Originally posted in May 2017
Here is security-camera video of the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport last Friday [in 2017 - DS], for which Esteban Santiago has been charged with multiple felonies. There is nothing graphic in the video, but watch what the people standing behind him do - and more importantly, do not do.
I understand that people were caught wholly by surprise and did not process what was happening very quickly. I understand that as a retired Army combat-arms officer I would recognize gunfire and its implications many times more quickly than the average civilian.
But that is of no comfort to the five people Santiago is accused of murdering or the six of wounding.
News reports say that the FBI has not ruled out a terrorism connection yet (I am doubtful) but even if not, this is the kind of thing ISIS wants its members of sympathizers to do anywhere in America they can. Can we expect more shootings like this? Almost certainly. [Update, Jan. 11: The terrorism angle may be justified, "Airport Shooter Converted to Islam, Identified as Aashiq Hammad Years Before Joining Army"]
In such a situation, you have only one rule: OODA. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. What you must not do is what the people in the video did.
No longer can you assume you are safe. No longer can you enter public places without awareness of what is going on near and far from you. You must observe what is happening! Not just with your eyes, but with your hearing and other senses, too.
This must become a habit that does not stop. When I was learning to fly, my instructor insisted that at every moment of flight, I should always have identified a place to land if my motor quit. Since the airplane was obviously moving, that meant I had to near-constantly observe for a suitable emergency set-down place.
At every moment, you must know where exits are, the fastest ways to get there, which one is best, which one is second best. You must know where to hide if escape is closed off.
In the video, the people behind the shooter did not ascertain what was happening for precious seconds. Under gunfire, this can be fatally slow. You must orient on the danger without hesitating. That means where, what, how.
No one did that when the shooting started. I am not casting blame. They just didn't. See what they did? They froze for precious seconds, which can get you killed, while trying to process what they were seeing and hearing.
Quite simply, in about a half-second you have to orient on what the danger is and decide what to do. Back to the people in the video: when they decided to move, they stepped only a few feet, then either fell straight down or huddled behind luggage. They were still targets and had gained no safety at all. Your decision must be one that will reduce your danger. It is not enough to decide to do something, you must do something effective.
Action must follow decision in less than an eyeblink of time. In almost any shooting situation, you have to run like Jesse Owens out of there. Run away and do not stop until you are behind friendly guns (cops).
You may respond that no one can outrun a bullet. That's true, but running away does two things: first, it removes you from the area of danger, of course, but second, it reduces your attractiveness as a target to the shooter. They do not shoot at distant people. They just don't, especially with a handgun and even if a shooter does he will very likely miss.
Do not run routes that you would take if nothing was happening. Go through obstacles rather than around, if possible. Go across baggage carousels for a shorter route or faster exit. If you're not in an airport the same principles apply.
What about hiding? If the only exit is on the other side of the shooter, then hiding may be your only option. There are two kinds of hiding: concealment and cover. Concealment is simply getting yourself out of sight from the shooter (but be prepared to move) but that doesn't mean he can't shoot you. If you hide behind a curtain you can still be shot! So cover is the better choice, where the shooter can neither see you nor shoot you if he tried. But remember one of Murphy's Laws of Combat: "Make it too hard for the enemy to get in, and you've made it too hard for you to get out." Your objective in taking cover or concealment is immediate safety but also finally to get the heck out of there!
Pray to God that you never encounter such a situation. But remember that "hope is not a method and wishes are not plans." Be prepared!
Also, be aware that buildings' interiors often provide limited exits, which will be fatal funnels as folks mob the door and cannot get out once the bullets start flying. Do not follow the crowd unless there is no alternative!
Be camouflaged. That not mean wearing woodland-pattern clothing, but to be low profile, dress modestly, and use clutter and quiet movements to become a bit more ninja-like. Being flashy and glued to your smart phone is a no go. Dressing and acting bland, dull, and as unnoticeable as possible may give you an edge.