger, help get them to
safety, but not at the risk of your own life.
- While you wait for first responders to arrive, provide first
aid. Apply direct pressure to wounded areas and use tourniquets if
you have been trained to do so.
- Turn wounded people onto their sides if they are unconscious
and keep them warm.
- Consider seeking professional help for you and your family to
cope with the long-term effects of the trauma.
We hope to never find ourselves in an active shooter situation,
but if we do, we can prepare to some extent to increase the chances
of surviving such an experience.
If at all possible, be prepared by making a plan as outlined in
this document. Try to recall some of the suggestions offered in
this document if and when you find yourself in an active shooter
Remember the three components of the active shooter plan: Run.
You can respond to this article by contacting Pete Lane
FIGHT. ®Surviving an Active
Shooter Event - English (video)
Active Shooter Information Sheet (PDF)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Active shooter preparedness
resources translated (link)
Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship
Contact Your State Services
If you reside in Minnesota, and you would like to know more
about Transition Services from State Services contact Transition
Coordinator Sheila Koenig by email or contact her
via phone at 651-539-2361.
To find your State Services in your State you can go
to www.AFB.org and search
the directory for your agency.
Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free
Blind Abilities App on the App Storeand Google
Check out the Blind Abilities
Communityon Facebook, the Blind Abilities
Page, the Career Resources
for the Blind and Visually Impairedand the Assistive
Technology Community for the Blind and Visually Impaired.