Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 6:27 PM
Run. Hide. Fight.
Begin a search for those words on YouTube and you will find a video that has gone viral.
Produced by the city of Houston after the July shooting in a Colorado movie theater, the public service announcement has been described as helpful and controversial.
It has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, and city officials have sent copies of it to various government agencies and private businesses for use as a training tool.
Dennis Storemski, director of the city’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security, said the video — a little over five minutes long — is designed to prepare the public for a situation when a shooter walks into a public space and starts firing indiscriminately.
While the video is a public service, it has also garnered attention because of the message that ultimately stands out since authorities have spent so much time warning victims to take cover during those rare moments when wholesale violence breaks out.
It advises that as a last resort, victims who are able should attempt to subdue or take out the shooter.
“If you have no options, you need to fight,” Storemski told the American Press on Friday. “During active shooter sprees, they won’t spare you because you’re on your knees begging. They will take you out.”
On the video, a shooter — portrayed by an actor — walks into an office building dressed in a black shirt, black jeans and sunshades and wearing a backpack. He slowly pulls a shotgun from the backpack and begins shooting security guards and workers.
A narrator explains the scene and eventually begins to teach keys to survival.
Running is the first option. Hiding is the second.
Leading up to the third option, the video shows several employees hiding inside a room with the door closed. A female employee cannot keep her composure, for fear she will be hurt.
The narrator says: “As a last resort, if your life is at risk, whether you’re alone or working together as a group, fight! Act with aggression. Improvise weapons. Disarm him.”
One man grabs a chair and another raises a fire extinguisher over his head preparing to swing it.
“And commit to take the shooter down, no matter what,” the narrator continues.
Storemski said preparation could be the key to living or dying during such an incident.
“Frankly, most of these shootings are over by the time police arrive. It is instantaneous. People have to be prepared to take care of themselves. It is the same case with any situation, even at home,” he said.
Some people around the country have asked Houston officials why they did not depict the shooter being shot by a resident with a concealed gun, especially since Texas is known as a gun-rights state.
“Only 2 percent of the people eligible for concealed carry permits actually have a gun on their person. Therefore our philosophy is that most people don’t carry a gun,” he said.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said in a story in USA Today that there is a change in thinking among law enforcement professionals about how people should react in an active shooting incident.
He referred to United Flight 93, which crashed as passengers tried to subdue four terrorists.
“What Flight 93 taught us is that there are some things the government can’t do to protect you. There are going to be times you have to be prepared to fight for your life and risk dying because sitting back also has consequences of its own,” he said in the story.
Wexler admits that active shooting incidents are rare.
He told the American Press that most people are not trained to respond during those types of crimes.
“Yes, it would be a mistake to push them in harm’s way when they are not trained or are not prepared to fight back,” he said. “But I think things have changed. With Newtown, we all sort of crossed some boundary we’ve never been before.”
Efforts to educate and prepare the public for sudden shooting sprees — like what Houston started — is a smart thing to do, according to Wexler.
“We have always taught or advocated self-defense to various targeted groups. I think these kind of situations, because of the kind of weapons used and how fast they can wipe out a number of people literally in minutes, you need to be at least thinking what do I do? Who do I call? And how to get away?”