This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. An elementary school in Connecticut. And, most recently, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
There's no pattern to acts of mass violence and that means every person should think about how to respond if confronted with a shooter.
Law enforcement has beefed up training sessions, mostly for workplaces, in recent years and the message is consistent run, hide, fight.
"There is nobody who is immune from this," said Capt. Steve Milne, with the Utah State University Police Department, which has held dozens of trainings on the Logan campus. "We teach people to be prepared and have a plan."
Police departments often offer trainings to groups and employers and the Utah Department of Public Safety is in the process of creating one. Utah's Be Ready campaign also provides guidance, but there are some general tips that would help just about everyone. The main point is to think about this horrific possibility ahead of time.
Milne encouraged everyone to play "what if?" games. If someone with a gun came into your workplace, how would you respond? Where are the exits? If you had to hide, where would be the best place?
The hope is that this planning will make your actions more instinctual and save you from freezing at the wrong moment.
Run • If it is at all practical, flee, using the escape routes you thought of ahead of time. Leave all belongings and just get out of there.
Encourage others to follow but don't let them slow you down. And even if the shooter is closing on you, Milne said, a running target is harder to hit than a stationary one.
Once you are out of harm's way, warn others from entering the area and call police.
Hide • It might not be possible to get out safely. In that case, hide, but do it wisely.
"Hiding just under a desk is not the most secure area," Milne said.
Try to find an office with a door that locks and try to barricade the door with a chair or anything heavy. Turn the lights off and silence your cellphone. That means no vibrating, either. The goal is to wait it out and to do that as quietly as possible. But keep thinking, what did you see? How many gunmen were there? What did they look like? What kind of weapons did you spot? If possible, relay that to police dispatchers. If you don't feel that it is safe to talk, you can still call 911 and just leave the line open.
While hiding, take stock of what you may use as a weapon, because if the shooter does come your way, you may need to use it.
Fight • "I would rather go out fighting than standing there," Milne said. "But that is a decision that needs to be made ahead of time so there is no hesitation about it."
He said use what you can, a chair, scissors, even a pen. If at all possible, team up against an assailant. A group is more likely to be successful than an individual. And remember, the goal is to get out alive. You don't have to incapacitate the shooter; you just have to get that person off balance enough that you can escape.
"Fighting doesn't mean you have to stand there and go 15 rounds with this person," Milne said.
As you flee, you may encounter police. It's helpful to think about how you should interact with them, because you don't want to be mistaken as a threat.
Make sure nothing is in your hands and that you are spreading your fingers wide, so police can see that you are unarmed. Don't scream or point. Don't hang onto officers. Calmly tell them what you saw, if you think it would be helpful, and leave the same way police entered the area.
If you have a concealed weapon in your hand, place it on the ground and hold your hands in the air.
"In the heat of the battle, our information is limited," Milne said. "All we know is that there is an armed individual shooting people."
If you haven't drawn your concealed weapon, tell police that you have one and where it is on your person, but keep your hands visible.
As you get away from the danger, it is likely that law enforcement will bring you to a gathering place, where you will be questioned before being released.
Sgt. Wyatt Weber, with Utah's Department of Public Safety, said the hardest thing to teach people is the need to be aware always of your surroundings. Much of the training is focused on the workplace because each of us spends so much time there, but, as recent mass shootings show, an assailant can attack anywhere.