A shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport (IATA: LAX) this morning kills one TSA employee and wounding at least 6 other individuals. The airport was evacuated and all flights were grounded while subject was taken into custody. As the investigation continues, this event raises the question: Are you mentally prepared to react during an active shooter incident? Here are a few life-saving tips to increase your awareness and improve your reaction time.
Are you focused on emails or texting while waiting in long lines? If so, try to keep an ear open to listen for any early signs of commotion. A heated discussion or even gasps from other travelers may signal the start of an active shooter event.
While it's not your job to keep a watchful eye on crowds and protect the public, it is always a good idea to know what's in your immediate area and to scan your surroundings. What are you looking for? Anything out of place or actions which are not typical to your environment. Perhaps sudden movements, bulky clothing, or large duffle bags. Reading body language, you may notice a despondent individual or someone looking troubled or in deep thought.
Upon hearing a gun shot, your first reaction should be to duck or crouch, reducing your profile. When traveling with family, make sure you're designated as the lead and they understand to follow. Most active shooter incidents do not last very long, though the media coverage may seem like the events are drawn out. According to the FBI, the average active shooter event lasts 12 minutes.
Cover vs. concealment
Seek a hiding place. Concealment is merely an object which hides you from sight (i.e., behind a sign, a desk, or even a trash barrel). Bullets can pierce through concealment, so it is much better to find a safer place to avoid being shot. Cover is an object which a bullet cannot pass through and is much more difficult to find. In fact, with today's high-powered rifles finding adequate cover can be a challenge. In an airport, cinder block or brick walls would be cover. Hiding behind a vehicle, the engine bock would be cover while the rest of the vehicle would only be concealment.
If the shots are heard in the distance, it may be best to evacuate the scene altogether. Avoid choke points like doors or escalators, since these areas will back up into crowds quickly. Try to stay low and do not travel in a straight line while moving from point A to point B.
Neutralize the threat
Law enforcement is trained to respond to a variety of active shooter scenarios. As a non-uniformed responder, realize that if you are armed you may be mistaken for the shooter and be shot at if you take any shots. Stopping the shooter is best left to the trained professionals.
Active shooter situations are very tense. You will most likely experience shock, dumping endorphins into your blood will increase awareness and appear to speed up time. This is not a scenario most travelers will have trained or even considered. Increasing your awareness and having a plan at all times will help keep you calm and ensure your thoughts are on the ultimate goal of survival.