How To Survive A School Shooting?

Jeremy Bowyer
Written By Jeremy Bowyer

Jeremy Bower is a generational survivalist and expert outdoorsman.

It’s absolutely petrifying to think about your child in a situation like a school shooting. Unfortunately school shootings are becoming more and more common, so experts are advising that you not only think about how you can protect your child from mass shootings in schools but even plan for this eventuality.

killer in the schoolyard

Sadly this is a new normal in todays world. School shootings always seem to be in the news. In fact, in some schools a shooting drill has been put in place alongside tornado and fire drills as well. Training a child to know what to do in these kinds of situations, as horrible as it may be to think about, could be the difference between life and death.

So here we are going to look what different things you can share with your children in order to keep them safe from these kinds of emergencies.

The Most Important Things To Learn In Order To Survive A School Shooting Are:

Teach The Mantra Run, Hide, Fight

Having an easily remembered saying like run, hide, fight can help younger children who panic and don’t recall things properly during stressful situations. Providing a basic and easy to remember action like this can really help them survive. Teaching them to run tells them to evacuate somewhere safe.

Hide tells them to find shelter. And if the worst should happen and it comes to it, they may need to help ambush and fight the attacker. It’s almost the stop, drop and roll of the school shooting survival handbook.


Always try and find an escape route that is away from the active shooter. Stay out of sight and out of range, grab whoever is nearby and try to make a break for it. The average school shooter will opt for a weapon such as a columbine rifle which can be tricky to reload. These reload times of a columbine rifle are the perfect opportunities for you to try and make an escape.

If You See Something Out The Ordinary, It’s Time To Say Something

We are so busy with our daily lives that we forget to be aware of what is happening around us. Mass shootings could have been prevented in the past if someone had spoken up about something not being normal or out of the ordinary. Suspicious activity around the school facility could be a warning sign that not everything is right. Kids should also be aware that they shouldn’t open any locked doors for people they don’t know, even if they seem nice and have asked to come in.

Many shooters are known by the school. It’s actually quite rare for someone who is completely unassociated with the area to come in and start shooting. Oftentimes its students who are being bullied or are having difficulties in the classroom. If you are a teacher than always keep an eye on your students behaviour and be prepared to listen if they need you.

Children Should Be Well Informed Of The Schools Protocol

Since shooting incidents in schools are becoming more common, with more people being killed each time too, it is many school boards thinking to practice lockdown drills as part of their protocol. These drills are practiced throughout the year, with emergency exits being pointed out and videos being shown to depict real life situations with a gun attack.

Teachers will normally find a cupboard to take their students into and barricade themselves in. Doing this for the first time can be very stressful, especially for younger children. But practicing it can help change their thinking and calm them down if the unthinkable was to happen and they needed to use their training. Know what the school have in place in terms of protocol in the event of a shooting and educate them and yourself so everyone can survive.


Parents Can Help Out Too

Talking about a mass shooting can offer be a taboo subject, with people wanting to avoid the tragedy as much as possible. However, as a parent its important to take part in the training to help your community and ease some of the pressure that teaching staff face. Being involved with local law enforcement and knowing what will happen with a school and the community in the event of a mass shooting will help you know what actions you can take to help.

Are you aware of how you will be alerted if a shooting does happen? Many schools use the text alert system, almost like an amber alert to let parents know the situation. These are the types of protocols that a school should have in place.

If You Need To Run, Don’t Run In A Straight Line

The number on way of increasing your chances of surviving a school shooting is to run in a zig-zag pattern. Being a moving target makes you more difficult to shoot at then if you were stood still. Run towards something that you can easily shield behind and that will be sturdy enough to take a bullet for you if needs be.

Think about concrete walls, pillars or even behind sinks in chemistry labs. If you need to move again, sprint to the next thing that will provide you with enough cover to live. Do this running technique until you escape the building.

In the event that there isn’t any cover but there’s a window of opportunity to escape, you should take it but run in a zig-zag motion. Move as fast as you can and get to a right hand turn as quickly as possible so you can stay out of sight of the active shooter. This makes it much harder for the gunman to be able to aim at you accurately.

backpack with a gun

Be Aware Of Where The Escape Routes Are

Preparing yourself or your child ahead of time to know where the nearest escape routes are could be the key to surviving an attack. These exits should be close to the rooms where you spend the most time. Emergency exits, windows and fire escapes are all viable ways of getting away from a shooter. There should be at least two escape routes planned to get out of the school.

There are two tips to think about in this situation. Second story windows and exits you have to break don’t always need to be ruled out as options. Having a broken leg or getting cut from glass will be far better than being killed. Also, 98% of shooters will be acting by themselves. If you can hear where the shots are coming from and try to avoid that area at all costs, you will usually be safe.

A warning though. You should never pull the fire alarm to help others evacuate or to alert someone to the shooters presence. Fire drills and dealing with a gunman are two completely different scenarios. Pulling the fire alarm can actually increase the risk of more people being hurt.

Leave Your Things Behind

If you want to run and escape an attack and you’re determined to go, forget all of your belongings. Things like you wallet, your phone and your purse are not essential. If you live, you can get them later. They will still be there waiting for you. Your first instinct may be to grab everything you can, then run. But none of your belongings are nearly as important as your life is.

empty classroom

When it’s not possible for you to run, you need to find shelter somewhere. This is particularly important if someone is wounded, because you don’t want the gunman to have an easy student target to kill. In a classroom a desk can easily be hidden behind whilst you take care of a wound before help arrives.

Bring Other People With You

If you are going to run and you think it is safe enough to do so, encourage others to do the same. If someone has been paralysed with fear or panic, grab them and drag them along with you. Running could be crucial to actually saving your life and the lives around you. Running in a bigger group means that you’re harder to target as well. Strength is always in numbers against an attacker, and having such a large group of people may take the shooter by surprise.

