Have you ever found yourself in a ‘code red’ situation?
Have you ever even thought how to handle a code red situation?
Well, I’ve never found myself in one, but I did find myself in an unsuspected drill a few weeks ago and it really got my wheels turning.
See, I am the Assistant Director of a children’s program. Because of all of the shootings taking place in public places and places of worship, our security team has begun doing drills so we all know how to react.
However, when that first drill happened I began to feel the pressure of caring for 30 children during such a scary time.
So I wanted to share some generalized tips on how you can prepare for such a situation and what you should do if you ever find yourself in a place with an active shooter.
How to Handle a Code Red Situation
Here are the tips for prepping:
1. Have Trained Security
If you work or serve in a public facility whether it be a courthouse or a church, be sure to have trained security on hand. It is sad that we need security everywhere we go now, but we really do. You need someone who is trained to respond to such critical situations.
So at the place I serve, we have a great security team. They are not trained to be bullies, but rather to diffuse situations.
However, they do know how to respond to an active shooter and most of them are armed themselves to protect those they are there to serve if such a situation arises.
So I highly recommend making sure that you have security around your facility at all times.
2. Definitely Do Drills
Next, you’ll want to make sure to do drills. You need to know where to go if a code red situation develops, and you need to know ahead of time.
If you’ve watched the news, a lot of people in these church shootings responded like most of us would in a fearful situation. They ran for the nearest exit, but that also exposed them to a dangerous person with a gun too.
Also, some people run for restrooms to hide out as we heard in the Orlando shooting. The only problem with this technique is that, unless the restroom has a window or another exit, if the shooter breeches that room then you are in trouble.
Obviously, you do the best you can in these situations and respond as quickly as possible. And the people involved in these terrible tragedies never dreamed that they’d even happen so I’m sure how to respond in those cases never even entered their minds.
But because they have happened, we have to look at their situations and learn from them so we can be prepared in case we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.
So when you do drills, you need to think about where you should go, how you should respond, and if there are children involved, how you are going to protect them.
For instance, if you regularly attend a church or a public place of worship, unfortunately, they are now targeted locations. You need to know it is better to hit the deck and hide under pews instead of running for the doors.
Also, if you have a security team in those locations that are armed, it is probably better to leave your concealed gun (if you have a conceal and carry license) in its holster so the security guards don’t confuse you with the active shooter.
Finally, if you have children in these locations, you’ll need to do your best to cover them and protect them until you can safely remove them from the situation. I know these are terribly unpleasant things to think about, but we have to with the times we live in.
3. Stay Calm
The next big thing you need to prepare yourself to do if you ever find yourself in a code red situation is to try your best to remain as calm as possible. When we were given a drill the other day, we weren’t given the heads up at that it was in fact just a drill.
See, our security wanted to see how well we would respond and what issues we noticed during that first drill so we could talk it out and devise a better plan for future drills. It was actually very smart.
But in those moments when I thought it was the real deal, the first thing I thought was, “I have to stay calm so I don’t scare the kids.”
And that is just what myself and the other workers did. We never let on to the children what was going on. We just gathered them together and decided to play a quiet game of duck, duck goose as security guarded us.
Then when they told us we were all clear, our blood pressure came back down and we went about our normal routine.
So you’ll have to think about this. Even if you are a mother with children who frequently visits her public library, people that are out to hurt people could show up anywhere. Which means you need to have a plan and prepare yourself to remain calm and act as quickly as possible.
4. Put Barriers Up
The final thing you should think about in preparation for a code red situation is how will you put barriers between yourself, your loved ones, and the shooter?
For instance, if you are in a public building, you need to always keep an eye on where you can go to get behind a locked door or multiple locked doors.
But also look to for an exit once you are in that locked location. You might think going into a bathroom and locking a door would be a good idea.
However, if the shooter breaches the bathroom, then you are stuck.
So no matter what public location you are at, always try to make yourself aware of the exits, where the doors are that lock, and any additional ways you could exit a building if needed.
Here are the Tips for Responding to a Real Code Red Situation:
1. Do What You Did in the Drills
Now that we’ve discussed how to make preparations for a code red situation, let’s talk about what you need to do if you ever find yourself in a real situation.
First, if you work or serve in a public location and you have performed drills, then you need to do exactly what you discussed in those drills. That is why you did them.
Don’t panic and lose sight of what you had discussed. Remember, to go with the plan. I realize in some situations, things may change because of the active shooter.
But until you are forced to deviate from the plan… don’t.
2. Lock All the Doors
If you are in charge of a public location in the midst of an active shooting, you need to try to gather all of the people around you and lock all of the doors. You want to make it as difficult for the shooter to get to people they intend to harm as possible.
Again, I realize a lock may not do a ton in these situations. But it could slow them down enough that someone could be able to take him or her out.
So be sure to act swiftly, gather people, and put the entire facility on lockdown.
3. Stay Away from Windows
I remember when we began doing active shooter drills in high school. It was so surreal that our lives had come to this, but they have.
So when all of the doors are locked, you’ll need to get into a corner of the room as far from windows and doors as possible. If this means you have to climb under furniture to stay out of sight, then do it. You want to be as hard to be seen as possible.
4. Remain Calm
It is totally normal to be in a tense situation and want to panic. You may feel the urge to scream, cry, or go into shock.
However, you have to take deep breaths and keep your emotions in check at least until you get through the situation.
Realize, in an active shooter situation, you may see things you never dreamed you’d see. So it might be really difficult to remain calm.
But you need to try deep breathing exercises, so you can try to keep your brain clear in order to make wise decisions in such a difficult situation.
5. Call the Authorities
Once you are in a locked location away from windows or have acted as you did in your drills and made it to your safe space, then you need to find a way to make the authorities aware of what is going on.
Obviously, the faster you can get the police alerted, the faster you’ll have a lot of people with guns there and prepared to take down one person with bad intentions and a gun.
So try to make sure that you have a cell phone on you. Texting 911 isn’t available in all areas, but here is how you can contact them via text if you are in a location that this service is active.
6. Evacuate ASAP
Finally, you need to try your best to evacuate the premises as soon as it is safe to do so.
In our drills, we have figured out a way to get ourselves behind multiple locked doors in a location where we also have a second exit that is only able to be opened from the inside.
Plus, we have security radios hidden around the premises so even if something were to happen to the armed guard that is supposed to go with us through the evacuation process, we can easily access a radio and find out what is taking place and when it would be safe to make our exit.
So you’ll need to keep an ear out (and hopefully you’ll have a way of communication already in play from drills) so you’ll know when it is safest for you to make your move to get out of the area without being harmed.
Obviously, these are situations we all hope we’ll never be in. The fact that I volunteer in a location that we are now having to make these preparations is scary and rather surreal that this is what the world has come to.
But we are here so we have to simply be prepared and be as smart as possible about how to handle these situations.
Sadly, you never know when your place of employment, your place of worship, or your town’s public buildings will be the next big headline.
So we have to not kid ourselves that it could never happen to us and make preparations now. I hope that these generalized tips can be applied and molded to fit your particular situation.
But I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever thought how to handle a code red situation? Do you have any tips from your own planning that people should consider when making their active shooter action plan?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Leave us a comment in the space provided below.