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UC San Diego Experts Give Survival Tips for Active Shooter Event


By Michelle Brubaker   |   July 23, 2012

In connection to the fatal shooting in Aurora, Colorado, University of California, San Diego Health System security and emergency preparedness experts offer safety tips on how to increase your chance of survival in an active shooter event.

Active Shooter Drill

Health System employees participating in an acitve shooter drill.

“UC San Diego Health has adopted a proactive staff-centered approach to teach people how to survive an active shooter incident,” said Therese Rymer, NP, director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at UC San Diego Health. “Real life incidents have shown that when people take direct action, they create better outcomes.  In this type of emergency, direct action can mean walking away with your life.”

An active shooter or intruder is a person who causes immediate death or serious bodily injury to those around them.  Their targets are normally an individual person, group or institution.  Although the intruders have intended victims, they will shoot at any target. In most cases, their goal is to inflict as much death and damage as they can before law enforcement arrives.

“Passive and static targets become easy victims.  Not much skill is required to pull a trigger at point blank range and hit an un-moving target.  With this in mind, we teach our staff critical do’s and don’ts that will increase their chance of survival,” said Bret Bandick, security training manager at UC San Diego Health.

Active Shooter Drill Hostage

A Health System employee is taken hostage during an active shooter drill.


  • Crawl under a desk and stay there
  • Huddle in a group
  • Negotiate with the intruder
  • Hide out without locking or barricading the door or entryway
  • Be passive

Do – With warning:

  • Escape if you can without harm.
  • Break a window or a door, if necessary, to exit.
  • Communicate with police via cell phone. The information you can provide from the inside may be critical.
  • Lock down and barricade your location with any available objects.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Spread out  as a group.
  • Arm yourself with anything available; break things if you must. Fire extinguishers are good to use both defensively and offensively.
  • If you are in an area that is blocked and you’re confronted by the shooter, throw things, yell and fight back as aggressively as you can.

Do – No warning:

  • In an office environment, throw things at the intruder such as phones, mugs, books, or staplers. This distracts the intruder and prevents the ability to focus on a target.
  • Move and keep moving – a moving target is harder to hit.
  • An intruder can only look one way at a time in a crowd. Take advantage of this weakness and try to take down and control the intruder from their blind side.  This option should be considered a last resort.
  • Separate the intruder from their weapon.  Place it under a trashcan or bin.  Control the unarmed intruder until the police arrive.