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How Best to React When Guns Are Involved

21 April 2019
From the Pulse nightclub shooting in the US in June 2016 which left 49 people dead, to the more recent terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand – it’s become clear that no part of the world is immune to this devastating act of violence.
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Mass shootings have made headlines around the world more regularly in recent years. From the Pulse nightclub shooting in the US in June 2016 which left 49 people dead, to the more recent terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand – it’s become clear that no part of the world is immune to this devastating act of violence. And although not a mass shooting, the Carte Blanche team was held at gunpoint a few weeks ago while filming a story on security cameras and we’d like to share some best practices on what to do when faced with similar situations.   


What to do During a Shooting



  • Check the exits at your workplace, church, schools or any other buildings you frequently visit. Make yourself aware of any possible exit routes you could use. If you’re in a place you’re unfamiliar with, make a quick mental note of any possible escape routes near you.
  • Ensure you have a plan in place for yourself and others in the event of a shooting.



  • The most important thing you should do during an active shooting is to get away from the shooter as quickly as possible.
  • Find the nearest exit (this could be an emergency exit or, if possible, a window).
  • Don’t use the elevator as this makes it easier for the shooter to target a large number of people in one place. Always use the stairs.  
  • Don’t run back to get your belongings – this includes your phone. No item is worth your life or the lives of others.
  • When running for the exit, stay as low as possible and try not to run in a straight line. This will make it more difficulty for the shooter to aim at you.
  • If possible, help others to escape as well.
  • Once outside, phone the police immediately. Provide the police with as much info as possible – how many shooters, whether anyone else is still trapped inside, the weapons you saw, what the shooter looks like and where last you saw the shooter.
  • Warn anyone else of what’s happening and prevent them from going inside.



  • Find a hiding place. Your best option would be to find an area such as an office or closet with a door that can close and preferably lock.
  • If you can’t get to another room or closed area, you can hide under a desk or any other large piece of furniture.
  • Don’t huddle together as a group when hiding. Instead, try and spread out to make it more difficult for the shooter to target multiple individuals.
  • If there are no hiding places nearby, get to the closest wall and sit on your haunches. Don’t lie down flat on the floor as this could prevent you from getting up quickly if needed and you will have a limited view of your surroundings.
  • Remain as quiet as possible to avoid drawing any attention to your location.
  • If you have your phone or tablet on you, it’s vital to put the devices on silent.
  • If possible, use your phone to alert others to the current situation. You could use social media or send a text message.
  • It’s important to remain out of the shooter’s line of sight, so if you need to move to another hiding place you should. Again, it’s important to remain as low as possible.



  • If you’re hiding in a closet or room, keep the door closed at all times. Even if someone calls for help, you need to remain in your position and only open the door once you are absolutely sure the shooter is no longer nearby.
  • Don’t leave your hiding place until police give you the all-clear. Just because the firing has stopped doesn’t mean it’s safe.
  • If there are any injured individuals near you, you can assist them only when it’s safe to do so. Apply pressure to any wounds, turn unconscious individuals on their sides and provide support to anyone who may need it.
  • It’s advisable to not play dead during a shooting. In many cases, the shooter will return to shoot the wounded again. Rather try and get away from the shooter whenever possible.



  • While it’s never advisable to physically attack a shooter, in some cases this could be the only and final option. Experts advise people who are strong enough to try and wrestle the shooter to the ground while the shooter is reloading his/her weapon.
  • Security experts also suggest throwing things at the shooter – this could be anything from a pair of scissors to a glass or even small furniture. This could startle the shooter enough to give you just enough time to get away.


What to do During an Armed Robbery


The most important thing to do during an armed robbery is to remain as calm as possible. It’s crucial not to panic since the robbers are most likely very nervous.

  • Obey the robbers’ orders.
  • Keep your hands in full sight of the robbers to ensure they can see you are not armed.
  • Remain quiet and don’t try and argue with the robbers. Only speak when spoken to and speak clearly and slowly.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements. When asked to lay down on the floor or get up, it’s important to do so slowly.
  • Avoid making eye contact as this could be seen as very confrontational. 
  • No belongings are worth your life. If asked to hand over any valuable items, do so without a fight.
  • Only fight back if your life or that of someone else is in danger.
  • Try and make mental notes of the perpetrators – what they look like, any accents, scars or tattoos, what they are wearing, the type of weapons they are using, and any other details which could help police identify them.
  • Try and memorise what items the robbers touched. This could help police in lifting fingerprints.
  • Do not chase after the robbers when they leave. You can however try and take note of the robbers’ vehicle registration number, make, model and colour and which direction they went.
  • Once the robbers have left, lock the doors and phone the police immediately.
  • Ask all witnesses to remain on the premises until the police arrive.
  • Write down everything you can remember as soon as possible while it’s still fresh in your memory.

Witnessing and surviving a shooting or armed robbery can be very traumatic. It’s important that you seek professional help to deal with the long-term effects of the trauma. If you need assistance, you can contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for free counselling.

Sources: SAPS | US Department of Homeland Security