I was asked to write a blog about the Las Vegas shooting. But to write a blog about Vegas is to write a blog about survival. And it is a piece that can be written about every single time evil people have planned to do evil things with the intent to take innocent lives. Won’t be many of my normal jokes in this one, guys. I KNOW! You’re all like “but Mike, you’re hilarious and we love the jokes!” nope, not today. But hopefully you get a few good tips to help train yourselves how to survive if you find yourself in the worst of situations. But maybe I’ll throw in a funny picture at the end. So let’s get after it.
First and foremost, the truth bomb: NOTHING could be done to prevent what happened. Period. End of discussion. We must accept that with the freedoms that our great country affords its citizens, there come inherent risks.
“But Mike, what about stricter hotel security? They could have found the guns!” Ok sure, then he would have gone to a parking structure, or laid down in the back of a vehicle, or just walked up to a different crowd on the strip. Less casualties? Maybe. But it still would have happened. So, instead of Monday morning quarterbacking the Vegas shooting in particular and trying to offer advice on what can be done to prevent it, I am going to focus on what to do when the shooting starts to keep yourself and those around you alive. I will break this down into Immediate Action and Remedial Action.
BANG!!!! It sounds like whips cracking all around you, you hear shots you see people falling, chaos begins. The next decisions you make are the most important of your life. You need to GET OFF THE X. STAY LOW. FIND COVER AND/OR CONCEALMENT. If you do these three things, you will give yourself a fighting chance at survival. Let’s explore what I mean by this.
Getting off the X:
This is a military/ law enforcement term which simply means to MOVE YOUR BUTT. Think about a Wiley Coyote cartoon where he sees a sign that says “Stand Here” with a big X painted on the ground. We all know what happens next, a character stands there and gets squashed by a huge safe, or blown up by a stack of TNT, or some equally funny method of destruction. Same rule applies here. Movement is key to survival. When the shooting starts, you must assume that you have been targeted, the attacks are coming to where you are standing, and you must move.
If you don’t know where the shots are coming from, you need to get as low to the ground as possible. Combining this with “getting off the X” gives you the greatest chance of survival. Follow the infantry tactic of “bounding”. This means when you move, you are only up for enough time to gain some ground, then you are down on the ground again. Use the ditty “I’m up, they see me, I’m down.” When you run you say this in your head, and you should be back on the ground by the time you say “I’m down.” It takes a few seconds for the shooter to acquire you as a target, to aim, and to shoot. So if you are back down by the time they see you, you take away his/ her target.
Get to Cover:
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you should start to identify things around you that would best serve as cover and concealment. Cover is best, but concealment will do in a pinch. Here is the difference between both. Cover will stop a bullet. Concealment will hide your position. Here is a visual example of this to help. Get behind cover, win yourself some time to regroup and think, and make your next plan.
Stay away from other people:
This goes against many of our baser instincts to help those around us or to seek out others for comfort / security, or to help the wounded. This is one of the worst things you can do. It is going to be a chaotic scene full of panic, death and gore, and emotions. People are going to come to you for help. You must stay away and keep them away from you, and continue to move to cover. There are two distinct problems with grouping up with others. First, people will hold you back from moving effectively, and could very well keep you out in the open… right on top of that big, huge X. They will claw at you, hold onto you, walk on you, punch, kick, trip. Think of a zombie movie. This isn’t necessarily because they are bad people or want to hurt you, they are panicking and are doing whatever they can to survive. Their human, cognitive brain, has shut down and their animalistic, instinctual brain has taken over. It is “fight or flight” at its best. Don’t become a victim of it. Second, for a lone shooter in an elevated position, one person is seen as a waste of ammo unless the shot is perfect. A group of people is seen as a target of opportunity. “I don’t even have to be a great shot to hit someone if I shoot into a crowd” – every mass shooter, ever. The purpose here is to take away your likelihood of becoming the next target.
Stay away from crowds. This barrier is providing a large target, and provides little or no cover. CREDIT: David Becker / Getty Images via NBC NEWS
Ok, so you’ve moved, you’ve found cover, you’ve survived. What next?!? Now is the time to slow down, and form your next plan of action. Not something easy to do when there are rounds hissing and cracking around you. But it is imperative that you gather yourself, calm down as much as you can, and regroup. Here are some tips to help.
