Prepare to Fight: Is the National Active Shooter Response Model Due for an Upgrade?

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Suzanne TAnnenbaum


A rise in active shooter events over the last few decades has necessitated emergency training to save lives, and the national Run, Hide, Fight model has become the standard training for active shooter events in schools and companies. Studies of human behavior—particularly during previous active shooter situations—contributed to the development of the initial model. Once the training content was delivered, actual shooting incidents began to test the model’s usefulness. Nevertheless, the model has gone many years without change. The focus of this thesis was to further evaluate the current model to determine whether it is still practical and relevant, given events since its development.

An assessment of active shooter events since the model’s development was a logical choice in determining whether its training methodology saved lives. As dynamic shooter events occur outside the United States, many other countries have adopted similar training methods with some variation on the Run, Hide, Fight model. Those cases were studied, too, as new information from case studies might lead to recommendations to update the current U.S. model. Evaluating other countries’ lessons learned and modifications to training was helpful in gleaning methods that might be better than those in the United States.

An analysis of the global adaptation of Run, Hide, Fight revealed that studying the firearm tactics and training of law enforcement and the military could aid in the adjustment of civilian responses during fluid situations such as active shootings. For instance, knowing that a moving target is harder to shoot and hit than a static target becomes essential. Realizing there is a difference between cover and concealment is vital. The knowledge that it is all right to fight when faced with a life-or-death situation is crucial. Researching effective training methodologies, past and present, rendered guidance on recommendations made within the thesis.

Research findings indicate that the most critical piece in training to survive an active shooter situation is to use the current model of Run, Hide, Fight—but not in a linear fashion. The current model is memorable, which is helpful during a frightening situation. However, the study discovered that a continuous assessment of the situation, varying between the modes of Run, Hide, Fight, allows the active shooter event to dictate the path of response, which can save lives. Understanding that running does not have to be the first response, that hiding does not need to follow running, and that fighting is not the last resort is vital. Perhaps the only way to survive an active shooter event is to first fight or hide or run. Maybe it is a combination of two or three modes that vary in order but allow for fluid decision making as dictated by the situation. Training people on the method of continuous situational assessment and awareness may improve strategy and tactics, thereby increasing survivability.



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