While your running try doing an answer and response call to alert each other of any dangers who to check everyone is ok. You could have someone focusing on the exit whilst others peek around each corner to see if the threat is still there. Being able to work together like this may mean slow progress, but you will be much safer in the long run if you travel as a group.

Hide Behind Something Solid And Hard

Hiding behind something like plastic or thin materials won’t be any use against a gun. If you need to hide from the shooting you should either find somewhere to barricade yourself in, or hide behind something really solid. Things that will stop bullets are trees, concrete pillars and even large plant pots. If you manage to make it outside by running and want to take refuge behind a vehicle, there’s tips for that too.


A lot of people may head to the trunk end of a car or bus, deeming it a safer place to be. This is not the case. You want to hide at the engine end. A bullet can easily rip its way through a car’s trunk, whereas there’s many more obstacles in its path where the engine is.

Desks and wooden objects are also a solid option for hiding. Many a school campus has plenty of things to hide behind, it’s just getting the chance to shelter yourself from the firing attacker and search for them.

If There’s Nothing To Hide Behind, Stay Out Of View

A lack of something to hide behind can be worrisome, but there’s still something you can do to avoid an attack and being killed. Your next best bet is to conceal yourself. This will keep you out of view of the active shooter, although what you manage to conceal yourself behind may not be bulletproof. If you end up in a room within the school that has no exits, barricade the door and window instead. This gives you an extra layer of safety that could grab a vital few minutes later on.

Find heavy objects to put against the door if you can. What will help in the best case scenario is that the active shooter will try to get in, fail and move on. School staff should know this as part of their training but if they don’t, share the information with them to keep your children safe.

When In Hiding, Stay Close To The Ground

A question many people have is where you should be when you are trying to hide. Staff and students are all taught by experts so they know what to do when they hear shots fired. The immediate reaction after a gun shot would be to drop down to the ground immediately. Then try to crouch or hide behind something around you.

You should never put any of your vital organs against the floor. This is because a bullet will ricochet and when they do, they travel along the path of the floor. If you are on the floor and a bullet ricochets you would much rather have a hand, a knee or a wrist hit than any part of your heart, head or lungs.

Take Different Tasks And Share Them With Others

If you have barricaded yourself in a room then there are number of different tasks you will have to do. You should share these out with the group. One person can call the emergency services, especially the police as they may not be aware of the situation unfolding. If they are aware, you can give them valuable insight of what is happening in the school.


Another person should help to barricade the door with heavy objects and lock it as tightly as possible so that the shooter can’t gain access to the room. Any other people in the room can look for objects to be used as weapons in case the attacker does enter the room.

Don’t Immediately Head For The Bathroom

It’s a common reaction when faced with this situation to start running towards the nearest bathroom. For some reason we see these places as a lot safer than many other parts of the building. Law enforcement and other experts will actually tell you the opposite. In the event of a gun attack, avoid anywhere that is confined. A bathroom is actually one of the worst places to hide, as their usually windowless and only have one escape route. Plus nothing in there will keep you shielded from a bullet.

Another top tip for people in your community, stay out of doorways. You are much more likely to be shot and killed if you are standing in a door the attacked is trying to get through.

Adults Should Try To Fight Together

If you are an adult, you always have the option of trying to attack the gun man. It’s definitely a risky strategy, but if it comes down to a life or death situation you have nothing to lose from trying to ambush the attacker. Usually the shooter won’t be experienced. They will be nervous and inaccurate. So in reality if you have a solid plan and some confidence you can take on an attacked and gain an advantage over him.

The best way to try and fight an attacker is to go at them as a group. Aim for the head and the hips if you are planning on taking them down. It only takes one person to make the right move and stop a shooter. Everyone else may then get the courage to jump in and help. The weapon is the main thing you want to aim for.

Getting the gun away from the shooter takes their power away to harm anyone else. Once the gun has been taken away, disable the attacker. You can do this by controlling their hips, spine and head, which in turn helps to control the rest of their body.

If There’s Nothing Else To Do, Look For Your Own Weapon

Fighting for survival often leads to you becoming more creative. There are items everywhere in a school that could be used to hit or spray someone with. The most common of these school proof weapons is a fire extinguisher. It’s law to have a fire extinguisher in every room within a school. Spraying one of these into somebody’s face or giving them a good hit over the head will certainly leave them stunned long enough to escape.

kid with a gun

The Bottom Line To Survive A School Shooting

If there’s still a question in your mind of how you can educate your child to live through a school shooting or how you can survive yourself, here’s the bottom line. One of the best things you can do is stay calm, and keep others around you from panicking as well. This stops any attention being drawn to you unnecessarily. The last thing you want from a school shooter is their attention.

Being calm can be just as contagious as panic is. If you begin to be upset and get worked up, it spreads to the group. You need to be calm to calculate how you can escape and work together as a team to stay safe. There’s always something that can be done to help with your safety, security and most of all your survival when you’re faced with this situation.


How Many School Shootings Happen Each Year In America?

Between 2000 and 2018 the FBI found that there were 64 school shootings. In 2019 alone there was five.

What Is The Gender Of Most School Shooters?

Out of these 64 incidents in the 18 year period, only two of the shooters were women.

stop the killings

Is There A Specific Type Of Person That Does These Shootings?

There have been several types of research done into how these people act and why they commit such horrible crimes, but there’s been no standout personality trait that all shooters have. All of them have a broad spectrum of social standing within the school from loners to sports stars. Many had feelings of depression or loneliness, but not many had a prior criminal record before they attacked.

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