From Cadence to Chaos: What to Do During an Active Shooting

While schools often have lockdown training for classrooms, what if an active shooting occurred during a football game or marching competition? Would you know what to do?

By Justin M. Eberly and Ben Specht


A myriad of sounds resonate as the band begins to warm up. As the drumline unleashes its cadence, a measure of non-rhythmic “pops” and “cracks” ring in the air. As people fall to the ground, reality sets in—a horrific school shooting is taking place on your marching field.


No one wants to believe such a violent tragedy could happen so close to home—but would you be prepared if it did?


Run, Hide, Fight


The recent increase in national tragedies has reminded us that no community is immune to the risk of an active assailant. These events can happen at any place—at any time. Statistically, active assailant events have occurred most frequently in heavily populated public areas—such as commercial or educational environments—with minimal security presence, according to a study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Texas State University in 2014.


The “Run. Hide. Fight.” campaign was developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2017 as a best practice for response in an active assailant incident. Commonly referred to as an “active shooter,” the term active assailant includes any type of violent attack. While no two incidents are the same, these three simple steps are universal recommendations by public safety and security experts nationwide.


A few moments of mental preparation may help you as well as your students to react quickly under stress. “Run. Hide. Fight.” is a quick way to remember what to do if you are ever in the midst of an active assailant.


Always remember, RUN if you can. If you can’t run, HIDE or take shelter in place. Finally, if you come face-to-face with an assailant, FIGHT by defending yourself by any means necessary.


In Open Air


As you find yourself seated in a row of classmates and spectators, you quickly realize that the “popping” and “cracking” is not a part of the show but rather the sound of gunfire. Open air venues such as football stadiums pose several unique challenges.


Where Exactly Do I Run? Find the closest marked exit in the opposite direction of the threat, minimizing additional exposure to harm. Keep in mind that commercial exits, including main doors and gates, will quickly become congested points of egress.


Where Can I Hide in a Stadium? If you are unable to run, find an enclosed space, bathroom, storage unit, office, or other location capable of being barricaded or locked. A space constructed with solid materials (concrete, brick, or cinderblock) provide an added layer of protection. If doors are not present or if they do not lock, use furniture, tables, chairs, and other bulky items as a makeshift barricade.


How Can I Defend Myself When the Assailant is Nowhere in Sight? The acoustics in many venues can make it difficult to pinpoint an exact location of gunfire. Commit to your decision to run or hide. If you come face-to-face with the aggressor, the Department of Homeland Security recommends acting as aggressively as possible—throwing or striking the aggressor with objects or using other improvising weapons.


Be Prepared


The best way to deal with any type of natural or man-made disaster is always be prepared ahead of time. Maintain constant situational awareness. If you see something abnormal, report it to the appropriate authorities right away.


For every large gathering, an emergency plan should be in place. The plan should include the identification of exits, multiple routes of egress, and being prepared to evacuate immediately.


Any group should designate a rally point. If any member were to become separated, this location would be the point of reunification.


Get Trained and Build a Kit


Every minute counts and countless lives have been saved by layperson first aid in everyday emergencies, horrific events, and widespread disasters.


Today, Automated External Defibrillators (AED) can be found in virtually every public place, and the American Heart Association aims to train 20 million people in CPR by 2020. Through the combination of making lifesaving equipment and training readily available, a number of communities have significantly improved the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate in recent years.


With increased frequency, AED’s are being accompanied by bleeding control kits. A bleeding control kit provides supplies to treat life-threatening bleeding. Contents may include gauze, pressure dressings, hemostatic agents, and tourniquets. Many bleeding control kits are designed to contain supplies to treat multiple victims suffering from severe bleeding. These supplies are available from a variety of vendors. A variety of custom kits are stocked and sold by SOARescue, a tactical medicine training and supply organization.


These tragedies can happen anywhere and anytime. Prepare for the worst and it never happens.


About the Author


Justin M. Eberly is an active Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. As a public safety educator, he has experience with national delivery of educational and training programs for emergency service organizations and has served as adjunct faculty for emergency services at two technical colleges serving the South Central Pennsylvania region. Previously, he served as the assistant chief of an ambulance service. Eberly has played the trumpet for 15 years and is a proud alumnus of the Cumberland Valley High School Marching Band and the Shippensburg University “Red Raider” Marching Band. He currently serves as a member of the marching band staff at Cumberland Valley High School.


Ben Specht is a paramedic supervisor and tactical paramedic in South Central, Pennsylvania. He serves as the Pennsylvania director of operations for Special Operations Aid & Rescue (SOARescue), which prides itself on providing world-class training and equipment to providers of tactical medicine nationwide.

About author

Justin M. Eberly

Justin Eberly is a volunteer firefighter and active emergency medical technician in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He presents emergency services educational and training programs locally and nationally. Eberly has played trumpet for 15 years, previously performing with Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) University. He also serves as a marching band instructor.

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