Tips to survive bombings

First, let me say that I am no expert in surviving bombings. The information I am providing came from research, and discussions with people who work with bombs. To be honest, I do not want to be an expert in bombs!

When looking at explosives, there are two major factors. Are they intended to only blow up, or are they intended to cause as much physical damage to people at the same time? Some explosives, especially those placed or worn, have metal attached to them. This shrapnel will usually be in the form of nuts, bolts, and nails, but almost anything may be used. The reason some bombers attach metal to explosive devices is to cause more damage to people. As the bomb explodes, it sends these metal projectiles flying at a high rate of speed, causing more damage, even beyond the initial blast zone. This is one reason why a thick heavy object might be a good place to hide (if you can’t escape). 

In order to survive an explosive device, there are some specific strategies that may increase your ability to survive. First, do your best to not panic. In most bombing incidents, you are the only one who can take the needed action to survive. Panicking will only cause you to make a mistake, possibly a fatal mistake. If there is time and opportunity, you can:

  • Create distance between you and the explosive
  • Lay flat on the ground as far as you can from the explosive.

Most explosives are designed to blow up or out. Very few explosives will take a downward angle, unless they are specifically designed to. While the explosive force will typically go up, shrapnel and debris from the explosion will be heavier, and they may head towards the floor. If you do lie on the ground, try to find a heavy item to hide under, or behind. This could include, church pews, desks, and behind vehicles (except in the case of a vehicle explosive).

If you are near the bomb and it hasn’t exploded, you could  crawl away from the bomb under pews. This would provide you protection, and it would help to create distance between you and the bomber. If your church has chairs instead of pews, you may want to determine (before an incident) if they are substantial enough to prevent shrapnel and bullets from coming through, or would they add to the shrapnel that could harm you.

If the bomb is noticed, but has not yet exploded, you should begin taking short shallow breaths (some even say to pant). Research has shown that blast over-pressure is the primary cause of deaths in an explosion, especially in confined spaces (indoors). Air moving at supersonic speed can rupture lungs if they are full of air. As might be expected, the most severe damage is done in close proximity to the blast, and the damage and over-pressure injuries diminish as the distance increases.

A list of areas to stay away from include:

  • Windows
  • Mirrors,
  • Lightweight furniture
  • Electrical equipment (especially hanging lights or fans)
  • Gas operated equipment (such as stoves and furnaces)
  • Anything that might move or fly easily

It is also important to realize that you shouldn’t use elevators or wheel chair lifts if there is an explosive threat. The explosion may disable them, or worse yet, it may cause them to fail completely.

Should there be an explosion and you survive, you should exit the building immediately. Don’t look for others, don’t look for any of your belongings, just get clear of the area. As you exit the bombed area, be aware of electrical lines and treat all of them as if they are energized. Also, avoid walls that may be unstable, and avoid any falling debris (as it is possible).

As I close this information on bombings, I should note that in most instances, it is highly unlikely that your church will suffer an attack using explosives (at this point and time). It is still important that you work to identify strategies that may help you to be better prepared for an explosive device brought to your church. It is important to remember that if there actually were an explosives attack on your church, there is no guarantee that the information provided will save you. I will say the information I have provided  should, at the very least, increase your chances of survival.

Tomorrow, we will hear from one of the actors who was in our instructional video (my lovely wife). She will share her thoughts and experience while we were filming the video. On Thursday, we will be discussing what will happen, and how you should react, when the police arrive. Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you safe, … Mark

Hiding-Run, Hide, Fight

While some will run from an active shooter that has gotten into the church, others may not be able to get out, and they may need to hide. Hiding sounds like an easy task, but it could prove difficult when gunshots are ringing out around you..

Of course, you can hide behind walls, but there are a few things to remember. First, most walls (unless a masonry wall) do little to stop bullets. Having said this, if you can find something solid to hide behind (e.g. like a metal or wooden desk, under a wood based table), then it will again increase your chances. In most instances, if you are hiding well enough, and you are quiet enough, the attacker will not know you are there. It is safer to hide behind a wall where they may not see you is safer than not hiding at all. The exception is if they are familiar with the church. Someone familiar with the church will probably know all of the potential hiding spots.

If you do hide in a room, you should do your best to secure your immediate area.  This may include locking the door, and if it can be done quietly, move objects in front of the door so that if they attempt to kick it in,  the door with items against it should keep them out. If at all possible, quietly barricade the area using desks, filing cabinets, furniture, etc. After you finish locking or barricading the door, NEVER position yourself directly behind the door, especially if it is a hollow core door.  This is a recipe for death in an active shooter situation. Hollow core doors won’t even stand up to a fist, and a bullet probably would not even slow down after going through most hollow core doors.  If it is a glass door, and the shooter hasn’t noticed it yet. shut the lights off (like it is not occupied), and hide out of site of the glass. DO NOT stack furniture or filing cabinets against a glass door, because this will tell the shooter you are there.

Once the door is locked and/or blocked,  turn off the lights. You want to give the impression to the shooter that nobody is inside the room, so he shouldn’t waste his time trying to get in. If possible (without drawing attention to the huddleshooter), close the shades or curtains, and stay out of the view of those windows. If possible, call 911, but don’t do it if the shooter may hear you talking.

Keep quiet, and keep all of your technology quiet. Shut off or turn cell phones to silent mode. If you have a computer running, hold the start button so it shuts down without making a sound, if you are a volunteer fireman (or someone else carrying a pager), shut it off. Think of anything that might make noise in that area, and shut it off. You do not want to alert the shooter that someone is in that room. If possible, lay on the floor.

It is also important not to huddle in a group, but spread out. Recent research has shown huddling together allows the shooter to do more damage because they shoot into a crowd and injure more people with less effort. When  bunched up, the shooter is at an advantage.

