What to do in an active shooter situation

Flags and flowers make up a memorial on the backyard fence of Las Vegas shooting victim Kurt Von Tillow, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Cameron Park, Calif. Von Tillow, 55, was at Sunday's concert with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and other family members when the shooting started, KCRA reported. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)[]

DeKALB – Mass shootings, such as the one at Sunday night’s Las Vegas music festival, often stir up questions on both the public and private scale.

How can anyone truly be prepared for a situation where a gunman starts firing into a defenseless crowd?

It’s a scary situation to envision, and in DeKalb, its one with which people have personal experience.

On Feb. 14, 2008, a lone gunman killed Northern Illinois University students Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace, Daniel Parmenter and Gayle Dubowski before turning a gun on himself. Nineteen other people were injured in the attack at NIU’s Cole Hall.

First responders learned important lessons from that tragedy, DeKalb Deputy Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said.

“A lot of what we learned went into the research that’s now provided by the federal government,” McMaster said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides multiple resources online for residents, business leaders and first responders at www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.

Here are some of the highlights for the average person.

Mass shooting situations are unpredictable and unfold quickly, but typically last 10 to 15 minutes, according to the DHS site. Officials advise always being aware of the two nearest exits and any possible dangers. If shots are fired inside a building, go to the nearest room and lock the door. Only try to attack a shooter as a last resort.

The mantra for reactions in these situations is run, hide, fight, in that order of importance.

If there is a way out, running to safety should be the priority. Leave belongings behind, help others if possible, keep hands visible, and follow emergency responders’ instructions.

Hiding is the next option. Find a location out of the shooter’s view that does not restrict movement, and lock or blockade any entrances. Turning off a cellphone can help as well.

Trying to incapacitate the attacker is the last resort. Do this by throwing items or improvising weapons, such as fire extinguishers, yelling and committing to actions.

It’s also important to know that the first emergency responders to arrive likely will not tend to those who are injured.

“Expect rescue teams comprised of additional officers and emergency medical personnel to follow the initial officers. These rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons,” the resources state. “They may also call upon able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.”