Attacking the Active Shooter – Vet New Techniques for Active Shooter Response Properly before Adopting them

Two highly trained FBI agents were killed and five more wounded by two bank robbery suspects in a shootout in Miami in 1986.  During the post-mortem investigation, investigators learned that some agents lost their service pistols during a crash which resulted from a car chase.  The investigation revealed that a concept that had sounded like a solid idea in the theoretical realm, had not fared so well when tested by a high-stakes and dynamic event. 

Agents had been trained to draw their service weapons and put them under their thigh during car chases so they could bring them into play faster should a gunfight occur.  This seemed like a logical idea at the time.  However, under the chaotic conditions of a high speed chase followed by a multi-vehicle crash, two agents found themselves without service pistols because they were lost during the crash.  The horrific gunfight with two highly trained and practiced criminals armed with semi-automatic rifles was a disaster even though the agents outnumbered the suspects four-to-one.  The consequences of this reliance on an improperly tested theoretical tactical concept were nothing short of catastrophic.  While a number of other factors contributed to seven of the eight agents being shot by two perpetrators, loss of primary service weapons at the start of a devastating gunfight was far from helpful.  Though the concept sounded like a good idea to a number of bright and competent FBI personnel, it was not properly tested before being implemented in the field. 

In recent years, a number of experts have been asserting that lockdown is a failed concept for active shooter incidents and that new approaches are needed.  The new approaches often rely on techniques that have proven to be effective when applied by highly trained military special operators and law enforcement tactical personnel.  While based on concepts like distraction technique which have often worked well for experienced tactical personnel who typically apply them after careful planning and repetitious training simulations, a valid question to ask is whether or not the average person can apply these same concepts without the benefit of the extensive training, mental conditioning and practice that elite law enforcement and military personnel get.  To my knowledge, none of these has yet been validated with controlled testing.   

In an interview for Staying Alive – how to act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters, former Delta Force Special Operator and tactical instructor Tom Satterly was highly skeptical that the average person can learn and apply such techniques by watching a ten minute video or attending a two-day training session.  Satterly was awarded six Bronze Stars for his service to our country and has seen extensive combat.  Having actually applied unarmed combat skills in the field, Satterly feels that most people who are capable of applying these types of advanced and complex techniques under life and death conditions would likely be able to do so without training.  Several instances of unarmed students and staff disarming active shooters lend support to this.  Satterly also feels that most people would need much more intensive and realistic training to be able to reliably do so under the toxic conditions of a life and death struggle. 

We feel that people can and should be taught proven and easy to apply strategies before covering highly advanced concepts that require considerable practice to apply under the actual stress of a life and death encounter.  We also feel that such concepts should be carefully tested before being taught to millions of people.  If highly trained FBI personnel can encounter difficulty applying theoretical concepts, how much difficulty can the average person who lacks such a highly developed professional background encounter when faced with a dire situation?

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.