Member Advisory: What to do in an active shooter situation

March 18, 2019
Categories: Alerts, Advisories, Safety, Security and Intelligence

At least three people were killed and five others were injured in a possible terrorist shooting attack in Utrecht, Netherlands Monday, March 18. The attack reportedly occurred at approximately 10:45 local time inside a tram near the 24 Oktoberplein junction (October 24 Square). According to authorities, the primary suspect—a 37-year-old Turkish-born man—has been arrested following an extensive manhunt. However, it remains unclear whether there may be additional suspects involved.

Trains and trams stopped running and schools were closed down in the city. Police are investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. Counter-terrorism authorities have raised the terrorism threat level for Utrecht province to 5 or “critical,” the highest rating.

Reports indicate that additional security measures have been implemented at airports and other vital infrastructure points. Additional police have also been added to major highways, railway routes and border crossings. Additionally, all mosques in Utrecht have been evacuated and security has been heightened at all mosques nationwide, though it remains unclear if these measures are linked to the possible motive in the attack or as a precaution.

Utrecht is located approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Amsterdam. Gun-related violence in the city and across the country is rare. The attack took place in the Kanaleneiland neighborhood of Utrecht, which is home to a large Muslim community. Though police are investigating the possibility that this attack was terrorism-related, the precise motive for the attack remains unclear.

While authorities have taken additional security measures at mosques, it remains unknown currently whether police suspect the motive to be linked to that of the terror attack Friday, March 15 at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a gunman killed at least 50 people. The additional security measures at mosques could also be precautionary measures in order to prevent any anti-Muslim backlash in the event the attack is determined to be motived by Islamist terrorism.

The primary terrorism threat in the Netherlands is Islamist terrorism, both in the form of lone-wolf actors and terrorism networks. Though there have been no large-scale terror attacks in the country in recent years similar to what has been witnessed in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany and Spain, there have been minor incidents that demonstrate that the country has not been completely immune from the terror threat that has impacted Western Europe in recent years.

In September 2018, a “very advanced” terrorist attack plan was foiled when seven men were arrested in the cities of Arnhem and Weert. Police seized guns and bomb-making materials and authorities said the foiled plans involved attacking a mass event. Earlier, on 31 August 2018, two U.S. citizens were injured in a stabbing at a railway station in Amsterdam. The suspect, a 19-year-old Afghan male, was shot and arrested by police. He was suspected of having a terrorist motive.

What should you do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation?

While news coverage often stretches for days, the reality of active shooter situations, is the event itself is usually over within 10-15 minutes. Chances of survival in such a situation, often depend on how you respond in the first seconds after shots begin to ring out. Global Rescue’s operations personnel provide security advisory and extraction services to members all across the globe. Based on years of research and experience, if you find yourself in an active shooter situation, our operations personnel advises one of three courses of action: run, hide, or fight.

1. Run
Your best bet is usually getting as far away from the assailant as quickly as you can. A panicked evasion is not an effective one and there are a few important components of a good escape:

Have an escape route and plan in mind before you take off running.

Quickly put something between you and the assailant. Walls are obviously best, but tall furniture and other large, solid obstacles are helpful too. Know where the assailant is and whether he or she is near your escape route.

2. Hide
If running isn’t an option – and many times it isn’t, your next best plan is to hide and wait things out. Since active shooter situations usually don’t last long, you may be able to survive by staying out of sight for as little as 15 minutes. As with running, you need to have a strategy when you hide.

Hide in silence. Set your cell phone to silent (not off – you may need it) and make radios, computers and other devices as quiet as possible.

Lock the door. If you can get into an enclosed room, lock the door and barricade it with furniture and other heavy items. After securing the room, make sure everyone inside stays behind solid objects for additional protection. Be aware that the assailant might bang on the door, yell for help, or otherwise try to get you to open the door.

Turn off the lights. Close any blinds to prevent shadows from appearing under the door.

If you feel confident that the assailant won’t be able to hear you, call for help on the phone, send a text, email or radio message to alert first responders moving toward you.

Be ready to provide the following information in a calm, clear manner:

  • What is happening?
  • Your name and location, including building name and room number.
  • Number of assailants, their physical features including gender, race and age, their location, color and style of clothing, weaponry and languages and commands they use.
  • Number of people at your location.
  • Number of potential victims at the location.
  • Number and types of injuries.

3. Fight
The goal is to create enough space and time between you and the assailant to escape to relative safety. Fighting an armed assailant is the last resort and a choice you should make only when your life is in imminent danger and all other options have failed. If it comes down to a fight, be aggressive and violent.

Create a plan and work as a team.

Get control of the weapon. If you choose to fight, this is your key objective. Until the weapon is neutralized, there is a threat.

Use improvised weapons – tools, sporting goods, anything hard that will break bones. Find solid objects that you can lift and throw them at the assailant.

Blind the shooter. Spray cleaning products, fuel, salt, pepper – anything that burns or blinds.

When Authorities Arrive
If you manage to successfully evade or stop the assailant, remember that emergency services might not enter the area until they are sure the site is secured. When they do, they need to know that you are not a part of the threat, so remain calm and follow these instructions:

  • Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets).
  • Raise hands and spread fingers. You may be instructed to keep your hands on your head. Keep them visible at all times.
  • Avoid quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety, pointing, screaming or yelling.

Our operations team is standing by 24/7/365 to provide travel assistance and advisory services to members. Contact Global Rescue at +1.617.459.4200 or email member services

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