Security expert's advice on surviving terrorism: Plan, run, hide and fight

An injured man is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage, Sunday morning June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Steven Fernandez)

With too many soft targets across the country unsecured and unprepared for a terrorist attack like the one that occurred at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning, one expert warned that the public and the business community need to start planning for future attacks.

"The establishment has a responsibility to protect its customers and the civilians who are entering the establishment have a responsibility to protect themselves as well," said security analyst Anthony Roman.

Everyone needs to become better prepared because the risk of attacks is going to get worse before it gets any better, according to Roman, president of Roman and Associates, a global risk management and security firm, .

"As it stands now, our professional observations are that high risk businesses and the public at large have not been suitably educated on what they can do and what they must do to be prepared for these events," Roman said.

This is particularly true for high risk targets. Unfortunately, given the history of violence and threats against the LGBTQ community, he added, "they are all in a high risk environment."

If the attack that killed 50 people at Pulse was inspired by ISIS, as suspected, it will likely inspire others to attempt similar attacks. All cities should be on high alert for the possibility of a copycat shooting.

Roman offered several specific pieces of advice for those looking to protect themselves in the wake of the Orlando attack:


One of the biggest dangers for a civilian in an active shooter situation is the natural tendency to freeze up in fear. The best way to overcome that is to work out a plan for response beforehand.

"If you have that plan thought out in advance, you will execute that plan instantly rather than being paralyzed by fear," Roman said.

Particularly when entering an area with a mass gathering like a stadium, shopping mall, movie theater, or amusement park, he advised that people prepare for the worst and listen to "primal survival instincts."

"Always be aware of your surroundings and always know your specific location," he said. "If you are indoors, know where the exits are and pay attention to where you're going should you use those emergency exits."


Whenever possible, the best thing you can do in a dangerous situation is get out of it as quickly as possible.

"If you can run and get away from the threat successfully and you make that decision to it as fast as you can and with all dispatch and without hesitation," Roman said. Beware of the danger of being targeted while you flee, though.

"Try not to run in straight lines," he said. "Try to zigzag, make yourself a difficult target. Make yourself a smaller target."

He also recommended using cover whenever you can as you run, hiding behind pillars or other objects that could stop a bullet if possible.


"If you do not feel you have time to flee or that you're likely to be shot if you do, then attempt to reach a spot where you can barricade yourself in," Roman said.

Block the door with whatever is available and try to find the best hiding spot possible, even if it is in the ceiling. Then be ready in case the shooter gets in.

"Use what's around you as tools or potential weapons," he said.


Position yourself to defend yourself if the shooter finds you. If you are hiding with other victims, Roman suggested strategizing a coordinated response.

"Do not submit to death without a fight. Do not ever, ever mentally give up your fight for life. You are defeated by the shooter mentally before you're defeated physically, so your mental state is important," he said.

"Your life is worth fighting for."


Roman noted that responding SWAT officers chose not to enter the club when they first arrived on the scene.

"Clearly there were patrons who were already killed," he said. "It's also very likely there were patrons who were still alive and wounded."

There is a "golden hour" in which those victims would have needed medical care to increase their chances of survival. Obviously, a choice was made not to execute a tactical assault immediately.

That was not necessarily the wrong decision--if the facts on the ground suggested the risk of an assault was too great, it was the right one--but the response from law enforcement must be studied to determine if errors were made and what was done well.

"Not to second guess the officers," he said, "because the situation is so fluid and hindsight produces more information and forensic examination produces more data...but to learn and get better."

Roman praised the "extraordinary" bravery of the officers who first responded to the scene, facing a gunman with automatic weapons and possible explosives, and the SWAT team and other officers who engaged with him to end the attack.

"We cannot minimize the absolute bravery and sacrifice that these officers make," he said. "Without them, this would have been a far worse tragedy."

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