How to Survive a Sniper Attack

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

As our nation and the city of Las Vegas continue to deal with the aftermath of the latest mass shooting, people are searching for answers to questions like, “Why did this happen?” and “What could have been done differently to protect innocent civilians?”

The reality is we may never truly know what caused a deranged man to murder so many people. But there is no question that we can learn from this tragedy and hopefully save more lives if it happens again.

The recent shooting in Las Vegas was unlike most other mass shootings — such as the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Florida, the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 and even past school shootings like the one at Virginia Tech in 2007. In fact, the only exception might be the 1966 University of Texas clock tower shooting.

You see, what made Las Vegas so different was that the shooter was at an elevated position about 400 yards away from his victims. Stephen Paddock wasn’t just an active shooter situation; he was an active sniper who had a tactical advantage over everyone else — including law enforcement and first responders.

Good Advice With a Grain of Salt

Now, you may be familiar with the saying “Run, hide, fight,” which is what the FBI recommends you do during an active shooter situation.

In other words, you should run from the shooter, hide from the shooter and, as a last resort, try to fight the shooter. Because the incident in Las Vegas was a sniper attack, the “Run, hide, fight” strategy wasn’t really the best option.

Of course, you should always run if you can, but since the shooter had such a tactical advantage over his victims, they didn’t know where to run, they weren’t sure where to hide and, finally, they couldn’t fight back because he was so far away.

That being said, here’s what you should do if you ever find yourself in a situation similar to Las Vegas in which you have no idea where the gunfire is coming from:

1. Always have an exit strategy. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard me talk about situational awareness — probably more than once. The thing is not only should you practice heightened situational awareness when you are at crowded events; you also need to have a plan of escape.

In other words, if you are at a movie, for example, you should note where the exits are located and consider sitting close to one of them. This is key, because if something happens, you need to know where to go without having to waste any time looking around and figuring out how to get out safely.

This also goes for when you’re at dinner in a crowded restaurant on a Friday night, a concert, an outdoor festival or a busy shopping mall. You must always have an escape plan in mind.

2. Look for cover versus concealment. For those of you who’ve ever attended a firearms course at Spy Ranch, you’ve heard me discuss the difference between cover and concealment. (This is something Cade Courtley has addressed in his active shooter guide as well.)

Cover hides you and protects you from bullets, whereas concealment only hides you and won’t stop bullets from penetrating. Think of cover as a concrete wall and concealment as hiding behind a blanket.

Anytime you attend an event or large public gathering, keep your eyes out for cover in case you quickly need to get behind something that will protect you.

3. Don’t freeze or lie down. Many people who were at the concert in Las Vegas thought the initial gunfire was fireworks and didn’t react. For someone who isn’t familiar with the sound of gunfire, this confusion makes sense, since many large events use fireworks.

However, if you hear something and you aren’t sure what it is, immediately start moving away from the sound. I don’t mean that you should run and create a panic (unless it really is gunfire), but there is nothing wrong with simply moving toward your escape exit until you can confirm what is causing the noise.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Movement saves lives.” (I know Cade’s said this one before too.) This is especially true if a sniper is targeting you, because a moving target is much more difficult to hit. Even though your first reaction might be to lie flat on the ground, this makes you an easy target.

I also suggest moving in a zigzag pattern. If you run in a straight line, the sniper could lead you and fire off a shot that hits the mark (you) because they can predict where your movement will take you.

Don’t Live in Fear

Finally, I’ve heard some people talk about how they will no longer attend large events or gatherings. While this is something everyone should evaluate for their family, I don’t think we should live our lives in fear. Although I can completely understand why some people might be hesitant to go to certain public events.

The thing is no one could have predicted what occurred in Las Vegas, and none of us knows when or where the next horrific tragedy will occur.

But you can plan ahead, stay alert, identify exits and stay close to the perimeter in large crowds so you don’t get caught in the middle if an attack does occur.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

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