In tomorrow’s blog, I am going to delve into behavioral profiling. Behavioral profiling is easy if you know what you are looking for, and it can give you an exceptional advantage in being identifying an active shooter in church, or in the parking lot before they come in, … Mark

Signs that Should Indicate an Increased Awareness

All to often, we hear about what an active shooter was doing before they committed their crime. Houses of worship often see these signs, but yet they are oblivious to them. It’s time to quit missing these signs, and start paying more attention to what is going on in their lives. Sometimes domestic problems spill over into the sanctuary, and even if the congregation is not shot up, at least one person dies. I remember several over the years about instances where a husband and wife were splitting up, or having marital difficulties, and it turned into a church shooting. In one instances,I can remember the wife went to church, and the husband showed up at church and shot their spouse. In most instances, the shooter commits suicide, but not always. The only reason I am mentioning this is so you have a reminder that it is not always about the entire congregation. Sometimes it is about a domestic issue at home, and it spills over into the church.

As I did on Thursday, I am sharing some more information from handouts that I provide when I teach Surviving and Preventing Active Shooters and Bombers in Houses of Worship. For the safety of yourself and all those in your house of worship, PLEASE think about these signs and think about anyone that might be having these issues.


Signs that should Indicate an Increased Awareness

Past active shooters had common attributes. For these attributes to be included in this list, it had to be present in at least 25% of the active shooters life history. While these signs may not indicate they will become an active shooter, they should cause individuals that may become victims to have a raised awareness.

  • Hostility or conflicts at work or home
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Domestic problems
  • Currently using drugs or alcohol
  • Poor job performance evaluation
  • History of violence against others
  • History of being abused or neglected
  • Disciplinary action or job termination
  • Involuntary job changes – different roles, responsibilities or work groups
  • May exhibit recent signs of mental illness with outbursts

These are similar to the first list that I published, but still a little different. If there are indications on the first list and the second list, then you should have substantial heightened awareness around these individuals.

Later in the week, I will release a blog that will tell you how to identify when the police should be called before the potential active shooter can ever harm someone in your church. Be on the watch for that blog post, … Mark

Active Shooter – What should we do?

I have many church leaders ask “What should I do if an active shooter gets into my church”.  While it is a horrible thing to imagine, there are things you can do to increase your chances of surviving. The first thing that I would like to do is refer you to the Run, Hide, Fight video. This video was created by the City of Houston, and the Department of Homeland Security. It provides some very good basic tips on how to survive an active shooter situation. I strongly urge you to watch this video before you continue reading this blog.

Hopefully, you have now seen the basics of what to do in an active shooter situation, I want you to imagine, or look at, your church and ask yourself a few questions. How can I escape? Where could I run to? Where is the appropriate place to go if you do escape? You should begin considering areas that will physically hide you, and an area that will put a barrier between you and any projectiles coming your way.

While there are many self-proclaimed ballistics experts out there that may say that I am wrong, I am a firm believer that even if it only slows the projectile down, it gives you a better chance of surviving. This will depend on the caliber and ammunition they are using, but if someones shooting at me, I am not going to stand in the open when I could be behind cover.

Having said this, hiding behind objects that offer no stopping or slowing power will not work. Plain sheet-rock walls,  hollow-core doors, paneling walls, and other easily penetrable construction materials will provide little cover. An easy way to guesstimate if an object is potentially sound enough to stop a bullet, is to imagine what a hammer with a full swing would do to that object. If it will smash and go through the object you’re considering, then that is not a good place. If it would cause very little damage, then you probably found the right place!

So back to considering your church: Do you have a dumpster to hide behind? The steel in a dumpster should slow or stop a bullet, depending on the caliber used. What about an brick or block wall? Most bullets will not penetrate brick or block walls! Are there cars in the parking lot to hide behind? Hide behind them.  Do you have large rocks or boulders outside? Hide behind them. A church bus, a church van, even a church garage or shed might work. Sitting at my computer, I cannot tell you where your best places to hide are, so you are going to have to make that decision.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be better to fall to the floor, and then use those solid wooden pews as cover. Anything that puts a substantial barrier between you and the shooter is a “good thing”! If the shooter is moving up the aisle, there is always the option of crawling under the pews and working your way to the back of the church, or towards an exit door. If you do get to the back of the church, or an exit door, you might be able to escape behind the shooter, or hide behind them. I have attached a video to this blog. This is a scene from the instructional video that Saving Lives and Souls is creating and this instructional video should be out in July of 2018. This should give you a better idea about crawling under pews and how to possibly get close to an exit.

It is important to note that you will have to make the decision what to do. In order to make that decision quickly, you have to be in a situational awareness mindset. Know your surroundings, and regularly play scenarios out in your mind. Remember, there is no guarantee what will work as cover after you escape, and what will not.  I am only providing these tips so you might realize that you have more options than when you started thinking about surviving an active shooter.

Once you run from the area, and you are safe, call 911! Even if you saw someone else on their phone, it does not mean they were calling 911. They may have been calling loved ones. Perhaps they called 911, and  the call may not have connected. As someone that served in public safety for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the dispatcher tells us there are multiple calls coming in, it lets first responders know that it isn’t a hoax or prank call. While we may be en route with the first call, multiple calls add even more urgency to the response.

I could go on and on, but then I would not get this information out on schedule. In the near future, I will be sharing more information on how to survive an active shooter. Remember, in this blog, I only can give you options that you may not have thought of. Now it is time for you to do the work and come up with a game plan. Do you think that your favorite sports team goes into a game without planning strategy? Then why would you ignore keeping your church safe from an active shooter? If you work at it now, you may be able to save yours, and many other peoples lives in such a situation. Thanks for reading, … Mark