24 years ago today, I served as a member of Task Force Ranger, a joint special forces operation of several elite units, deployed to Somalia to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, leader of the Habr Gidr clan. The one-hour mission turned into a 2-day fire fight in the streets of Mogadishu, and 19 soldiers gave their lives in a battle that was ultimately chronicled in the movie "Black Hawk Down." While the events that transpired on October 3-4, 1993 will be forever seared in my mind, it has always been my hope that my son and my fellow Americans would only ever know the massacre of war by watching it on the big screen.
Sadly, the rise of active shooter tragedies occurring on our soil are a clear indication that we live in a new reality. One where at any given time, hardworking, innocent people, with no agenda, and no defenses find themselves running for cover in a rain of gunshots.
I chose service. I chose to be placed in a position where I would know the deafening reverberation of gunshots. I was trained to see order in chaos. I was trained on how to protect myself and cover my fellow rangers. I am hardwired to filter out the screams, the fear, the sweat, and simply focus on the enemy. Most of all, I am conditioned to act when others are immobilized by fear. For the average civilian, faced with these circumstances, the first reaction is pure paralysis.
I am sickened by the rise of active shooter tragedies and the mass execution of so many defenseless Americans. The death toll at the Fall Festival in Vegas was higher than most battle casualties of recent wars. And while we cannot live in fear, I see no recourse other than to ensure the people I love have a strong foundation for protecting and defending themselves if they are ever faced with an active shooter.
How you react in the first 30 seconds can significantly impact your survival rate in a mass shooting. 30 seconds leaves no time for hesitation and it certainly leaves no time for paralysis. This is the reason I encourage everyone to take the time to have a hard conversation now, with your children, your coworkers, and your peers. Ask the question, “What is the best strategy if pandemonium erupts either as a result of an active shooter or any other act of terrorism?” Start this dialogue, not out of fear, but out of vigilance.
Here are some key strategies to protect yourself in an active shooter situation:
- Always know where the exits are and have an escape route in mind
- Don’t wait to see what others will do. Make your command decision and run
- Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow
- Leave your belongings behind
- Help others escape, if possible
- Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be
- Keep your hands visible
- Follow the instructions of any security force officers
- Do not attempt to move wounded people
- Dial 911: If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen
- If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.
- Consider the difference between cover and concealment. Cover will protect from gunfire and concealment will merely hide you from the view of the shooter. Choose the best space that is available quickly
- Silence your cell phone and/or pager
- Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks)
- Remain quiet
In this era of domestic terror, we cannot be complacent. We have to take measures to ensure we have the tools for survival, and embracing these key strategies could be the difference between life and death. These tragedies are beyond comprehension, and our only safeguard is preparation. I never wished to expose my family to a war zone, but I am compelled to prepare them for battle … it is the most critical tool in my arsenal that I can offer in hopes of keeping them safe.
David Diemer is the principal and CEO of R.E.A.C.H. 29, a veteran owned full-service security business specializing in executive protection and site security. Mr. Diemer is a former Army Ranger with over 20 years’ experience in combat operations, close protection detail, and guard services. His experience is drawn from his military service as well as working with some of the most elite military defense contractors in the United States. As a member of Bco. 3/75 Ranger Regiment, he served in Somalia conducting high-threat missions, most notably the October 3rd mission that was chronicled in the movie "Black Hawk Down," for which he was awarded a Bronze star with “V” Device for Valor during combat. His skills have taken him to the most dangerous places in the world, from Africa to the Middle East, and spanned five continents. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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