A few years ago, I had a former student reach out to me to share an experience she had. She was at a local shopping mall and started to feel uncertain and uncomfortable. Remembering our training about situational awareness, she chose to pay attention to her intuition and head out to her car. It wasn’t long after my student decided to leave when a fight broke out on the upper level, a few stores away from where she’d just been. Shots were fired, wounding two innocent bystanders and killing another.

Unfortunately, I heard another story about a month later about a friend’s daughter who was in the same area when the shooting began. She did not pick up on any warning signs. When the fight escalated, she was shuffled into a nearby restroom by a well-meaning store employee along with several other shoppers. In the restroom with no weapons and with only one way in and one way out, this young woman felt panicked and frightened. She felt trapped. Thankfully, no harm came to those shoppers. But the incident haunted the young woman for quite some time. She didn’t want to ever again feel like she had no options to protect herself.

Whether or not individuals choose to carry a firearm or any kind of weapon for self-defense, many people have learned about armed intruder programs. For instance, run, hide, fight is the mantra of training from the Department of Homeland Security. And these three words have been taught to folks all across the country. But the important thing to remember is that this is not the be-all, end-all. There is always more than just running, hiding and fighting. If you ever find yourself in a situation in which a criminal is wreaking havoc at your school, church or place of business, dial 911 for help as soon as you are able. Then be prepared to listen to and cooperate with law enforcement when they arrive. When breaking down the run, hide, fight options, here are some specifics to consider.


  • Plan ahead. Be observant and look around your environment for people or things that are helpful or people or things that are out of place.
  • No matter where you are, always locate exit doors and/or possible routes for escape.
  • Your best option is to move away from the attack, if and when possible.
  • Help others, if possible, but don’t be afraid to escape even if others don’t go with you.
  • Don’t put yourself in even more danger by running. But don’t remain in place if danger is coming to you.
  • Be quick and purposeful about your decisions and actions.
  • Keep moving until you reach safety.


  • Think about cover and concealment options (cover may be able to stop bullet penetration).
  • Lock or block doors where danger could get to you.
  • Barricade yourself with any large, heavy objects you can find.
  • Remember to be hidden from view but also be quiet (don’t forget phones or watches with sound).
  • Listen closely and observe your surroundings for any options to escape or for emergency personnel to arrive.


  • Remember that this option is your last resort if you or others are in imminent danger.
  • Use whatever distractions or improvised weapons you may have (chairs, books, cups, rocks, fire extinguishers, etc.) to counter, disarm or immobilize the intruder.
  • Work together as a team if you are not alone.
  • Do whatever it takes to stop the threat.
  • Commit to your actions, and don’t give up.

According to FBI reports, 69% of active threat events end in five minutes or less, and 67% are over before the first police arrive. So be sure to plan ahead and think about your options now, trust your instincts and always be ready for a quick response.