Safety expert shares survival tips after mall shooting

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Although it took place more than 2,000 miles away, the Oregon mall shooting has Indiana shoppers like Linda Garrett thinking about safety.

"We don't know why they did it. And are they subject to do it here? There are a lot of people in this mall right now," said Garrett as she looked at the Greenwood Park Mall.

While the odds of being involved in a mass shooting are long, police officer and self-defense expert Jeff Patterson says knowing what to do and when to do it can save your life.

"Goal number one, if you can safely get out of the situation, out of the building to a safe area," said Patterson.

But getting to that safe area may be tough. During the Virginia Tech shooting, students got trapped in their classrooms. Many movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado had no place to go after a gunman opened fire.

"If you can't get away, get into a room, lock the door. You turn off the light because remember this person is looking for targets of opportunity," said Patterson.

Although he teaches men, women and children how to fight off attackers, fighting back is his last recommendation in an active shooter situation. Patterson never recommends going after an active shooter especially in crowded places like the mall.

Even so, you may not have a choice. In fact, some school districts are already teaching students how to respond in that type of emergency.

Carmel High School students used a training video to learn how to take down an active shooter. That kind of training could increase survival and decrease the likelihood of injuries.

"You can lie there and die or you can be aggressive, extremely aggressive," said Patterson.

Run-hide-fight: How to survive an active shooter event (video from Houston, Texas Dept. of Homeland Security)

Survival options:

  • If there's a clear path, run to an exit. Leave your belongings behind.
  • As you escape, if possible, use a fire extinguisher to spray a dense fog to block a shooter's view, and/or turn off the lights.
  • If hiding, turn off your cell phone ringer/vibrator. Stay silent.
  • If hiding in a room, lock and barricade the door (use furniture if possible), and turn off the lights.
  • If hiding in a first-floor room, barricade the door and escape through a window. If necessary, smash it open with whatever is available. As a last resort, attack the shooter with utmost, do-or-die ferocity - preferably as a group. Use your bare hands or whatever is available. See improvised weapons.

    • When the police arrive, stay calm, keep quiet, keep your hands visible.