You’re behind cover, you have some time to think and to look. Now is the time to get your human cognition back. Take a couple deep breaths, slow your heart rate. Then get to work. The very first thing you need to do is check yourself for injury. Individuals have been shot multiple times and have run for many city blocks before realizing it. You need to check yourself to see if you’ve been hit or if you have been injured while moving. And you need to do more than just look. You need to open your clothes, feel around, wipe blood, if present, to make sure it is not yours. Hopefully you have made it unscathed and you can move on, but if not, I have provided some basic field trauma management below.
Find your next destination:
Moving off the X does not mean to just find cover and stay behind it, you need to get out of the area. This means moving from one point of cover to the next. Once you have determined where you will be going next, WAIT. You have a huge luxury right now…..time. Every second that passes is one more second that law enforcement has to get closer to the subject. Additionally you now have the time to wait for the firing to stop. This is not a John Woo movie, the bad guy eventually has to reload, you need to wait for this moment. You will begin to hear a pattern of shots. “Rat Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat………………Rat Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat” the lull in the action is when the shooter is reloading. That is your window of opportunity to move. But remember, this window is not open forever, so when you do move, make sure it is in the bounding method described above. Continue to move in this manner until you are out of the kill zone, and in a safe location.
Ok. At this point, if you decide to assist others, that is completely up to you. I would advise against it if the shooting is ongoing, however I know that I would not follow my own advice on this one, so here are a couple of tips to help you out if you decide to render aid.
- If they look like they are dying, move to someone else. Sounds cold hearted, but in the field, this individual is known as “expectant”, and will likely die in transit. Move on to someone you can actually help. Trust me guys, this is going to SUCK. You will be stepping over someone crying, begging, pleading for you to help them. But you can’t. Go to someone that you can get out. If they are ambulatory, meaning they can walk or move under their own power, go to them first. Remember guys, the shooting has not stopped, this is not the time to pick up 150+ lbs and try to move it 150 yards. You will likely end up lying right next to them. These individuals tend to target individuals rendering aid as well. Remember that, when you help someone, your X just got HUGE.
- When you get to someone you have decided to help, follow these 4 basic tips:
- STOP the bleeding – if a person is bleeding out, no amount of oxygen will save them. You must stop any hemorrhaging before anything else.
- START the breathing – if a person isn’t getting oxygen, a good heart rate will not save them. Get the airway open and clear, and begin to provide oxygen.
- CHECK for pulse – start CPR if no pulse present
- TREAT for shock – this is optional, for when you are at a safe location. Elevate the legs over the heart level, and keep the patient warm.
For more information on hemorrhage control, go to https://www.dhs.gov/stopthebleed, it has valuable tips on wound treatment and the use of tourniquets in the field as well.
To end here, and if you’ll forgive me, I’m gonna be honest and a little personal for a moment. This one was a tough one to write. There are those of us that raised our hands (some of us more than once for more than one agency / profession) and swore to defend and protect our country and our neighbors from all enemies, foreign and domestic. The guys and gals that pick up their equipment and run into harm’s way know what they are getting into, or have at least have accepted that fact. But these animals have brought the fight to people that can’t defend themselves, and it is occurring at an alarming rate. I know a little bit about a little bit when it comes to this stuff, but I simply don’t have an answer of how to stop this. Quite frankly, I don’t think that it can, or will be stopped. I truly believe that the answer here lies in preparedness, solidarity that actions like this will not stop us from living our lives the way we want, and -in an age of instant information and notoriety- the media must STOP putting the pictures and names of the suspects out there. Take away their goal, take away their likelihood of carrying out their plan. It is my sincere hope that through these little blogs of mine that we can make the average individual more prepared, better trained, and less likely to be a target. Maybe together we can make it so damn hard for these clowns to achieve their goals that they will stop trying.
Thanks again for reading, stay safe out there, and check out opssecuritygroup.com/blog for more.
Oh….and because I said I would: