Forget duck and cover, Idaho class teaches people to flee and survive in the midst of a mass shooting

The training delves into the psychology of how people react during mass shootings and other life-threatening events. Often, “they freeze or they go back to what we all learned in school, which is to duck and cover,” Shults said. “But we don’t want people to do that. We want them to leave, to get out of Dodge.

A delayed reaction reduces an individual’s odds of survival. During the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center, some people waited as long as three minutes after they heard the explosion before they started heading to the exits. Shults also shows a video during the training of a nightclub fire, where the crowd milled around after flames broke out. Within minutes, the building was engulfed.

The training teaches people to react quickly and leave the area. “We teach them to get away from the shooter,” Shults said. If they’re stuck in the building, they should take action to keep the shooter from getting into their area by locking doors while they look for other escape routes, such as windows.

Even if people are armed, the training encourages them to leave the site.

“We don’t want them going after the suspect, we want them to leave,” Shults said. “Because if the police arrive, the police don’t know who the suspect is, and they might get shot.

“The only time we’d want you to use a gun is if you have to save your life or someone else’s.” 

If escape isn’t possible, the training teaches people to fight back aggressively.

During the class, people listen to the 911 recording of 1999 Columbine High School shootings that left 13 people dead and they watch a reenactment of the shooters’ movements through the building. They also analyze what happened during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Some of the material is disturbing, Shults said. It captures the attitude of the shooters, who are “going in and hunting people,” he said. But it reinforces the need for people to make decisions quickly, to avoid wasting precious time, he said. Rehearsing scenarios helps condition people to react appropriately when a real disaster occurs, Shults said.

“You’ll make decisions in seconds instead of minutes,” he said.