Active Shooter Attacks

After last night’s very sad events in the Danforth in Toronto, there are some general observations on ‘Active Shooter Attacks’ based on research for a book on Islamic State methods of attack that are equally applicable to criminal incidents outside the domain of terrorism.

Active shooter events feature an individual or individuals targeting, wounding, and killing innocent people at random within a restricted geographic location. Active Shooter Attacks can occur with little warning, evolve rapidly, and employ a range of firearms, mostly pistols and rifles both semi- and full-automatic. Active Shooter ‘killing grounds’ have included shopping districts, tourist areas, public buildings such as schools, places of worship, and government facilities where the environment has a large, unprotected population and limited security. Like Islamic State-inspired vehicle attacks, women and young children are especially vulnerable and increasingly targeted in these types of attacks.

In the event of an attack, the best available British and American advice is for people is to Run, Hide, Fight and Tell. At the outbreak of gunfire, people should immediately run in the direction of safety, taking people with you, and leaving belongings behind. Find a safe place to hide, where you cannot be trapped, stay quiet, avoid being near to doors or windows, and if possible barricade yourself in and wait for police and rescue. If cornered or trapped the best advice is to fight and ambush your opponent using whatever makeshift weapons are available. Lastly, once safe, people should tell police what is happening by calling 911, describe the location of the attack, describe the attacker, or attackers, and how they are armed, number of casualties and any other pertinent details related to the event. At all times follow the direction and instructions given by the police and first responders.

On a final note, Active Shooter Attacks are on the rise, and Canada is not immune as we have witnessed at the Ecole Polytechnique (1989), Concordia University (1992), Dawson College (2006), Quebec City Mosque (2017), and now the Danforth.

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