Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

Rethinking 'Run, Hide, Fight'

| Nov. 20, 2022

Our mass-shooting guidance may be woefully out of date.

Last night, at least five people were killed and 25 were injured in a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The venue, Club Q, has been described as a "second home full of chosen family," a safe space for people to be who they are. No more. The motive of the attacker remains unclear, but officials are investigating whether the attack should be classed as a hate crime. It comes against a backdrop of continuing threats against and vilification of the LGBTQ community and transgender teens, and the rise of hostile protests at gay-rights parades and events.

Early reports say the suspect, who is alive, was in possession of a "long gun." He might have killed many more people in such a confined space if not for the actions of, according to police, "at least two heroic people" inside the club. These individuals are believed to have confronted the gunman and stopped the in-progress massacre.

"Run, hide, fight" has been the guiding principle in my profession—security—for decades. Running is preferred; hiding if it is the only response possible; fighting if there is no other choice. The motto describes the active-shooter-response training that has emerged for populations as diverse as high-school students, office workers, and those who are out partying on a Saturday night. No active-shooter situation is the same, so it isn't a hard-and-fast rule, of course. Younger children, for instance, are subject to controversial lockdown training instead.

When it comes to general safety, this is what I tell my children, who are now teens and young adults: If somebody tries to grab your purse or bike, let them. No material thing is worth a potentially violent escalation. If you've partied too hard, call me for a ride—no questions asked. If you are in an active-shooter situation, run as fast as you can, hide if you must, and, as a last resort, fight. That's what the experts have told parents to say: Don't be a hero. Run. Just please, run. Get out of there.

If this all sounds clinical and antiseptic, it is. Lives are not saved in the midst of an attack by railing against our permissive gun culture....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“Rethinking 'Run, Hide, Fight'.” The Atlantic, November 20, 2022.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem Headshot